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Retrofit or New Fixture: Which is best?

Upgrading to energy-efficient LED lighting has become a significant focus in today's quest for sustainability and cost savings. The two primary approaches to implementing LED lighting upgrades are retrofitting and fixture replacement. Understanding the differences between these approaches is essential in making informed decisions for LED lighting upgrades. This post explores the disparities between retrofitting and fixture replacement and provides guidance on choosing the appropriate option for your needs.

Let’s dig in!

Retrofitting LED Lighting

Retrofitting LED lighting refers to the process of upgrading an existing lighting system by replacing traditional light sources (such as incandescent, fluorescent, or HID lamps) with LED components while utilizing the existing fixtures and components. It involves using retrofit kits specifically designed to fit into the current fixtures, which provides energy-efficient and cost-effective lighting solutions.

Advantages of retrofitting

1. Cost-effective: Retrofitting LED lighting is often more cost-effective compared to complete fixture replacement. It allows you to leverage the existing components and fixtures. This minimizes the need for extensive rewiring or modifications.

2. Compatibility with existing fixtures: Retrofit kits are designed to seamlessly fit into various types of fixtures, including recessed cans, troffers, and high bays. This compatibility eliminates the need for replacing the entire fixture, saving time and reducing waste.

3. Minimal disruption during installation: Retrofitting LED lighting typically requires minimal disruption to the workspace. Since the existing fixtures are utilized, there is no need for extensive construction or structural changes. The installation process is relatively straightforward which results in minimal downtime for businesses or homeowners.

Process of retrofitting LED lighting

Step 1: Removal of existing lighting components: The first step in retrofitting is the removal of the old lighting components, such as lamps, ballasts, and reflectors. This prepares the fixtures for the installation of LED retrofit kits.

Step 2: Installation of LED retrofit kits: LED retrofit kits consist of LED light sources, drivers, heat sinks, and other necessary components. These kits are designed to fit into the existing fixture, providing a “plug-and-play” solution for upgrading to LED technology.

Step 3: Wiring adjustments: In some cases, minor wiring adjustments may be required during the retrofitting process. This ensures proper connectivity and compatibility between the LED retrofit kit and the existing electrical system. It is important to follow manufacturer guidelines and consult a professional if needed.

Other considerations for retrofitting LED lighting

1. Compatibility with existing infrastructure: Before proceeding with retrofitting, it is crucial to assess the compatibility of the existing infrastructure with LED retrofit kits. Factors such as voltage, fixture type, and wiring configuration need to be considered to ensure a successful retrofit.

2. Lumen output and energy savings: Evaluate the desired lumen output and energy efficiency goals when selecting LED retrofit kits. Ensure that the retrofit kit selected provides sufficient illumination while delivering energy savings compared to the previous lighting system.

3. Lifespan and warranty of retrofit kits: Consider the lifespan and warranty offered by the LED retrofit kits. Opt for reputable manufacturers that provide reliable products with extended lifespans and comprehensive warranties. This ensures long-term performance and peace of mind.

Fixture Replacement with LED Lighting

What is fixture replacement?

Fixture replacement with LED lighting involves the complete removal of existing lighting fixtures and the installation of new fixtures specifically designed for LED technology. It entails replacing the entire lighting system, including the fixture housing, optics, and internal components, to fully optimize the benefits of LED lighting.

Advantages of fixture replacement

1. Complete upgrade of lighting system: Fixture replacement allows for a comprehensive upgrade of the lighting system. It provides an opportunity to replace outdated fixtures with modern, efficient LED fixtures that are specifically designed to maximize the benefits of LED technology.

2. Design flexibility and customization options: Fixture replacement enables greater design flexibility and customization options. LED fixtures come in a wide range of styles, sizes, and designs, allowing you to choose fixtures that align with your aesthetic preferences and lighting requirements.

3. Potential for improved performance: By replacing fixtures, you can take advantage of the latest advancements in LED technology. New LED fixtures often offer improved performance characteristics such as higher lumen output, better color rendering, dimming capabilities, and enhanced control options.

Process of fixture replacement with LED lighting

Step 1. Removal of existing fixtures: The first step in fixture replacement is the removal of the old lighting fixtures. This typically involves disconnecting the fixtures from the electrical system, detaching them from the mounting brackets or ceiling, and safely disposing of the old fixtures. Many aging lights have very specific disposal requirements. Please research this process in the area you live for appropriate measures.

Step 2. Selection of new LED fixtures: After removing the existing fixtures, the next step is to select new LED fixtures. Consider factors such as the intended application, desired lighting effects, energy efficiency ratings, and aesthetic preferences when choosing the appropriate LED fixtures for your space.

Step 3. Installation and wiring of new fixtures: Once the new LED fixtures are selected, they need to be installed and wired into the electrical system. This may involve mounting the fixtures, connecting them to the electrical wiring, and ensuring proper grounding and electrical safety measures are followed.

Considerations for fixture replacement with LED lighting

1. Assessment of existing fixtures' condition: Before opting for fixture replacement, assess the condition of the existing fixtures. If the fixtures are in poor condition, outdated, or incompatible with LED technology, replacement may be the more suitable option.

2. Budget and financial implications: Fixture replacement often involves a higher upfront cost compared to retrofitting. Take a close look at your budget and factor in all financial implications when deciding whether to replace fixtures. Evaluate the potential long-term energy savings and maintenance cost reductions associated with LED fixtures.

3. Energy efficiency ratings and certifications: When selecting new LED fixtures for replacement, pay attention to their energy efficiency ratings and certifications. Look for fixtures with high efficacy and certifications such as ENERGY STAR or DesignLights Consortium (DLC), which signify compliance with industry standards for energy efficiency.

In many areas, significant rebates can be obtained which can greatly reduce the out of pocket costs associated with new fixtures. Check out our post here for more information about these programs.

Choosing Between Retrofit and Fixture Replacement

Key factors to consider

When deciding between retrofitting and fixture replacement for LED lighting, several factors should be taken into account:

1. Existing infrastructure and fixtures: Evaluate the condition, compatibility, and functionality of the current lighting infrastructure and fixtures. Retrofitting may be a more suitable option if the existing fixtures are in good condition and compatible with LED retrofit kits. On the flip side, if the fixtures are outdated or incompatible with newer technology, fixture replacement may be necessary.

2. Desired level of customization: Consider the level of customization you require in terms of aesthetics, design, and lighting control options. Fixture replacement offers greater flexibility for achieving specific lighting design goals and customization. Bottom line, you can get what you want when you replace the entire fixture.

3. Budget and financial constraints: Assess your budget and financial limitations. Retrofitting generally has a lower upfront cost as it utilizes existing fixtures, making it a more cost-effective option. Fixture replacement, on the other hand, may involve higher initial expenses due to the need to purchase new fixtures.

4. Energy efficiency goals and regulations: Determine your energy efficiency goals and consider any applicable regulations or incentives. Both retrofitting and fixture replacement can contribute to energy savings, but updating the entire fixture may be incentivised at a higher amount.

Should I get a professional to help?

Our recommendation is that you seek professional advice and consultation before you make a decision, and here’s why:

Consulting with lighting professionals who specialize in LED lighting upgrades have options you may not. They can assess your specific needs, evaluate the existing infrastructure, and provide expert guidance on whether retrofitting or fixture replacement is the most suitable option. Additionally, they will be able to apply for incentives through local programs which can save you up to 25% on some projects!

Conducting an energy audit of your lighting system before making a decision is critical. An energy audit helps identify energy inefficiencies, assess lighting requirements, and determine the potential for cost savings. Energy auditors can provide recommendations on the most effective LED lighting upgrade strategy based on the audit findings. In many cases, significant savings can be achieved, but there are times where upgrading may not make sense. Only a seasoned professional will be able to know the exact details in these cases.

Wrap it up

Retrofitting LED lighting and fixture replacement both offer viable options for upgrading to energy-efficient LED lighting. However, understanding their key differences is crucial in making the right decision.

Ultimately, the choice between retrofitting and fixture replacement depends on your specific needs, budget, infrastructure, and energy efficiency goals. Consider all the factors you can and get professional guidance when you hit a wall.

Between you and a local professional, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your LED lighting upgrades which will ensure long-term energy savings, improved lighting quality, and a positive environmental impact.

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