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Build.com for Pros: How to Retrofit Commercial and Residential Lighting

To offer your clients maximum efficiency and better design, explore LEDs for retrofitting the lighting.

Yvonne Harbison
Yvonne Harbison
Modern black and gray kitchen. Rectangular LED

Older lighting styles are nowhere near as efficient as modern LEDs. In both commercial and residential buildings, this can result in a huge amount of energy consumption that can cost your clients real money in the long run.

Newer LED lighting options also offer a whole host of benefits including longer lasting bulbs, a lack of UV emission, and the ability to brighten instantly, illuminating any space in seconds flat. Figuring out how to retrofit lights in existing space isn't always easy, but it is often worth the investment.

While commercial and residential spaces require different lighting setups, there are some general principles you can use to retrofit LED lights into your design. Use this guide to learn more about the process and the products available today.

Update Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to lighting commercial and residential spaces. Figuring out how to install retrofit recessed lights should come first when you're making upgrades. You have two main options when you're looking to update any existing recessed lighting.

Recessed lighting in ceiling of laundry room.

The first option is to keep the current fixtures in place and use a retrofit conversion kit that allows you to use LED bulbs. Going this route can be cost-effective, but your selection of bulb types may be somewhat limited.

The other option is to replace existing fixtures with modern LED recessed lighting designs. The up-front cost to do this is generally higher, but your client will have a lot more choices when it comes to fixture style and bulb design.

Choosing to replace fixture types also allows for a more efficient design in many cases. When going through a major overhaul to retrofit lights, you'll have the ability to change the entire lighting scheme to make your commercial or residential space brighter and more efficient.

Installing the correct dimmers is also easier in many cases if you choose to update lighting fixtures instead of going for a conversion design. This is particularly important in residential spaces, though it may be less of a priority when updating commercial recessed lighting.

Replace Troffer Lights

Troffer lights are relatively common in industrial and manufacturing spaces where a lot of focused, overhead lighting is required in a work area. However, troffer lights do appear in offices and even in some residential spaces like kitchens.

Troffer lighting over office cubicles.

Older models tend to use inefficient fluorescent bulbs that are becoming more and more costly each day. Unlike LED lights, they also pose certain health and safety risks if they break and must be carefully disposed of.

Like recessed lights, troffer light fixtures can be retrofitted with an LED kit in most cases. This allows you to use existing fixtures and more efficient bulbs.

Alternately, replacing troffer light fixtures allows for an overall redesign of an existing lighting scheme while freshening up your client’s decor. Many troffer lights installed years ago could be showing signs of wear. Replacing whole fixtures will provide an up-to-date look and allow you to install LED light bulbs without a retrofit kit.

When aiming to retrofit lights of this type, you'll need to take the purpose of the space into account. Many modern LEDs can be brighter than fluorescent bulbs. That can be a good thing in work spaces, but if you're updating a residential kitchen, a troffer light that's too bright can be a nuisance.

Add LED Panels

LED panels used to be almost exclusively the domain of commercial spaces. Today, LED panels are being utilized in residential spaces as well because the shapes, sizes, and styles of these lights are more flexible than ever.

LED panels in classroom lab. Round panel led light in closet.

In many cases, LED panels are installed as brand new fixtures to replace existing overhead lighting. You may be able to retrofit some troffer lights with an LED panel kit, which can reduce costs in some spaces. Similarly sized LED panels often work well in place of troffer lights if you choose the correct kelvin temperature.

Residential spaces can also utilize LED panels in areas where overhead lighting did not exist. For example, an LED panel can be used in place of a flush mount fixture in a contemporary bathroom. They can even be installed in closets and utility spaces since smaller sizes are readily available.

Retrofit Lights Save Over the Long Run

Taking the time to retrofit lights in a residential or commercial building can make every space more efficient and functional. Replacing older lighting styles with LED compatible systems can also result in a considerable savings on electric bills for your clients.

Elegant white bathroom with recessed lighting. Gym with troffer panels.

With conversion kits, making the switch is easy even if you aim to keep existing recessed lighting or troffer panels. Replacing old fixtures may provide better functionality and more bulb choices in the end, while also allowing for a new, more modern design. This decision is ultimately up to you and your clients.

LED panels are also a smart modern tool you can use to outfit spaces with new lighting or retrofit older fixtures. However you and your clients choose to retrofit lights in your residential or commercial space, LEDs truly are the way of the future.

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