June 24, 2021

LED Lighting Upgrade: A How-To Guide for Facility Managers

[6 Minute Read] 

Today, we'll cover all of the information a Facility Manager might need to know when considering an LED lighting upgrade or retrofit. 

After 30 years in the workplace technology and LED lighting industries, I’ve helped countless facility managers and maintenance departments upgrade their lighting systems. You’d be hard-pressed to find an environment where I haven’t completed a project.

Whether you’re in an industrial warehouse or Class A office space, the goals are the same: optimal operating at a minimal cost.

I’ll be sure to address both of those concerns and arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision on the next steps. 

Let’s get started.

6 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Lighting

The US Department of Energy found that more than 75% of the five million commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings in the United States were constructed before many current energy-efficient technologies were available. 

Regardless of the facility you’re in, we’re at the point where LEDs have evolved to offer unignorable quantitative (hello ROI!) and qualitative benefits.

If you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s time to start building your case for an LED lighting retrofit and upgrade.

1. High Utility Bills

According to the US Energy Information Administration, 39% of an office building’s electricity consumption goes towards lighting.

Office Energy consumption

Switching to LED lighting can reduce your electric bill by 20% to 80% (or more!) depending on your current lighting application.

You can replace your T8 32-watt bulb with a 14 watt LED tube, a 90-watt PAR38 halogen with a 17 watt LED PAR38, and see the lighting portion of your bill reduce by around 50%. Multiple those cost savings across all of the lights in your facility, and you can see how quickly the savings add up. 

2. Expensive Maintenance

LEDs are commonly rated from 25,000 to 50,000-hour life, easily exceeding 1000, 2000, and 10,000 hours for incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent bulbs. 

Think of it like this; if an LED and fluorescent bulb were installed in the same office, the fluorescent bulb would need to be replaced 3-5X before you needed to replace the LED. 

If you were using incandescent bulbs, you’d have to replace them 25-50X before replacing the LED once.

The longevity of the LED technology translates into fewer bulb change-outs and lower maintenance costs for facilities. Savings on labor cost alone can help justify the price of LED lamps as you begin to transition your facility. Plus, your team can get precious time back to focus on more value-adding initiatives.

3. Unsatisfactory Light Level

Poor lighting is an eye-sore… literally. It can have adverse effects on your associates, causing:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Depressive effects
  • Increase in accidents
  • Bad posture
  • Low productivity

Not only will bad lighting affect your physical and mental health, but it also makes your facility look outdated and grungey. 

Fluorescent lamps instantly start degrading. After only 20,000 hours, a fluorescent lamp will be producing just 70% of its advertised lumen output. This is why we often see a row of light fixtures all putting out different amounts of light. They’re all at different points of their lifecycle. 

The chart below shows how the lumen output degrades over time for incandescent, fluorescent, and HID bulbs compared to LEDs.

lumen-depreciation led lighting

LEDs continue to put out 95% of their advertised lumen output 20,000 hours into their lifecycle. This means bright, smoother, more consistent lighting throughout a facility, regardless of a bulb’s lifecycle. 

4. Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives

Lowering your energy consumption will drastically reduce your carbon footprint, helping your organization achieve its environmental and sustainability goals. 

But LED bulbs are like the gift that keeps on giving. 

Not only will you consume less energy, but the bulbs also don’t contain mercury or other hazardous substances, so they’re easier to dispose of at the end of their lifecycle. 

And on that note: a longer lifecycle means generating less waste overall. 

A true win-win for your facility and the planet.

Seeing is believing. Watch how this small town in North Carolina saved 104,423 kW of power.

5. Utility Company is Offering a Rebate

Many power companies offer rebates for switching to LEDs. There are also potential additional tax credits under IRC Sec. 179D, which states that facilities have the opportunity to claim a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for installing qualifying energy-efficient systems and buildings.

There may be additional opportunities for cost savings when doing an LED lighting project. It's best to talk with a professional to ensure you're getting the best deal possible. Click here to speak with one of our LED lighting experts today. 

6. Smart Building Initiatives

If the lights in your facility have one job –illumination– then you’re missing out. One of the benefits of LED lighting is it can be supported through PoE (Power over Ethernet), allowing it to connect and integrate with other systems in the building. This opens the door for endless automation and efficiency opportunities. 

Occupancy sensors, beaconing, and daylight harvesting are just a few ways to improve your lighting strategy. Combine them with the other electrical elements in your building to expand the space’s health, utility, and value. 


How to Begin Upgrading Your Facility’s Lighting

If one or more of the situations above speak to you, it’s time for an LED lighting upgrade. But as a Facility’s Manager, where do you even begin?

Lighting Audit

A lighting or electrical expert will conduct a walk-through of your facility and identify any inefficiencies. It’s also important to raise any concerns you have with your current lighting system. They’ll then provide a detailed report outlining potential energy savings, rebates, incentives, costs, and ROI.

Professional Recommendations

From there, you’ll need to ask for recommendations on LED replacements and retrofits. An LED expert can propose a solution that will suit your current and future needs. 

LED bulbs are not a 1-for-1 replacement with traditional bulbs. They produce a much brighter light, so you’ll need fewer lumens or fixtures to achieve the same level of brightness your facility currently has.

To add a layer of complexity, the fixtures may need to be updated or retrofitted, light positions may need to be adjusted, and more. Getting an expert involved is crucial, and it will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Once you get a professional quote and recommendation, you can take it up the chain for approval. 

Building the Case for a Lighting Upgrade

It can be hard to get budget approval for LED lighting since the upfront cost is more expensive than its counterparts. You can start by providing an estimated ROI for the project. We have a free LED ROI calculator. Just type in the type and number of fixtures, plus how often they run. 


Still, you may just get approval to upgrade one area to show proof of concept first. 

If this is the case, identify some “low-hanging fruit” in your facilities. Once you can provide quantifiable results, you’ll surely get the green light to upgrade the rest of the space. 

So what areas should you look to upgrade first?

Places where lights are on 24/7

Your facility may have lights that have to be on for non-negotiable reasons. Think about areas such as parking garages, common areas, stairwells, or any other places that your lights burn 24/7. These are some of the low-hanging fruit to target.

The longer the light burns, the faster the payback. Start saving money now.

Do you have a lot of parking lot lights, outside building lights, high bay warehouse lighting? If so, these too are energy hogs that can easily be changed to LED, watch your power bill go down, and your profit go up!

Tough maintenance areas

Every building has them, those hard to get to lights. Do you have to rent special lifts or equipment just to change a light bulb? Do you have expensive flooring that you can’t afford to damage? Do you have areas where you can only work on the lights after hours causing you to adjust worker’s schedules and pay overtime? 

These are examples of low-hanging fruit that you should consider changing first as you start your transition to LED. Energy savings tend to be the driving force in converting to LED, but maintenance costs should never be overlooked.

Case Study

We converted a manufacturing facility in North Carolina, and here are some numbers I’d like you to think about.

Their lights averaged burning 18 hours a day, six days a week, and the local power company had an LED incentive/rebate program. 

The facility is approximately 200,000 SF, and we replaced around 1100 lights. 

The project’s total cost was roughly $175,000, with a rebate of around $125,000 – so the customer’s cost was reduced to $50,000. 

We estimated a power savings of $3,400/month with an ROI of 16 months. After comparing the last six months, they save $4,000/month, and their ROI is down to 12.5 months!

So the question should be, “Can you afford NOT to transition to LED?” 

As a Facility Manager, you spend a tremendous amount of time maintaining, upgrading, and supporting your organization’s footprint. You have to focus on expenses, bottom lines, code requirements, certifications, and perform daily duties. With all of that on your plate, you need high-quality systems that require minimal maintenance for your team and adhere to the budgets set by company leaders. 

LED lighting fits the bill for both of these.

Every hour, day, week, and month, you continue to put off converting is money that could be paying for your upgrade. 

Curious as to what that ROI looks like based on your facility’s unique requirements? Plug in a couple of numbers and determine what your return on investment would be with our free LED Lighting ROI Calculator.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April, 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

About the author 

Maury Scruggs

Maury is the Director of LED Lighting at ASD®. He has 29 years of experience in Workplace Technology and LED Lighting. Maury joined the ASD® team in 2017 and is responsible for the integration of LED smart lighting offerings as they apply to our current workplace technologies space.

  • Wow, thanks for the detailed response! You made some excellent points. This is exactly why LEDs are the future.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I would like to add few to your list.

    1. Ecologically Friendly – LED Lighting Is Much More Eco-Friendly
    LED lights are free of toxic chemicals. Most conventional fluorescent lighting bulbs contain a multitude of materials like e.g mercury that are dangerous for the environment.

    LED lights contain no toxic materials and are 100% recyclable, and will help you to reduce your carbon footprint by up to a third. The long operational life time span mentioned above means also that one LED light bulb can save material and production of 25 incandescent light bulbs. A big step towards a greener future!

    2. Durable Quality – LED Illumination Can Withstand Rough Conditions
    LEDs are extremely durable and built with sturdy components that are highly rugged and can withstand even the roughest conditions.

    Because LED lights are resistant to shock, vibrations and external impacts, they make great outdoor lighting systems for rough conditions and exposure to weather, wind, rain or even external vandalism, traffic related public exposure and construction or manufacturing sites.

    3. Zero UV Emissions – LED Lighting Features Close to No UV Emissions
    LED illumination produces little infrared light and close to no UV emissions.

    Because of this, LED lighting is highly suitable not only for goods and materials that are sensitive to heat due to the benefit of little radiated heat emission, but also for illumination of UV sensitive objects or materials such a in museums, art galleries, archeological sites etc.

    4. Operational in Extremely Cold or Hot Temperatures
    LED are ideal for operation under cold and low outdoor temperature settings. For fluorescent lamps, low temperatures may affect operation and present a challenge, but LED illumination operates well also in cold settings, such as for outdoor winter settings, freezer rooms etc.

    5. Low-Voltage – LED Lighting Can Run on Low-Voltage Power Supply
    A low-voltage power supply is sufficient for LED illumination. This makes it easy to use LED lighting also in outdoor settings, by connecting an external solar-energy source and is a big advantage when it comes to using LED technology in remote or rural areas.

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