Self-Installed Industrial Lighting – What Could Go Wrong?

It’s tempting to take on an industrial LED lighting project in-house, but before you do, it pays to consider the benefits of hiring experts to design and implement your project. Read on for project cost, energy savings, product selection, and design considerations gleaned from a recent self-installed project and cost analysis.

The Proof is in the Numbers

Ally was asked to review this self-installation after it had been completed in-house and compare it to a comprehensive proposal for the same site. This review revealed the following differences in project scope and cost.

Cost Comparison

Component of CostExpert SolutionSelf Installed
Invoice Cost$557,508$421,233
Installation CostIncludedExcluded
Hazardous Waste RecyclingIncludedExcluded
Less Utility Incentives$(157,437)$0
Net Out-of-Pocket Cost$400,071$421,233

Self-Install Summary

  • Higher Out-of-Pocket Costs Despite Reduced Scope
  • 400 Hours of Internal Labor Cost Not Recognized
  • No Utility Incentive Obtained – Pre-Approval Required

Scope Comparison

Fixtures RetrofittedExpert SolutionSelf-Installed
Conversion Kits250-
Total Fixtures1,318404
Occupancy Sensor Controls933-
Implementation Time8 Weeks32 Weeks

Self-Install Summary

  • Less Than 1/3 of the Fixtures On-Site Were Addressed
  • No Occupancy Sensor Controls Were Installed
  • Installation Required 32 Weeks In-House Versus 8 Weeks Outsourced

Return on Investment

Data PointExpert SolutionSelf Installed
Annual Energy Cost Savings$115,234$63,218
Ten Year Energy Cost Savings$1,152,340$632,180
Simple Payback (Years)3.56.7

Self-Install Summary

  • $52,000 in Annual Energy Savings Opportunities Missed
  • Simple Payback of 6.7 Years Was Achieved, Could Have Been 3.5 Years

Right Fixture – Right Location

Many industrial facilities decide to replace their existing fixtures with LED lighting because they are more efficient and can save the company thousands – if not millions – of dollars in energy costs over time while also providing higher quality light for their workers. However, simply assuming that a new LED fixture switch out will do the trick can have the opposite effect.

Fixture Type Matters – A lot

Contracting with an expert lighting efficiency solutions company ensures that the right fixtures end up in the right locations. Lighting efficiency experts take a comprehensive approach to LED and will use their industry knowledge and experience to place appropriate heavy-duty wash down fixtures with the correct lumen outputs where they are needed and less expensive fixtures in cooler and warehouse areas where output needs are less extensive.

Before Pic: Washdown Room

In this photo, food-grade wash down fixtures were installed in a laundry room – at an excess cost of several thousand dollars – in an area where food grade fixtures were unnecessary.

1 for 1 Replacement – Not Necessarily

Swapping out an old fixture for a LED one seems like it would be beneficial no matter what, but not carefully considering mounting height, fixture optics, and the use of the space can result in poor lighting and unsafe working conditions.

A lighting efficiency expert knows what illumination works best in different environments and will strategically place lighting for maximum efficiency – both cost savings and employee productivity. Also, experts know the ins and outs of occupancy sensor controls, which can make a huge difference in cost savings over time.

LED Hi bay optics in low bay application

These photos illustrate the placement of hi-bay optics in a low bay application resulting in poor illumination, overlit beneath the fixtures, and underlit everywhere else. In addition, a valuable cost-saving opportunity was missed; occupancy sensors would have dramatically reduced the energy consumption in this infrequently occupied space.

Rebates – A Needle in the Haystack

An LED lighting project can be eligible for thousands in utility rebates – if you know where to look. Manufacturing and industrial facilities are eligible for rebates and incentives that can cover much of the costs associated with LED lighting upgrades – but these opportunities require pre-approval. Plus, qualifying for them requires meeting specific standards – which are difficult to attain without the help of a lighting specialist planning the project. This project left $157,000 on the table, utility funds that now can never be obtained because the incentive requires approval before the installation is complete.

Lighting efficiency experts like Ally have spent years in this field and understand exactly what is needed to meet the stringent requirements necessary to qualify for these incentives.

LED Lights – Not All Are Created Equal

If you’re not in the business, it’s difficult to distinguish between a high-quality fixture and a low-quality one. Plus, without experience, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all warranties are created equal.

The Bottom Line

Choosing to work with lighting efficiency experts would have saved this company a substantial amount of money, improved the illuminated result, and dramatically increased the savings.

Even with quality LED chips and drivers, poor component integration can lead to premature failure and reduced performance, making all the saved money on parts disappear in replacement costs. Meanwhile, warranties are useless unless they are backed by a company that will be around long enough to honor them. White-labeled fixtures, with deceptively low costs but lacking application support and warranty substance, are a tempting option for self-installers – but all things considered, they generally end up costing far more than the initial invoice.


Net Installed Cost$421,233
Ten Year Savings$632,180
Cost vs. Savings Icon

Expert Solution

Net Installed Cost$400,071
Ten Year Savings$1,152,340
Cost vs. Savings Illustration

These charts illustrate how Ally clients can save significant out-of-pocket costs and reap much larger efficiency benefits over time.

A Comprehensive Approach to Energy Savings – It’s What We Do.