Lighting Retrofits for Demanding Environments

Lighting Retrofits for Demanding Environments

Article from EC&M  July 2, 2018 & Emerson

Do you have lighting problems in a harsh environment or hazardous location? You may be able to solve each one with a quick and easy retrofit.

How would you like to seriously reduce maintenance costs, production interruptions, and inventory costs without a capital project? You may be wondering how that could be done. The answer is you can accomplish those goals, and more, with a series of easy retrofit upgrades from legacy lighting to LED. And you don’t need to run new branch circuits; in many cases, such an upgrade can be done even while using parts of existing light fixtures.

Before we talk about how, let’s look closer at the why. People often look to LED for the energy savings, but other reasons for switching from a legacy technology to LED may be more important to you.

Relamping relief

Your legacy lamps may last for only 6,000 hours of operation, while LED will take you ten times further. With legacy lighting, you need a relamping program so aging lamps are replaced before their light output drops off to an unacceptable and dangerous level.

The timing of this is well-known for each kind of lamp; many spec sheets include a graph of light output over hours of service. You don’t want to reach the light output drop-off point where the line suddenly curves downward. So you replace functioning lamps before they get to that point.

In a typical relamping scenario, maintenance coordinates downtime with production to allow a relamping contractor access to the lights that are over production equipment or in an area where access means shutdown.

Typically, lifting platforms (often scissor lifts) are required to reach overhead lights. Temporary equipment moves may be required to get scissor lifts close enough horizontally to reach the fixture, unless a boom crane can do the job.

The contractor must get security clearance, and in many facilities an inhouse person must keep tabs on the contractor’s crew. And unless this contractor follows all the rules for disposal and can haul away your old lamps, you’ll probably need a recycling contractor too.

Let’s say you have metal halide lighting. You play this game every other year and you never win. It’s just another chore for you and another cost for your company.

What if you could forget about relamping for the next 60,000 hours of operation? And eliminate future recycling costs? Since LED uses solid state lamp drivers instead of lighting ballasts, the ballast replacement ritual also becomes a thing of the past. How much did ballast replacement cost you last year, in labor hours, replacement parts, and lost production?

You also reduce the production interruptions that relamping brings, especially if yours is a multi-shift facility. You literally reduce red tape by 90%, because those work areas can be roped off every 60,000 hours of operation instead of every 6,000.

With those savings, your total cost of ownership (TCO) drops dramatically. You don’t need the motivation of energy savings to find the retrofit financially compelling. Strong as it is, the financial motivation may take a back seat to something even more  motivating. We’ll discuss that next.

Better lighting

Continuing with our metal halide example, those “fast strike” lamps you paid extra for make a difference when recovering from a power loss. But the light isn’t truly instant on, it’s more like “instant dim” and then you wait for the lamp to reach full brightness. That usually means an annoying wait until work can resume. By contrast, LED really is “instant on”. You don’t need to wait for dim lights to regain their rated output.

True instant on is one of several advantages LED has over legacy lighting. With LED, you also get:

–  Better color rendering.

–  Brighter light without the temperature (Tcode) problems.

–  Better light distribution

–  Reduced glare.

–  Correct beam width to fit your application.

–  Light intensity that is consistent throughout the beam.

The light characteristics differ, depending upon the design of one particular LED luminaire versus another. So if you don’t have the right light with one LED design, try another. A responsive manufacturer can help you try different optic designs or even different fixtures to change the way the light throws or to change any other attribute.

With some experimentation, you’ll probably reduce or eliminate both shadows and task lighting. In many applications, LED technology makes it possible to eliminate shadows without moving or adding lights. You can improve visual acuity and worker safety, thereby enhancing productivity without trying to fit new raceway around process piping or other obstacles.

You may have some free infrastructure benefits, too. Even if you increase the light levels dramatically, the ultra-high efficiency of LED means less load on your branch circuits. And a reduction in load current provides the ability to expand the number of fixtures on an existing circuit.

Project size

The benefits of an LED retrofit are compelling. But how big of a project must this be?

The traditional comprehensive lighting project has many benefits. For example, you can change the lighting layout to improve how well things are lit up. A new arrangement may eliminate the shadows that currently exist, and that’s a key reason for proceeding with a layout change. Yet, there are always unknowns and the new layout may present new shadows.

And, this approach means running new branch circuits. That is often a deal killer for many kinds of applications; hazardous locations and harsh environments are two examples. Any building that has a densely-packed infrastructure of process piping is another.

A big lighting project also requires a capital request and perhaps significant downtime for the work to be done.

The good news is you can get those LED benefits without committing to a big lighting project. And in many cases, you can eliminate shadows without increasing the number of fixtures over what you already have.

The solution involves an easy retrofit against your legacy lighting. For some types of legacy lighting, you can quickly and easily change the fixture with no new wiring involved. For others, you leave the mounting hood in place and just replace the ballast body and lamp with a new driver housing. Direct replacements exist for most legacy ballast/lamp systems, and adapters are available for when there’s not a direct replacement. No new wiring, no new raceway, no moving fixtures around.

Getting started

You can do a few retrofits at a time, using your maintenance budget or perhaps the plant’s project budget instead of a capital request. If you want to go small scale (instead of a full-bore lighting project), where do you start?

Your lighting pain points are probably obvious. So start with those; spend a few minutes making a list of the worst offenders. Then visit some of those trouble spots. Note the location, lighting problem, and type and size of existing light source, and supply panel location.

Next, pick one trouble spot to work on. Do you need more lumens? Better color rendering? A wider beam? More consistent light? All of the above? Contact a lighting products manufacturer to see what the product solution(s) may be for the needs you identified.

You may need to try a few different luminaires to find the solution you were looking for. Because the installation is easy, so is the experimentation to see what works best in that location. If you have lighting problems similar to those at this first trouble spot, you’ll be doing a small “try before buy” experiment on what works for all of them.

When choosing the product you’re going to try, look for globes that are interchangeable, field replaceable, and relatively low weight. Your options should include versatile mounting hoods, retrofit adapters, and color temperature options. You should be able to find a true one-to-one retrofit solution, even with mounting height and application challenges.

Also evaluate the LED luminaires under consideration to ensure they have adequate surge protection. Today’s standard is 6kV for industrial applications.

As you repeat the process for each of the problems on your list, you’ll be gaining experience in how to fix your lighting problems. As those retrofits accumulate and lighting continues to improve, you’ll see brighter days ahead at your facility.

Comments by Ralph Girondo:  Good article covering the many pros and some drawbacks when considering an upgrade. Bottom line is it makes great sense to upgrade and you have options including new fixtures, and or component upgrades to the existing fixtures.  Chances are you can save roughly 60% on energy and get improved lighting with a long list of other benefits.  One point to mention: most legacy lamps will last longer than 6000 hours, although the light output will degrade and they will guzzle up much more of your energy than they need to. Note re paying for the upgrade, You can get financing options to pay for the upgrade out of your savings.  I can help you select the best fixtures and we have many choices for all sorts of applications.  In addition, FSG handles removal, installation, recycling, and several financing options.  Contact me for a no obligation assessment for any of your buildings in all 50 states plus CA. You can reach me at (267)370-1442, on this site, or at

PS: Although this article is pointed to harsh environment areas, the same conditions and savings applies to warehouses, plants, and factories of any type,







What’s Happening to Your Existing Lighting? Going, Going, Gone and what you need to do about it

What’s Happening to Your Existing Lighting? Going, Going, Gone and what you need to do about it

If you are in charge of your lighting program, it’s definitely a new game in town. Some of your former concerns up until now may have been:

  • -What is the best price for my T8, T5, or even T12 lamps?
  • -Should I use 3500 or 4100 K color?
  • -What halogen flood will give me the best accent lighting?
  • -When can I receive my order?

Like the popular 60’s song “Where have all the flowers gone?”, that old tune can be updated to say, “Where have all the Light Bulbs gone?”. Many lamps are going away or will be gone in the not too distant future. Your ceiling may be left with some soon to be dinosaurs or a mismatch of different types. Do you know lamps are being cut from the lines of the major lamp manufacturers every day? Fair to say, the lamp lines of GE, Sylvania, Philips, and others have been shrunk down by at least 35%. Lamps are being delisted every few months due to legislation, falling demand, and because LED products are taking their place. The former questions, which are driven more by transactional and commodity-oriented sourcing issues like price and delivery, are out the window. A new thought process is necessary for end users to make smart decisions to best manage your lighting and have a smooth transition.

Former Major Players all in midst of change and sometimes chaos

The lighting and lamp industry is in the middle of a market disruption and transformation to digital or solid-state lighting LED lighting. Nearly all major lamp manufacturers are in some type of transformation during these times. GE, now called Current, has segmented their operation to carve out LED as a separate unit. Just this week, GE has found a new buyer for some International Lighting segments; more news to come on North America. They have recently decided to exit the lighting business. Sylvania is now LEDvance and was also recently acquired by a Chinese trio including MLS Co., the parent company of Atlanta based Forest Lighting. Philips Lighting has been shedding part of its lighting business as well and will also be getting out of the lamp business. They are supposedly announcing a new name change in March of this year where the focus will be on connected lighting. Exactly how the Big 3 will stay in lighting and which partner they will walk with remains to be seen; however the point is all of them are reinventing themselves and their lines. Surely, these 3 great brands will continue as they pass the torch to new owners/partners; however, their focus and products will be very different from their past. I read about a different plant closing every month. Continued attrition of standard lamps is at least 10% per year. The bottom line is standard lamps as we know them are dead, the manufacturers can’t get out of the legacy business fast enough. The time has come to look at what is in your ceiling and plan for a smooth change. LED is and has been the new game in town and will continue to take hold each year.

The 3 Common Positions USA Manufactures are taking:

The decisions of how to play in this disruptive market of changing times are certainly not easy.

Here are the most common positions legacy lamp manufacturers are talking; It is one of these 3 or a mix of them based on product line:

  1. Get out of dodge: They can’t stop making the old-style lamps fast enough. They are stuck with old huge machines and a technology no one wants. They are either getting out of the business, selling their companies, or splitting their companies into segments.
  2. Last Man standing: They put a lot of money into this technology; They were leaders in this segment and built it up and they do not want to give it up. An example is TCP and compact fluorescents lamps; they had a strong focus and were successful here and they don’t intend to walk away. They have studied and forecasted the demand for the style of lamps they make and like General Custer fighting until the end, they plan on being there until the lamp demand for CFL’s dwindles very low. They will fulfill customer needs on this for as long as it makes economic sense.
  3. All Aboard the LED Train: Whether they are leaving or staying in the lamp business, all the companies are moving into LED and quickly. All the major players have growing LED lamp lines; the problem is there are many niche and or new players in those same sockets.  One thing is certain, the older technology is eroding swiftly: LED, lighting controls, and connected lighting are the future which means now is the time to plan or complete your move to the new products.

Lighting Supply Programs Then and Now

I have spent many years in lighting and in creating/managing National Account lamp supply programs for many large end users. I was fortunate enough to work with many large national accounts such as Burlington, Ann Taylor, Big Lots, and many others where we set up some of the finest lighting supply programs anywhere. I like to think I have been involved in energy saving lighting products long before it was cool and way before LED. In some ways, it is hard to accept and see the changes, struggles, and evolution of the industry as I knew it. On the other hand, it is progress and the benefits of the new technology far outweigh any of the cost or other issues. Any way you evaluate your options, LED is the better way to go and the faster you do it the better off you will be and for many reasons. In the past, my goals were to provide customers with the best lighting supply programs, now my goal is to provide the best transitioning lighting supply program, while at the same time, working with them on either gradual or full turnkey upgrades to advance them to LED lighting.

So, here are the questions you need to be concerned about now:

  • How do I start or continue making the smart transition to LED?
  • How do I choose the best products for my applications?
  • How and where is the best place to source them?
  • How long will the old products be around?
  • How do I fill in the holes with current products I use that are now obsolete?

This is where it gets interesting and will make the difference between having an appealing or shabby looking lighting system.  You will need to pay attention to what you are using and will be using as well as stay aware of what is biting the dust and when. You will need to know your best options and best ways to proceed. You will need to know if you will do this in a full sweep turnkey rollout or do it on a gradual basis.

You will need to look at colors, form factors, sizes, fixture/dimming compatibility, as well as the quality of manufacturers. All the above is not really easy to do well without missteps. There a lot of false promises, low-end imports, and a large number of companies you surely want to avoid.

Are you on the right path for this change?

Think about all the above questions. Formulate or update your plan to stay on track.  Resolve how you will continue to be able to purchase what you need and get a plan to start upgrading. This is not something you should be afraid of; this is progress and the end result will be an improved lighting environment, substantial energy savings, maybe even rebates to sweeten the deal. Your goal is to get out the lighting supply business and into a digital lighting system.  You will not need to stockpile lamps anymore but you should do this the right way. I do recommend you work with a professional and ask these questions of whomever you partner with:

  • Do they understand my legacy lighting and what it was designed to do?
  • Can they supply existing lighting while I make the changes?
  • Can they guide me to best new LED products?
  • Are they brand neutral with a wide variety of choices so I can best the products for my application?
  • Can they do turnkey and make it a seamless, easy proposition?
  • Are they knowledgeable? Do they have Lighting Certified (LC) staff?
  • Can they get me the best rebates and handle warranty registrations?
  • Can they finance my upgrades and maybe get me positive cash flow?
  • Can they do this for all locations across the country?
  • Can they handle all my lighting control needs and concerns?
  • Are they experienced in this market and have they helped other customers make a successful transition?

These are all good questions to help you better understand your options, navigate the process, and make the best choices. You will be very pleased when you upgrade what is in your ceiling and you have nothing to lose except energy costs. At the end of the day you want to develop and plan to proactively manage what is in your ceiling, and have a plan in place to take make a gradual or comprehensive upgrade to this new technology. Good luck and please consider contacting me as my answer is YES to all the above. You can reach me at (267)370-1442 if you need help or have questions.