What are the common barriers to upgrading to LED?

Many commercial buildings are still not making simple changes that could save thousands.  One of the easiest energy efficiency upgrades is LED lights which shows almost immediate return on investment.  Whilst return on investment (ROI) will vary depending on how long lights are on per day (i.e. burn hours), in big facilities such as factories, superstores and large offices they almost always provide a large return and quick payback period.

If energy conservation saves money, what are the main barriers preventing businesses to upgrading or retrofitting existing commercial buildings?  Our consultants have highlighted the most common problems faced by businesses and how to overcome them.


Whilst LED offers huge savings, some retrofits require major investments and disruptions.  Hidden costs such as overhauling HVAC, control systems and ad-hoc electrical repairs can increase the payback period which can result in the project being pulled.  The common belief with many owners and facilities managers is ‘‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.  The problem is that this does not look at the bigger picture.  If these repairs are incorporated as part of a wider energy efficiency project, it is possible to see an even larger ROI.  In addition, repairs are not always necessary, which is why we have experts / specialists to provide impartial advice and additional support to the wider project team.

In addition, many businesses do not own their buildings which leads to split-incentive problems.  Large buildings may only have one main meter making it difficult to calculate energy savings to an individual business in a multi-tenanted building, therefore energy efficiency schemes are often seen as an external cost outside of the core business model.  If this is the case, it is essential that sub-meters are installed.  There is little point in spending thousands on an LED lighting upgrade if you don’t measure the savings made.  Sub-meters can be installed at a fractional cost compared to the total spent on an LED lighting upgrade and can also support other areas of the business to save energy.


Misinterpreted savings and inaccurate cost estimates can have a massive impact on moving forward with any energy saving initiative.  Some contractors have been found to overestimate cost savings as must as 100% whilst others can be spot on.  This is not just limited to contractors but also business decision makers who can often overestimate the energy efficiency of their buildings.

To avoid this problem, energy data should be analysed by Certified Measurement and Verification Professionals (CMVP) and any recommendations put forward should be reviewed by a Chartered Energy Manager.  Findings should then be presented in a format that is easy to understand by the reader.  This is particularly challenging with a mixed audience who have both technical and non-technical knowledge.

Behavioural Change

Building operators who manage facilities daily typically don’t always see energy bills and upgrades / refurbishments may increase the likelihood of tenant complaints.   Therefore, there is a little incentive to introduce innovative technologies or upgrades that will improve energy efficiency.   Moreover, upgrades end up being a response to necessary refurbishments / repairs resulting in engineers or installers being employed that pay little consideration to energy efficiency.  Our approach is different, as our Chartered Engineers / Technical Specialists are supported by our Chartered Energy Managers, we will find a solution that is both energy efficient as well as improving comfort conditions at a competitive price.

Individual changes such as turning off lights and closing doors after use, can have a significant impact on the success of implementing any energy efficiency scheme.  To truly benefit from LED lighting upgrades consideration should also be given to the BMS control settings, time schedules and LUX levels after trade / office hours / low footfall.  Our Senior Controls Specialist, Dmitrij Kniazev, discusses this in more detail here.

It is important to involve the various stakeholders when introducing any new energy efficiency scheme to get their buy-in when lighting control adjustments are made.  There is little point in introducing a new lighting system with improved LUX levels after trade / office hours if the site manager then switches the system permanently into override.  This is why our Certified Measurement and Verification Professionals (CMVP) and Chartered Energy Managers monitor energy data before and after a scheme has been completed to ensure that clients receive the full benefit of any upgrades and comfort conditions are achieved throughout the building.

If you would like to learn more about how you could save energy in your building, contact us on 0117 379 0850 and speak to one of our consultants or email enquiries@energy-ts.com.


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