By Kelly Hagler
With today’s ever-changing technologies, large-scale lighting overhauls can seem both overwhelming and expensive. But if you’re a property or facility manager, an update to your building’s lighting system will not only conserve energy but also save you money in the long run.
To make retrofitting your property’s lighting more manageable, consider these four cost-saving tips:
As T12 lamps quickly become obsolete due to their use of energy-inefficient magnetic ballast, more and more property owners are choosing T8 and T5 bulbs. With higher light quality and a longer lifespan, T8 and T5 bulbs are a reliable and cost-efficient option for your lighting systems.
Over the past five years, Guy Larocque, director of facility management and security services at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., has replaced approximately 60 percent of the 10,000 T12 fluorescent light bulbs in the museum with T8 and T5 bulbs. Larocque says this process has reduced electrical energy consumption throughout the museum because the bulbs draw less power to provide the same lighting effects.
"This, in turn, has reduced the number of lighting fixtures and [the amount of] electrical wiring," he says. "The additional benefit has been less heat generated by the fixtures, resulting in reduced demand on electrical energy and air conditioning."
After realizing some of her properties’ lamps were becoming obsolete, Janice Pynn, director of Simerra Property Management in Toronto, Ont., hired professionals to install energy-saving motion sensor lights. She says hiring professionals helped ensure that installations were properly completed with minimal disruption to her communities.
Knowledgeable electrical professionals can also provide you with many more lighting options, Larocque adds. And having more choices will make it easier to choose solutions that work for your properties and fit your budget.
"[Our] experts provided us with advice on the latest developments in lighting technology," he says.
Larocque recommends researching qualified electrical engineering firms with experience in lighting retrofit projects and asking them to perform a lighting study. This study should involve a detailed survey of existing lighting systems, controls and wiring. It should also include retrofit strategy options that reduce energy and can be implemented over time to help manage budgetary constraints as well as complexities in your building's space.
"After studying the museum’s existing installations, the engineers proposed workable alternatives that would fit within our budget," Larocque says.
Dividing your retrofitting project into phases allows you to spend more time finding the right lighting solutions for specific areas of your property. It also helps spread out the cost. Although up-front renovation costs can be high, large-scale lighting upgrades offer quick financial rewards, Pynn says.
"The payback is usually less than two years, so the financial gain is almost immediate," she says. "This is an item that should be high on the agenda for cost-saving measures. Due to the short payback period, it’s not difficult to finance."
The best part about choosing more energy-efficient lighting systems is that the cost savings are not a one-time benefit. Pynn and Larocque both expect to profit from their lighting improvements—financially and aesthetically—for years to come.
"The lighting retrofit work that has been completed to date should serve the museum for at least the next five years," Larocque says. "The noticeable difference in the areas that have been retrofitted is in the brightness—the 'seeing' is clearer and this, we hope, enhances the visitor experience."