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Know Yourself (and your lights): The Secrets to the Perfect Lighting Audit

So you’ve decided the lights in your building or business need help. There could be lots of reasons why.  

Maybe you want to reduce your energy bill. Perhaps you’re looking for a way to improve the customer experience. It could be the lights just aren’t right for your employees, or they don’t work well for your business.

Whatever the reason, it’s time for a lighting overhaul. It’s time to replace those inefficient, dim, costly, or ineffective lights with something better. It’s time to get serious about your lights.

Before you upgrade the lighting in your facility, you will need a lighting audit.

What is a Lighting Audit?

A lighting audit is the process of diving deep into your current lighting situation, making an accurate assessment about what you have, drawing up the plans for what you want to have, and building a roadmap for how to get there.

“Sounds complicated,” you might say. And you’d sort of be right. Especially for larger sites, a lighting audit can be a very in-depth procedure. But practically it just means capturing a record of every single lamp you need to replace, and the location of each lamp with respect to your facility.

Lighting Audit photo

But audits are crucial. Without a proper audit done well, you’ll never have the right plan, and you’ll never know how to properly execute that plan.

The good news, though, is that even though a lighting audit can be a big task, it doesn’t have to be a hard task. Today, we’re going to share with you the secrets to pulling off the perfect lighting audit.

Follow the steps in this article, remember these pointers, and you’ll have a massive advantage when you decide to take a little time to address the lights in your business.

Lighting Audit: Where to Begin

But where (and how) do you start?

Well, here’s one secret: don’t just go buy some ladders and some bulbs. If your site (or sites) have lots of lights, simply going to the home improvement store isn’t an option. You’ll end up with replacement lights that 1) probably don’t have the look and feel you want, 2) may not save as much energy as you hoped, and 3) cost more money than you really want to spend.

Before you spend a dime on new lights (or new ladders) you need to know a few things first. The lighting audit will give you what you need to get an estimate on the lighting retrofit, as well as an idea on your project ROI.

So let’s get down to it!

Lighting Audit Tip 1: Know Your Objective

Your intentions, your goals, your objectives. Before you break out the calculators, before you even start counting bulbs, you must know what you want out of your lighting overhaul.

There are lots of things a lighting upgrade or retrofit can achieve. But the best retrofits have very specific goals, and the smartest business owners know which goals they want to hit before they start the project.

Do you want to save energy (and lower your energy bill)? Do you want to spend less on maintenance? Is the light level too high or too low? Is the quality of lighting poor? Could it be that you need a better color from your lights?

These are all concerns that can be addressed in any lighting project. Your first job in an audit is to decide which of these objectives you wish to tackle. 

Let’s list out each objective:

  • Energy Savings
  • Maintenance Savings
  • Light Level
  • Light Quality
  • Light Color

Take time to rank each objective in order of importance. Next, consider the degree of change you want to see. Write down whether you want to see a “High” level of change in the color of your lights, or a “Low” level of change in your energy costs.

Detailing your needs like this will help you focus on the most important aspects of your upcoming project. It’s also an invaluable exercise to go through if you’re working with a professional lighting contractor. By ranking your needs (and the level of change you’d like to see), you’ll be handing your contractor the perfect tool to create a detailed project scope and plan of action.

If you’ll be doing the project yourself, then this first step is how you’ll create and maintain the energy you need to get the most out of your work.

Lighting  Audit Tip 2: Know Your Tools

Now that you’ve established what you want to accomplish with this lighting project, it’s about time to start collecting some hard data. But first, you’ll need the right tools.

If you’re operating even a moderately-sized facility or business, using your fingers to count fixtures isn’t going to be feasible. Likewise, relying on your memory to inform you about the types of lights, their output, their location, or any obstructions simply isn’t an option. You’re going to have to break out some hardware at this point.

Fortunately, your tool kit will be fairly small. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Camera
  • Tape Measure
  • Digital Laser
  • Light Meter
  • Audit Form

The camera on your phone should be more than enough. You’ll want to capture images of each light type, and you’ll want multiple angles of the spaces where you’ll be working. Close up images of each type of fixture will act as a record of your existing lights. Perspective shots of each room or floor will serve for “before and after” comparison purposes.

Lighting Photos

A tape measure and digital laser will be necessary for capturing dimensions, especially if you don’t have access to drawings or floor plans for your site. You’ll want to know the area (length X width) of every room, plus the height between lights and floors.

The light meter will be used to take readings of your current light levels. This is important whether you wish to increase, decrease, or maintain those levels across the new lighting solution. Your light meter should take readings in “foot candles,” basically showing how much light is at the task (usually on the desk or where the task is performed). 

Lighting Audit Meter

Finally, your audit form will be your critical text for this project. In it, you will write down information about the lighting system, and including the number of fixtures of each type, current and desired light levels, color readings, and anything else relevant to the project. Again, if you’re working with a professional contractor, this form will be helpful for getting them started. But if not, an experienced lighting contractor will take care of all these steps for you. 

Below are three lighting snapshot worksheets that any business owner can print and use if you are considering upgrading the lighting in your office or facility. Whether you are considering doing the work with your team, or you’re planning to hire a commercial lighting contractor, these worksheets will help you manage the project more efficiently.

Lighting Worksheet location

Location Worksheet Download
If your location is smaller and does not have a large variety of lights, this is the only worksheet that you will need. Simply list each lamp’s information along with the approximate hours they are used each month. You can use this to calculate how much energy your lighting consumes and how much energy your new LED lighting will save you.
Download the printable worksheet here

Lamp Inventory worksheet small

Lamp Inventory Worksheet Download
If you have a larger facility or if you have a wide variety of lamps and fixtures, use this worksheet along with Room Count worksheet to inventory your facility. Give each lamp type a reverence number that you will use in the Room Count to designate what type of lights are in each room. This saves you time by only having to write information about your lamps once and then refer back to it when you count.
Download the printable worksheet here

Room Count Worksheet small

Room Count Worksheet Download
Use the Lamp Inventory to reference what types of lights are in each room, how many there are, and how many hours per month, on average, they are used. Not only will this information be critical to decisions about what type of lights you will need, but it will also be a valuable help upon installation.
Download the printable worksheet here

If using your own sheets, below is an example of the most important details you will need:

OFFICE22X4 3-Lamp Parabolic4′ 32W T8

Lighting Audit Tip 3: Know Your Numbers

Billy Ramirez, FSG Albuquerque Branch Manager, had this to say about audit numbers, “The most important points in conducting a lighting audit are the correct count of fixtures, the correct lamp and wattage types inside of each fixture, and the ‘burn hours’ for all lights, rather than the business’ hours of operation.”

Fixture count and wattage numbers are pretty self-explanatory here. But what does he mean by “burn hours”? Put it like this: most businesses use their lights way more than simply during opening hours. Employees come in early and stay late. The cleaning crew works all night twice a week. Some businesses operate during the weekend, even if they’re officially closed on those days. And all that time, the lights are burning.

So, as you’re considering how many hours you use your lights (and, thus, what kind of lifespan you’d like to get out of your new lights), think hard about your lights’ actual usage pattern. Don’t simply multiply 9 hours a day by 5 days a week. Count up (or estimate) the amount of time the light switches are flipped to “On,” and base your figures as closely as possible around those patterns.

Some other numbers and info you’ll want to take into account:

  • Financial Information (especially your energy bills, both during summer and winter)
  • Building/Site Information (including floor plans, drawings, and locations of HVAC, controls, exits, and equipment rooms)
  • Occupant Information (burn hours, potential problem areas, etc.)

The more quantifiable figures you have after your audit, the better off you’ll be. You’ll have all the information you need to improve your lights yourself, or you can hand off the information to an expert contractor to execute the project for you.

Lighting Audit Tip 4: Know Your Plan

As a final touch, here’s a good checklist of all the items you’ll want to account for in your lighting audit:

______ Hours of Operation

______ Burn Hours

______ Fixture Count

______ Method of Lighting Control for Area/Room

______ Fixture Voltage

______ Number of Lamps per Fixture

______ Number of Lamps per Ballast

______ Type of Lamps/Ballast

______ Reflectors, lenses, wire guards, emergency ballasts

______ Fixture condition, failed lamps, or systems (excessive dirt / dust)

______ Whether fixtures are air-handlers (plenum)

______ Availability of daylight

______ Tasks that are performed in the space (with light level targets)

______ Use of partitions

______ Unique fixture types or physical features

______ Ceiling type (sheetrock, lay-in, open, etc.)

______ Area dimensions, including ceiling height, and fur-downs

______ Height of the tasks

______ Obstructions (modular furniture, conveyors, racks, etc.)

______ Fixture mounting height, fixture mounting details (measurement, type)

______ Room surface reflectances and colors of major objects and room surfaces

What’s Next?

Once you have the lighting audit ready, you can typically get an upfront cost estimate and general scope of the project. This can give you a headstart on determining the budget for your lighting project. 

“With high-level information we can create a budget and ROI, but to actually create a firm price, a lighting contractor will need to walk the space.”

Bobby Graham, National Account Sales Director

According to FSG’s National Account Sales Director, Bobby Graham, “It’s extremely important to send the information to a qualified lighting contractor to confirm the details are correct. With this high-level information, we can confirm if there is an opportunity at the location to be upgraded. In almost all cases the answer is yes. With high-level information, we can create a budget and ROI, but to actually create a firm price, a lighting contractor will need to walk the space.”

Let’s Do It!

Today, we’ve given you the process for a great light audit, and the secrets behind why it’s so important. An expert lighting contractor can help you manage the lighting project while you focus on the rest of the business.

If you’d like to work with a guide who can take care of your lights (and your lighting audit), give FSG a call today. Expert lighting audits are a standard part of our turnkey lighting retrofits. Call us at 1-866-865-7553. You can also ask questions here. We’d love to help you today! Just looking to purchase lighting products? We have you covered, visit FSG Storefront to purchase lamps, fixtures, and other lighting accessories.

Listen to the Lighting Audit podcast interview with Leon Mowadia & Tim Johnson:

See what FSG’s turnkey process looks like for Lighting Retrofit projects:

Below is one of our Industrial Lighting projects, which had a strict requirement of FSG planning to work around the work environment, without stopping work:

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