Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
October 2012 Tackling Trouble Areas

Beyond The Bulb

Lighting retrofit kits provide a non-disruptive maintenance solution that produces sustainable cost savings.

September 28, 2012

Rising energy costs, a renewed focus on reducing energy use and local product rebates make now the perfect time to consider lighting retrofits as a solution to reduce costs, reduce maintenance and achieve sustainability goals.

One key driver requiring more energy-efficient lighting is the government.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) mandated lighting manufacturers phase out production of most T12 lamps by July 2012 to help increase the energy efficiency of linear fluorescent lighting.

As of July, these old T12 lamps no longer have available replacements, making it imperative that facilities upgrade lighting before maintaining an outdated system becomes even more expensive and disrupts business operations.

Another factor influencing lighting renovation decisions is that facilities are experiencing dramatic jumps in energy bills because demand keeps rising and electricity is more expensive.

As a way to support the DOE mandate and reduce overall energy loads, many utility companies across the U.S. are providing substantial rebates to facilities that install energy-efficient lighting retrofits, making them more affordable.

The additional savings along with the retrofit benefits — energy savings, maintenance savings and helping to achieve sustainability goals — make the retrofit solution a win-win-win for the facility, the government and utility companies. 

Quality, Efficient Lighting
Until recently, there were four basic options to retrofit lighting:

  1. Relamp and reballast
  2. Delamp and reballast using a reflector kit
  3. One-for-one replacement
  4. Complete redesign.

However, a new generation of lighting retrofit kits provides an excellent solution to replace old, inefficient lighting.

Retrofit kits — available in efficient fluorescent and light-emitting diode (LED) options — enable installation of component parts into the housing of old fixtures, maintaining their integrity and deliveringthe appearance and efficiency of a modern fixture.

In addition to better light quality and aesthetics, retrofit kits are installed from below the ceiling plane for virtually no disruption to an organization’s productivity.

Moreover, retrofit kits offer a better lighting experience compared to old parabolic systems that send harsh light directly downwards.

Retrofit kits are available with modern volumetric fixtures, which fill the space vertically with light.

They deliver more lumens per watt, so they last longer than older T12, T8 and T5 fixtures, presenting a softer appearance with less contrast and glare that is also better distributed.

Selecting an LED retrofit kit can further increase energy savings and reduce maintenance to virtually nothing.

They provide a more advanced solution and offer opportunities to expand the scope of a project with profitable, easy-to-install controls.

Additionally, an LED retrofit kit allows for a one-for-one replacement with efficiencies approaching 100 delivered lumens per watt.

When paired with daylight and occupancy sensors, LED retrofit kits can greatly reduce payback time.

The materials cost is relatively inexpensive, and the controls enhance energy efficiency and the longevity of the system.

Key Considerations When Selecting Retrofits  

When selecting a retrofit kit solution, there are a number of key considerations to help achieve all the benefits possible from your lighting retrofit solution.

  • Easy installation

Select a retrofit kit that can be installed from below the ceiling plane.

Without disturbing the existing ceiling tiles or having to enter the plenum space, retrofit kits can reduce installation costs and reduce disruption to a facility.

  • Seamless integration

Your retrofit solution should be as universal as possible.

Many facilities will have existing fixtures that were installed over time and may be different models that come from different manufacturers.

The retrofit kit should easily install within the existing framework, making future replacements quick and simple.

  • UL Classification

Ensure the retrofit solution selected is classified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) under UL1598, which will help to avoid issues with inspectors or insurance adjusters.

  • Packaging

Retrofit materials should be packaged in a way that minimizes mess and keeps the installer in mind.

To save time and labor costs, all components should be in one place, on as few pallets as possible and should be able to fit through doorways and standard elevators.

The short-term and long-term benefits of lighting retrofits, paired with current rebates, make retrofit kits a competitive lighting renovation solution for facilities looking to upgrade.

Beyond energy and maintenance savings, enhanced light quality and an aesthetically pleasing fixture, a complete lighting upgrade can be achieved without the expense of a full renovation.

Kurt Vogel has more than 22 years of experience in the lighting industry. Most recently, he drove the development of Lithonia Lighting’s first indoor, ambient LED relight product, the RT Relight Series. For the past four years, he has been helping industry influentials realize the benefits of conventional and LED retrofit lighting. Vogel’s extensive knowledge of renovation lighting and its unique requirements keep him consulting, training and speaking with clients across the country. He can be reached via email at For more information, visit