Within the world of lighting, commercial and industrial more specifically, we often hear the benefits of retrofitting versus entirely replacing lighting fixtures.

Some of these often talked about benefits of retrofitting over replacing entirely are:
• Less expensive to purchase
• Rebates available if Energy Star or DLC listed (for both retrofits and entire replacements)
• Not as heavy – less shipping costs

With these benefits alone, it already sounds like retrofit kits are a better alternative to your issues than an entire fixture replacement is. But do you know what this overlooked benefit of retrofitting your lighting fixtures is that I am about to reveal to you? Probably not, because like I said, it isn’t talked about that much. It’s a rather simple concept, and it’s seriously going to sound like common sense once I say it. But, it’s often overlooked while deciding whether it makes more sense money wise to retrofit or fully replace your facilities lighting fixtures. Without implementing this overlooked benefit, you may get distorted numbers and it may even lead you to making the wrong purchasing decision.

What exactly am I talking about?

What I am referring to is the cost of paying for labor to remove entire fixtures, disposing old fixtures, and the cost for installing the new ones. Why is this an important benefit? For the fact that making the decision to fully replace your lights over retrofitting may be distorted if you don’t include all of these ‘afterthought’ expenses that you might not think of until it is time to put the new lights in. To sum the benefit up; by retrofitting you are avoiding all of these extra expenses listed above that you may not been thinking about when making the decision on which option to go with. I know it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about these costs before purchasing new lights. Let me just say this, retrofitting a light is a lot cheaper than fully replacing in almost every aspect. It’s cheaper to purchase, it’s cheaper to physically replace, there’s less waste to get rid of afterwards, and they are typically cheaper to install. So while you are crunching your numbers, you should really think about including the costs of labor and getting rid of the waste into your calculations on top of all of the numbers.

Here’s a good tip:
If you have been on the fence of whether to retrofit or replace before you read this post, you are probably going to be leaning towards the retrofitting side of things now. Costs are higher to fully replace existing lights, and it’s generally just an easier process to install retrofits rather than entirely new fixtures. On the other hand, if you are ever faced with the situation of having to change out old lights, hopefully this post has shined a new light on what you are thinking about when considering which way to go with the replacement of your lights. Let me just add in though, if your light fixtures are falling apart, you probably should just suck it up and make the hard purchase of entirely new fixtures. I know it hurts, especially after this post revealing another benefit of retrofitting over replacing entries, but you can’t be seen with fixtures falling into pieces!

Have any other benefits of retrofitting that are yet to be revealed? Let’s hear them down in the comments, I’m sure we’d all love some more reasons to retrofit!

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  1. James Benya says:

    In our book, “Lighting Retrofits and Relighting” with Donna Leban and Bill Warren, we discuss in detail the benefits and drawbacks of both. What you fail to mention is that with a retrofit, one converts an old, outdated inefficient luminaire to an old, outdated efficient luminaire. With a new lighting system, it can refresh the space, especially if you add a coat of paint or new ceiling tiles. In other words, energy savings are used to recapitalize the installation and often help update the entire space.

    In addition, in California Title 24 will require either to update the lighting controls, require a permit, and other actions that make simple retrofits impossible. All the more reason to carefully assess the outcome.

    • Dustyn says:

      Awesome input James! I checked out your book, looks like it would be a great read and I might have to check it out some time.

      Your points are all valid and I’m glad you took the time to respond. The more insight the merrier, thanks for that!

  2. Rod Heller says:

    In most cases you are absolutely right about the retrofit, particularly with the new kits. The only old piece you use is the the existing shell and location. Unfortunately if you use DLC approved kits you will light every space to about 60 fc which is 2-3x recommended practice in most office spaces or schools! With this in mind it is extremely important to have dimable kits or kits that you can set the output in the field.

    As far as adding paint and or ceiling tiles, it is a good idea, but often it is not in the budget or the project scope and it kills the payback, like much of Title 24.

    I highly recommend the IES LEM-3 manual. It is written by people who actually do lighting upgrades!

  3. Jim Blakley says:

    “benefits of retrofitting versus entirely replacing lighting fixtures” is definitely not a one solution applies to all situations. There are many factors to consider. Something that may seem simple can become complex real fast. Things such as asbestos abatement can come up in favor of not removing the old luminaire and replacing with a new luminaire. Also labor of the installer vs the factory manufacturing cost. Maybe having someone rework an existing luminaire to basically rebuild it up in the air at 30 ft or more over equipment can change the best solution from retrofitting versus replacing. What’s the heat sink that might be needed to get the proper LED junction temperature for the LED retrofit or is a complete fixture with new engineered thermal management and a new warranty a better solution? What about future proofing the solution to consider controls as Mr. Benya brings up. All food for thought and consideration before deciding the best course of action.

  4. Lighting retrofit and design is an investment that will yield significant returns. We will be able to work with you to discuss how much money this process can save you each and every year. We are happy to share solutions to reduce energy costs.

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