Function Over Finance: Lightning Project Priorities are Shifting

Published July 2015 by Darcie DeFoe


The Retrofit Companies has been in the lighting industry for more than 20 years, and we have witnessed many changes in technology, trends, and the goals our clients wish to achieve through their lighting projects. The most recent trend has been a shift away from the idea that clients buy lighting projects based only on energy savings needed to achieve financial savings. Payback and return on investment have become less important in modern lighting upgrade projects, while building sustainable, controllable, maintenance-saving lighting systems have become factors which weigh just as heavily in the decision making process as finances. 

Technological advances in lighting is a primary reason for this shift. The malleable nature of LED technology and the ease with which controllability can be achieved now that prices for both of these technologies are attainable throughout the market has made the largest impact. Lighting designers and clients can now affordably meet their goals of building sustainable, controllable, maintenance-saving lighting systems.

In this project case study a smaller business with a large industrial/manufacturing space suffered from inefficient technology and almost no controllability. The largest area of this space was lit with T12 and metal halide and had no control function aside from a single breaker switch – all on or all off.


With their retrofit project, this facility upgraded technologies to T8 and LED, and added sensors for additional control. They were able to meet their maintenance, sustainability, and controlability goals successfully.


In this case, the simple payback is over 8 years, but the monthly energy savings is an anticipated $200+ for this small business and they are able to light only areas that are being used. This savings does not include maintenance savings for the inevitable expense of repairing an aging system and purchasing the discontinued T12 products required to keep it in working order if they had not completed this lighting upgrade.


  • Inefficient T12 fixtures retired & recycled
  • 40 unnecessary fixtures removed from use!
  • New lighting layout for maximum efficiency
  • Decreased kWh 69% overall
  • Project rebate $2,213
  • Annual savings over $2829 / nearly $235 a month!
  • New system offers sensors and upgraded controls
  • Cut maintenance costs, new fixtures have 5 yr warranty!
  • New fixtures contain no mercury


  • Sustainable, Energy Saving LED
  • Rated 50K hours, L70
  • Dimming
  • Even Light Distribution, >80CRI


Total greenhouse gas reduction Metric Tons equivalent to: 27.3

  • Passenger cars not driven for one year 5.3
  • Gallons of gasoline saved 3,057.4
  • Acres of forest preserved from deforestation 0.27
  • Tons of waste recycled vs. land filled 9.5

With this example, we can see a how this approach to building lighting projects that save more than money-via-energy-savings is an evolution in our industry and is an approach that can be applied to lighting projects in most industries. However, the environmental and financial savings are still significant, as evidenced in the project summary above. We advise anyone considering a lighting project or upgrade to look beyond the financial savings potential and also consider other intangible savings opportunities that arise when smart design is implemented. Click below for more case studies on our blog.