LED Lighting Upgrades: A Guide for Facility Managers

As a facility manager, you’re responsible for all aspects of the physical infrastructure of an organization. Part of this responsibility is to identify areas where you can increase the efficiency and cost-savings of the facilities that you manage. One strategy that you can implement is the upgrade of your existing lighting systems.

When developing a case for spending money on lighting system upgrades, it’s important to consider the benefits to determine if it’s worth it. Facility Managers must develop a solid return-on-investment (ROI) case for getting capital improvement expenditures approved. No matter what type of facility you manage, the main goal is for it to operate with as minimal of a cost as possible. Upgrading to an LED lighting system is a vital part of accomplishing this goal. An investment in energy-efficient lighting can lead to a substantial ROI within a two-year period. Upgrades typically save around 40 to 60% energy costs.

Improving your lighting setup can be the first step toward a healthier, safer, and more productive work environment. Facilities such as warehouses and fulfillment centers consist of intricate operations and require smooth workflows. Inadequate or obsolete lighting systems can not just delay and disrupt system processes but can also become a risk for worker injuries. Light flickering, glare, and improper contrast are all issues that can lead to consequences like eye strain, operational mistakes, and physical injuries.

It is estimated that more than 75% of the five million industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings in the United States were constructed before many current energy-efficient technologies were available. On average, lighting can account for a third of a building’s energy use and potentially more if the facility has outdated, inefficient lighting.

Types of Facility Lighting: What Do They Do?

Depending on the nature of your business or organization, you’ll likely have a variety of lights that provide specific functions. In general, here are some basic types of workplace lighting to consider:

  • General Lighting provides a comfortable, balanced overall light to a space.
  • Task Lighting provides glare-free illumination for specific tasks. Examples include quality control, product assembly, or inventory storage.
  • Accent Lighting can be used in break rooms, cafeterias, or lobbies. It provides a central point of illumination that highlights the specific features of a space.

The Benefits of LED Lighting

LED lighting systems have quite a few benefits over other types of lighting. This includes HID (high-intensity discharge), fluorescent, and incandescent.

  • They produce light much more efficiently. Less wattage is required for each lamp or fixture. This means that they use less electricity and reduce energy costs.
  • They are free of toxic chemicals, such as mercury and lead. This means that they are environmentally friendly and there are no special arrangements that are needed for disposal.
  • They have a much longer lifespan, 100,000 hours in some cases. This reduces replacement costs.
  • They can improve alertness and visibility. They contribute to shadow reduction and enhance color recognition. This results in increased efficiency and productivity.

How do you know that your facility’s lighting system needs to be upgraded?

  • It has high utility bills.
  • It has high maintenance costs.
  • There are issues with suboptimal light levels. HID and fluorescent lighting quality can degrade over time. This can make tasks more difficult.
  • You are not taking advantage of initiatives and incentives that are available to you. Here are some examples:
    • Environmental and sustainability initiatives – Your organization may have sustainability and environmental goals that include its carbon footprint reduction, waste disposal, and energy efficiency.
    • Smart building initiatives – One of the benefits of LED lighting is it can be connected and integrated with other systems in the building. This creates the possibility for limitless efficiency and automation opportunities. This can include daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, and Bluetooth beaconing.
    • Rebates and/or tax incentives – These can come from state/local governments and local utility companies.

How do you start planning a lighting upgrade for your facility?

1) Perform a lighting audit and get recommendations from a professional

A lighting audit is performed by doing an onsite walkthrough of a facility to specify its current lighting conditions. Once the audit is completed, you can ascertain where energy-saving changes can be made. It can be performed for both indoor and outdoor spaces. The audit will provide a detailed report outlining potential energy savings, rebates, incentives, costs, and ROI. Your existing fixtures may need to be replaced, retrofitted, and/or adjusted.

2) Make the case for an upgrade to LED lighting.

LED lights have a much longer lifespan than other types of lighting which means they will save on maintenance costs over time.

  • Identify areas that need to use lights 24/7 (all the time). This could include parking garages, stairwells, or common areas.
  • Identify areas that have lights that are difficult to reach. Examples include lights that require a lift for access or those that can only be replaced after normal business hours. One specific example would be high bay LED lights in a warehouse.

LED lights are much more efficient than other types of lighting.

  • This helps to reduce your electric bill significantly.
  • Consider showing how a lighting upgrade will impact precise (not just average) price per kilowatt-hour charge as well as other peripheral charges. A reduction of the demand charge alone can be huge.
  • Understand the difference between kilowatts and kilowatt-hours. Kilowatts (a measure of power) measure how fast a facility uses kilowatt-hours (kWh, a measure of energy). It’s very important to include accurate calculations for kWh and energy demand for an ROI rationalization argument in order to justify a lighting upgrade proposal.

3) Apply for rebates and/or tax incentives.

  • A third party that helps pay for all or part of a lighting upgrade is an ideal way to strengthen a return-on-investment (ROI) case. This includes rebates or tax incentives from the local utility, the federal government, or any other organization that offers money for energy efficiency.
  • Apply for rebates early in the justification process. This way, you will already have a commitment letter that spells out the specific work and exact dollars.
  • Use one of many online tools to find the rebate that matches your project


As a Facility Manager, you spend a lot of time maintaining, upgrading, and supporting your organization’s footprint. You must focus on bottom lines, expenses, certifications, code requirements, and perform daily duties where strong working relationships are needed. You need high-quality systems that require minimal maintenance for your team and adhere to the budgets set by company leaders. LED lights are an ideal fit for facility managers.

On a final note, always remember that it’s important to know your organization’s priorities and goals. This knowledge will allow you to include them in your lighting upgrade proposal. By demonstrating that you understand them, your proposal will be more convincing to those that will ultimately make the final decision.

Advice For Facility Managers

What maintenance practices should facility managers adopt to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of LED lighting systems?

Facility managers should use predictive models to enhance LED lighting system maintenance. By using these models, managers can adjust lighting controls based on occupancy changes, improving performance and reducing wear. Predictive models also aid in creating maintenance schedules, optimizing system longevity by avoiding disruptions. Regular updates to the models ensure the system adapts to evolving user behavior, preventing excessive use or neglect that could harm its lifespan.

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