What to Look Out for When Considering a Lighting Upgrade

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A lot of context-dependent factors go into good lighting. There is no standard or catch-all solution that you can instantly apply to improve your lighting system. It’s crucial to bear in mind that making the wrong lighting choices can wind up doing more harm than good. Lasting success comes from working with experts who learn the ins and outs of your facility, show you where the pain points are, and customize a lighting design roadmap based on your goals and their gathered data from your facility. 

At PEC, installing smart LED lighting systems is our specialty. We understand better than anyone that not every LED lighting upgrade is created equal. By focusing on the details specific to your workplace, we design optics that will last over a decade and won’t cost lots of money to run and maintain. One of our core values is built to last – and we mean it. 

As you consider a lighting upgrade, here are some suggestions on what to look out for:

What Does a Good Lighting Upgrade Look Like?

Figuring out how to juggle optimizing costs, reducing total energy used (and wasted), and maximizing available incentives – all while trying to measure your success (and run your business!) – can leave you confused and wondering, “What does ‘good’ really look like?”

Just a handful of the interconnected considerations with an LED lighting uprade

The Benefits of an LED Lighting Upgrade

The kind of lighting you choose is essential when you plan out your system. Here’s why an LED lighting upgrade (done right) always wins. LED lights use a fraction of the energy consumed by fluorescent and incandescent lights, meaning they cost less once operational and last issue-free for far longer; it’s the closest alternative to natural light and is known to improve worker productivity while decreasing incidents involving eyesight, headaches, loss of focus, and fatigue; and the integrated technology in LED systems feature secondary optics, which allows for the extremely precise control and channeling of light throughout an entire facility. The cost of LED lighting systems is met by a total return on investment that shows up in your quarterly statements, boosts your employees productivity and sense of satisfaction, and helps save the planet (by using less energy thus reducing your carbon footprint). 

Total Cost of Ownership 

Total cost of ownership (TCO) refers to a product’s direct and indirect costs. This figure is important for businesses to consider when weighing the prices for different lighting products. It considers the upfront cost, the manufacturing hours, the kWh rate, and the expected lifespan of the bulb or fixture. Lights that are less at check out are likely to have a TCO and will cost you more money in the long run than something with a higher initial sticker price. Both fluorescent and incandescent lights are less expensive than LEDs. However, because LED lights are more efficient and cost less to operate, rarely require maintenance, and have long life spans and (if specified correctly) don’t require replacement for decades, they eliminate tens of thousands of dollars of operational costs while lasting far longer (annual savings can be significantly higher depending on the size of your facility and your operating hours)

Return on Investment 

Consider return on investment (ROI) one of two figures to know as you plan your lighting upgrade, with the other being the payback period, the amount of time it takes the lighting project to pay itself off. Payback period is an important number to calculate for projects where investors are involved. What should you factor in when assessing the ROI potential of your lighting upgrade? Start by looking at your energy bill. Compare your pre- and post-project bills to determine your savings. Then divide that number by the total cost of your lighting upgrade. This percentage represents the ongoing return from your project investment in terms of lowered energy costs. 

Your project’s ROI is not limited to a leaner energy bill. An LED lighting upgrade positively alters these costs as well: 

  • Maintenance: The average lifespans of LED fixtures far outlast older competitors. It’s not a savings opportunity that tends to stick out, but not needing multi-annual fixture replacements can add up to be a significant figure over time. 
  • Materials: By needing fewer lights installed over longer periods of time, you’ll cut out the volume you formerly purchased to light your facility. Your materials savings number will also become more and more significant over time. 
  • HVAC: Outdated lighting systems produce a lot of heat throughout buildings, and air conditioning systems use more energy to cool them down. By installing a more efficient lighting system, you’ll positively influence your air conditioning system as well. 

Light Levels 

No lighting upgrade is the same as any other, largely owing to no two buildings being the same either, and so buildings have an enormous range of light level needs. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) features recommended levels set for over 100 standards, which give you an idea of the right optics to use in all kinds of commercial and industrial settings. You should also find your lights’ luminous efficacy, or how well they produce visible light, which is expressed as a value of lumens per watt.   

A West Fraser facility before and after an LED project


Warranties are non-negotiable for projects with as much scope, investment, and time needed as a facility-wide LED lighting upgrade. Talk to your to-be installers or manufacturers about their warranty program and where it does and doesn’t extend. Consider the manufacturers themselves. Are they new, or are they an established business? Will they be attentive to the details in the warranty agreement, or will they get ornery over miscommunication and believe you’re trying to “cut corners” on costs? 

Even the best project managers can only handle so much on their plate. When forming opinions about your lighting contractors, factor in how they handle their warranty program. Is it juggled between different team members with a host of other responsibilities? Has a specific team been dispatched to support warranty-related incidents? Somewhere in the middle? At PEC, we have a warranty support team built solely to handle and process warranty-related tasks and concerns. Our warranty team solves problems for PEC customers and streamlines projects for other PEC employees.  

Fixture Suitability 

Another reason why lighting projects are so situation-specific is because of workplace conditions. Whether natural, physical, or chemical, a near infinite spectrum of condition variables affect how and which fixtures should be used for any given project. Talk with your lighting contractor about any workplace conditions you think will affect your lighting upgrade so that the lighting fixtures used for the job are a natural fit for the conditions in which they’re installed.  

Environmental Impact 

Between regulations, initiatives, and incentives, there’s now plenty of reason to be upfront from the get go with your lighting contractor about the environmental efficiency of your lighting installation. Each dollar you get back from energy savings measures out to a certain percentage of fewer emissions sent out into the environment. Curious to learn more energy incentives and how you could qualify for them by being more energy efficient? Our Energy Incentives Team simplifies the step of applying for and receiving payments from energy credits as part of our LED lighting upgrade installation process.  

The Installation Process of a Lighting Upgrade 

Our project timelines at PEC start long before installation and continue well after. Phase one begins with an introductory session between your business and your PEC lighting engineer  . We’ll learn your business, goals and motivations and and do a thorough audit of your existing system. We’ll return with our recommended custom designed lighting solution for your space and discuss your options. Once the project scope is laid out, documents get signed, and down payments are scheduled a Project Manager (PM) is assigned to take on the installation. 

During phase two, your PM will re-examine the site, verify voltage, determine necessary materials, and prepare for the installation. 

While your project manager oversees logistics they’ll communicate with you about details like material delivery dates. Phase three kicks off with the lighting upgrade being scheduled and then installed. Post-installation, your PM will do a review of the job site before sending your invoice. 

Phase four is reserved for post-project support. This is a time to complete and sign any outstanding energy incentive documents, as well as process any  warranty requests. Between 30-45 days following the installation, PEC will check in with the site and make sure the installation continues to be in proper working condition. 


As with any large-scale project, knowing the ins and outs of your lighting upgrade is a must to understand the why behind what you’re paying for. The case-by-case basis of lighting projects means that, ultimately, the best value lies in vetting a lighting system contractor you can trust to do a good job have the best working relationship with. You’ll go back and forth with each other during each phase, and honesty, clarity, and communication will be key cogs in determining a high-quality installation. 
Interested in learning more about what a lighting upgrade could do for your facility? Don’t hesitate to get in touch

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