Digital Systems Blog

LED Retrofit or New Luminaires? That is the Question.

LED RetrofitThis blog post is the second of a 2-part introductory series on Lighting Controls in Retrofit Applications. In part 1, we highlighted the importance of controls in any retrofit solution and touched on factors beyond additional energy savings including qualification of rebates and incentives, supporting business needs beyond energy savings, and preparing you for the future of smart building applications and the Internet of Things (IoT). In this post, we focus on choosing a LED retrofit kit or purchasing new LED luminaires. 

If you are considering a lighting upgrade to save on energy costs, meet code, implement or prepare for smart building applications and IoT, or a combination of all three, you have several options to choose from when it comes to your luminaires. You can upgrade your lighting with LED retrofit lamps or retrofit kits, or you can purchase new LED luminaires. Any of these options will enable you to implement a standalone or networked lighting controls solution. However, the level of controls capabilities will differ. 

Choosing a LED Retrofit

Retrofit options vary depending on the existing lighting technology used. LED retrofit kits are similar in simplicity to LED replacement lamp options, though they provide more substantial opportunities particularly with lighting controls. As long as the fixtures are in decent shape, using a commercial LED fixture retrofit kit can be an appropriate upgrade option to your lighting system. LED fixture retrofit kits use existing housing but replace the lamp, ballast and socket with new electronics and LED modules. 

Retrofit Lamps

Incandescent and Halogen: LED replacement lamps for incandescent and halogen sources have been around for a while and are reasonably common.  In terms of control, the lamps can be switched easily. However, dimming can be trickier. Options include line-voltage, low-voltage, and wireless. The lamp may feature dim-to-warm capability to imitate the CCT change in incandescent lamps when dimmed. The challenge with these lamps is they are often installed on line-voltage wall box dimmers, presenting interoperability issues. 

Fluorescent: TLED retrofit lamps are devices that replace T8, T12, and T5/T5HO linear fluorescent lamps. They combine the light source, optics, and heat sink into a single package. If suitably matched to the application in a way that maintains lighting quality, they can be a cost-effective path to energy savings. TLED replacement lamps can be ideal for a limited budget, similar space appearance, or spot re-lamping a large facility. The typical energy savings when replacing a fluorescent linear lamp with a TLED retrofit lamp is up to 40%. Still, dimming can be somewhat limited.  If dimming control is desired and wiring is already in place, it is often most economical to connect to a larger wireless system or a hybrid wired/wireless.

Retrofit Kits

Fluorescent: Retrofit kits for fluorescent fixtures install into the existing luminaire housing and typically include a light source, electronics and mounting hardware. In some cases, optics are also included. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), retrofit kits offer a longer life than TLED retrofit lamps and have better heat management and lower failure potential. Even though the initial cost of the retrofit kit is likely more than the TLED retrofit lamp, retrofit kits often offer improved lighting aesthetics/distribution, excellent control opportunities, and could have higher efficiency than TLED retrofit lamps, resulting enhanced energy savings.

Upgrading to New LED Luminaires

New LED luminaires can offer improved aesthetics and light distribution, and maximum energy savings. The fixture components and housing shape are designed to optimize LED source performance and the fixture is likely designed to work with controls. In fact, new luminaires can be purchased with integrated sensors and controls making them an integral part of the lighting controls system. Luminaires with this integrated functionality will take care of your needs today, but also will set you up for the future of smart buildings and IoT by establishing a data network infrastructure based on smart lighting components in luminaires and a networked light management system. Luminaires with integrated sensors and controls become smart nodes on an intelligent lighting controls network, providing data to the lighting controls system about daylight levels, occupancy and space usage, and more in addition to maximizing energy savings. And, you will be able to quickly leverage software-based smart building applications including space optimization, digital wayfinding, asset tracking and more as they become available. To learn more, read our blog ‘Why every smart building needs a sensor in every luminaire’. 

Thanks to the LED and digital control revolution, and declining costs of LED luminaires replacing your existing fixtures with new LED luminaires and the latest sensor and controls technology can be an economical option. You can choose either a 1:1 replacement or an entirely new lighting design to modernize the space.

 Retrofit versus New Luminiare

It is more cost-effective than ever to install sophisticated lighting control systems in existing buildings. The retrofit option you choose – relamping, using retrofit kits, or replacing your existing fixtures with new LED luminaires – will determine the level of controls and associated benefits available to you. Quality and performance can vary across retrofit options and some of the factors to consider include the age and condition of the existing luminaires, equipment purchase and installation prices, and estimated energy savings levels. A detailed analysis is important. 

As part of your analysis in choosing the best retrofit option for your space, it is a good time to determine what light levels and color quality are required for tasks conducted in a given space. If you are upgrading your lighting, it makes sense to create lighting that is appropriate for specific occupant tasks and requirements using a controls solution. Studies show that proper lighting has a direct impact on occupant productivity and comfort levels.  It is also a good time to consider future space requirements and whether you will want to take advantage of smart building applications such as space optimization, digital wayfinding, or asset tracking that will help modernize your space while making every square foot of space count. Your retrofit lighting decision today could impact building applications you want to leverage tomorrow.

To learn more about lighting controls systems, download the ENCELIUM EDGETM brochure below.

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Topics: Lighting Controls