It would be inconceivable to invest in a fleet of automobiles that are rated at 10 miles to the gallon when more fuel-efficient models are available. In effect, it is possible you are doing just that when replacing lights as they reach the end of their lives. Changes in the lighting industry, through advanced technology and government regulations, have made today's lighting products more efficient than past products. Substantial savings can be realized by retrofitting existing lights with new technology.

In addition to the economic benefits, there are other positive aspects of changing to the most efficient lighting systems available. Reducing the amount of electricity used directly affects the amount of pollution generated by power plants. A typical lighting retrofit in an 80,000-square-foot school will prevent 120 tons of carbon dioxide, 1,250 kilograms of sulfur dioxide and 400 kilograms of nitrous oxide from entering the atmosphere. These reductions are equivalent to planting 44 acres of trees per year, removing 25 automobiles from the road per year and saving 13,673 gallons of gasoline.

New products can improve aesthetics and reduce maintenance. New tri-phospher coatings in fluorescent lamps improve color rendering, which will make people, furnishings and the overall interior space look more appealing. Compact fluorescent lamps can replace incandescent lamps and have more than 10 times the lamp life. In addition, compact fluorescent lamps are manufactured to match the warm incandescent color. Light emitting diodes (LEDs), which have a 20-year life expectancy, can replace lamps in exit signs.

Saving money

There are many good reasons to retrofit lights with the most efficient products available. The most prominent is the financial benefit. Lighting retrofits are the cornerstone of most performance-contracting projects. The dollars generated from a lighting retrofit can help fund other improvements that may not be as attractive as stand-alone projects. The overall concept is simple. The new efficient lighting systems save money on utility bills and in-house maintenance. The savings pay for improvements, and when the improvements have paid for themselves, the savings continue. A typical lighting retrofit will save 35 to 40 percent on the cost of operating the lights.

Drawbacks to a lighting retrofit project can be avoided by spending time at the front end of the project. There are a many manufacturers and products available, which can lead to specifying or accepting a bid that is based on unreliable equipment. With new evolving technologies, make sure to separate the sales hype from the facts, selecting proven reliable products. Look at the manufacturers as well as the products. While most manufacturers experience problems with products at some point, look for a company that stands behind its products, providing solutions to problems.