Lighting Audit Opportunities for Commercial Properties

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Lighting Audit Opportunities for Commercial Properties

In a previous article, we looked at retfofits for general lighting situations. Many buildings, regardless of the main purpose they are used for, will have T12 fluorescent tubes, magnetic ballasts and a ton of incandescent and halogen bulbs and HID lamps that may present retrofit opportunities.

In this article, we'll bring the focus to office spaces and buildings with large illuminated areas like parking garages or warehouses. The building is an office combined with a warehouse, and many of the large buildings in downtown Chicago have parking garages on lower levels with offices above.

There are unique challenges for commercial spaces, but also unique opportunities to reduce energy usage and decrease utility bills, while improving lighting for visitors and employees.

Lobby and Reception Areas

The entrance area for the entire building, as well as lobbies for individual company offices represent an opportunity to use light to make a professional and creative first impression for visitors, and display the company's personality to employees.

Fluorescent lamps can be upgraded, with T12 bulbs switched to T8 or T5HO. Even fluorescent T8 lamps can be replaced with energy saving versions of the same lamps.

Downlights are also common in lobby areas, and the halogen bulbs typically used in them can be replaced with LED technology. Manufacturers offer LED downlight retrofit kits, or the bulbs in the existing downlight sockets can simply be replaced.

Tape and rope light can also be utilized under reception desks or throughout the area to provide accents and guide first-time visitors to the reception area or elevators. For an even more creative application, consider RGB lights where the color can be changed with a remote control or via smartphone app.

Finally, any light socket that still houses an incandescent or halogen lamp can likely be replaced with an LED version of the same bulb. With LED bulb prices decreasing so dramatically, there is little reason not to switch to the much more efficient lamps.

Open Office Spaces

Open offices may have drop ceilings or high ceilings, and an open work environment or a maze of cubicles. In any case, providing high quality lighting, with minimal glare on computer screens, for a large number of workers can make a noticeable impact on productivity.

Replacing fluorescent tubes is the main opportunity for saving here, as they are so common in office spaces. T12 and magnetic ballasts can be replaced with T8 or T5HO with electronic ballasts, and T8s can be upgraded to more efficient versions of the same bulbs. Group relamping means all the lamps in an area are replaced at the same time. This reduces maintenance costs compared to only changing lamps when they stop operating and it brings consistency in the lighting throughout the area.

The recessed troffers that house the fluorescent lamps can also be replaced. LED troffers and flat panels that fit in dropped ceiling grids have been on the market for a couple years now and will be more energy efficient than the older tech they are designed to replace.

For companies extremely cost-conscious in their lighting energy use, individual lighting controls, such as personal dimming, can be available at each cubicle. Occupancy sensors can shut down lights automatically as employees leave for the day, taking the responsibility to shut the lights off out of the hands of a manager or maintenance person and fully automating the process.

Closed Offices

Closed offices are very similar to open office spaces. Fluorescent bulbs can be replaced with higher-efficiency fluorescents, and recessed troffers can be replaced with LED versions.

In addition, LED flat panels represent another opportunity to upgrade light quality in smaller office spaces, and lighting controls like photocells and occupancy sensors can be used to shut off lights after the worker has left for the day.


Hallways are another area of an office where fluorescent bulbs can be switched from T12 to T8 or T5HO, and older T8s can be replaced with energy efficient versions of the same lamp.

LED edgelit panels are also appropriate for hallways, as well as switching out fluorescent troffers for LED troffers.

And don't forget the lighting controls in the hallway. Once everyone has left for the day, the hallway won't be used so the lights will not need to stay on all night. Installing occupancy sensors can lead to energy savings.

Conference Rooms

Conference rooms are pretty similar to closed office spaces. Again, any fluorescent bulbs can be replaced with more efficient fluorescents, or the troffers can be replaced with LED troffers. These rooms are also candidates for LED flat panels.

Conference rooms often have recessed fixtures. Any incandescent or halogen bulbs installed in these should be changed to LED, or the entire fixture can be replaced with an LED recessed downlight kit.

Also, controls can also be used here, with a ceiling sensor the most appropriate to turn off lights when the room is not being utilized.

Projectors that are used in conference rooms should be monitored so the bulb doesn't burn out in the middle of a presentation with no backup. OEM projector bulbs are the highest quality and most compatible, although more inexpensive alternative lamps are also available, with varying quality.

Cafeteria and Break Rooms

The best rooms in the building!

Cafeterias and break rooms are good candidates for replacing older fluorescent bulbs with T8 or T5HO, or energy efficient T8 lamps. In addition, the fixtures themselves may be changed to LED panels or troffers.

And controls should also be installed in these areas, especially break rooms. Employees who aren't in the office don't need this light on, but it may be one of the easiest ones to forget to turn off, being a common area. Cafeterias may have more workers who are present for more hours of the day, so occupancy sensors can shut down the lights once the workers have left.

Warehouse Areas

Warehouses generally have high ceilings over long rows of products. As the existing light system ages, light output from the lamps decline and this can cause reduced light levels at the floor. Metal halide lamps are relatively energy efficient but over time lumen depreciation can reduce light levels to the point that either new metal halide needs to be installed, or, a fixture retrofit to a completely different light source might be appropriate.

Metal halide lamps can be replaced to pulse start metal halides, or upgraded to LED high bay fixtures. Direct LED metal halide replacements are also available and advertised frequently in airline magazines, but few big name lighting manufacturers are in that game yet and prices are still very high.

In warehouses that use fluorescent fixtures, the bulbs can be upgraded. T12 lamps can be replaced with T8 or T5HO. LED tubes are also available, although care should be taken that the light output will be sufficient in high ceiling applications. Also, the higher price may not justify the increased energy savings until prices decrease further. Fluorescent high bay fixtures are also a replacement option.

Parking Garages

The large open spaces of parking garages make them similar to warehouses, but parking garages often have much lower ceilings. This presents similar opportunities with both types of space.

As usual, fluorescent bulbs can be changed out, while the fixtures can be upgraded to fluorescent vapor tight or LED vapor tight fixtures.

Metal halide lamps can also be upgraded to pulse start bulbs, or low bay fixtures can be upgraded to LED.

Outdoor Perimeter of Building

Finally, the outside of the building's lighting can be upgraded to make the space safer and reduce energy costs.

Metal halide lamps in flood light fixtures can be upgraded to pulse start variations of the bulbs.

Wall pack fixtures can also be upgraded to LED wallpacks or specific shoe box/wallpack LED bulbs.

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