opinion3 min read

Unveiling the hidden costs of retrofit LED streetlighting

As the demand for energy-efficient lighting and circular economy principles continue to rise, contractors and local authorities often face the dilemma of whether to retrofit existing lighting fixtures with LED gear trays or purchase new LED streetlights. While retrofitting may appear to be a quick and cost-effective solution, it is crucial to carefully consider a number of factors before making a final decision.

The Appeal of Retrofitting

LED replacement projects have gained popularity due to their promises of significant energy savings and quick returns on investment. Retrofitting offers the possibility of achieving these savings and benefits without the expense of completely new fittings. It has been touted as a quick and easy solution with low investment, energy savings, adherence to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ principles, improved performance, reduced maintenance costs, and less strain on limited natural resources. However, before opting for this approach, it is important to evaluate several factors to avoid unforeseen expenses.

Assessing Existing Fittings

Before considering LED retrofit gear trays, the integrity of the existing fittings should be thoroughly examined. We always recommend reviewing a sample product ideally at ground level, however, the likelihood is that every product on site will be in varying states of deterioration or degradation – which can impact the installation of gear trays and may necessitate extensive refurbishment and replacement parts. This is where a comprehensive asset inventory or on-site assessment of all fittings to be replaced and their surroundings is essential. Additional costs such as cherry pickers and audits may begin to emerge, challenging the notion of retrofitting as the most economical choice. Errors in inventory can be the biggest risk to retrofit schemes as incorrect lighting specifications, quantities and geometries are ordered.

Thermal and Weight Considerations

LED technology has distinct thermal and weight characteristics compared to traditional lamps. LED gear trays require proper heat dissipation, as they do not naturally radiate heat. The localised heat within a luminaire can affect its performance. Moreover, the weight of LED gear trays may exceed the specifications of the existing fixtures, potentially causing damage and impacting windage and column loading. Consideration also needs to be made to the loading on old hinges and closing fixings. Therefore, ensuring compatibility between the thermal and weight requirements of the gear trays and the existing fixtures is crucial.

Photometric Performance and Efficiency

LED replacement gear trays may not offer the same photometric performance as the original lamps, which can result in poor, non-uniform lighting or glare. This aspect is especially critical in locations such as motorways, major roads, and public areas where lighting quality directly impacts visibility and safety. Additionally, the efficiency of LED replacement gear trays should be carefully considered to ensure the expected energy savings are achieved.  The benefits of good lighting including considering the colour temperature and varying optics does present advantages, however, the public do not always like change – consultation is always advisable including small trial schemes.

Warranty Implications

Retrofit gear trays may require compatibility checks with existing control systems. Retrofitting LED gear trays can necessitate adjustments to control systems, adding wiring, fittings, and labour costs.

More importantly, altering the original luminaire, such as rewiring or removing components, can affect existing warranties. It is essential to ensure compliance with safety certifications, testing, and conformity with standards when modifying the original luminaire. Always opt for a reputable manufacturer and ensure that CE and UKCA markings are on the product with accompanying conformity documentation.  It is also worth checking with the manufacturer whether any ENEC certification becomes void.

While retrofitting LED gear trays may initially seem like an attractive and cost-effective solution that aligns with sustainability goals, it is crucial to consider several factors before proceeding to avoid unexpected expenses, delays and stakeholder satisfaction.

If you have decided that purchasing new LED streetlights is the preferred choice, take a look at our range of options here.
Alternatively, if you still wish to explore LED retrofitting, our dedicated and experienced team is available to help you navigate the retrofit journey in the most cost-effective manner, resulting in a compliant lighting scheme.