Selling Group Relamping

Most of us have been able to perform a lighting retrofit on campus. The initial project was easy to sell. By switching to the more energy-efficient lamps and electronic ballasts, you could show energy and labor savings that equated to a project with a short payback period.

Now cut to five years down the road and it’s a different story. The lamps that you replaced are past the manufacturer’s rated life. If they have not burned out already, they are due to die any day now. How do you go to the administration and convince them to fund a project with a payback period that will be realized around the same time as the need to perform the project again? In addition to cost savings, you must take into account and present information that directly affects your customer in ways they can understand, such as increased quality and productivity from their employees and students.

There are many factors that play into the need for lamp replacement, lamp mortality being only one of several. The others include light degradation, lower productivity because of various light loss issues, and labor efficiencies involved with the replacement of each lamp. In order to prepare a package that successfully explains the need to relamp, you may be left spinning your wheels performing spot replacements for years to come.

In order to be well prepared to pitch the project, you will need to do some homework; and don’t forget to make your life a bit easier by using existing data where available. Cull fixture and lamp counts from the previous retrofit, and consider the material and energy costs that were paid at that time as a baseline and as comparison for the new project. Take this opportunity to update the database, as well; there may have been buildings added or renovations performed since the first project.

The first thing you should focus upon is making sure that as you prepare your presentation, you are speaking your leader’s language. Focus on the money and productivity aspects of the job versus the watts and rated life of a lamp. Map out the return on investment to include the simple payback and internal rate of return, and be sure to point out the most important part of a project such as this: real-world proof shows that well-lit facilities are safer and boost higher employee and student productivity — after all, retention and productivity are a core focus of any college. Overall, the quality of any facility is gauged, at least in part, on how well lit it is. Finally, be able to show what your employees could be doing with their time if they were not chasing dozens of burned-out lamps each week, such as performing more PMs, focusing on making your work order completion times shorter so that your customer enjoys faster service and making sure that any other item important to administration is completed in a timely fashion.

Let’s review some facts: According to sources in the lighting industry, it is known that a fluorescent lamp is rated for a 20,000-hour life. However, you will start to see lamps begin to fail in the 12,000- to 16,000-hour range, approximately 60 to 80 percent of the rated lamp life. It is at this point, you begin to see your labor being consumed with the process of performing spot replacements. Each time you send a technician to replace a lamp, someone has already spent time processing the work order, the technician gathers his tools and materials, proceeds to the location, replaces the burned-out lamp, puts the ladder away, and fills out the work order to be turned in. This model, even at its most efficient, takes up 30 to 45 minutes, plus the cost of the materials — so assuming $20 per hour labor; it has cost you $15 to $20 to replace one light, including materials. Multiply this number by the number of lamps on campus, and you have your first primary cost to present.

To price out the job, contact lamp manufacturers directly for the best pricing and potential tax savings. Contact the local utility to find out if there are any additional incentive dollars available to perform the group relamp. While considering the material cost, assume there will be some ballast failure, as well; your lighting representative will be able to provide you their assumed failure percentages for reference in pricing. Also, be sure the scope of work includes cleaning the fixture and lens while being serviced. Finally, whether to perform the project using in-house staff versus outsource company employees will depend upon many factors, including if in-house staff will be able to stay on the job and not get pulled off for other duties — a real-life dilemma for certain. If in-house technicians are available, the project cost may turn out to be very reasonable.

Now that you are thinking in terms your administration will understand, bring everything together and polish the proposal. Feel free to utilize lighting industry and local utility professionals to make presentations to reassure the leadership that this is a sound business decision for many reasons, primarily that the industry supports this project as viable and necessary. Once all this is properly done, you’ll see the lights go on over their heads and receive approval to proceed.

Michael G. Steger is director of Physical Plant Services for National Management Resources Corp. at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached at .

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at [email protected]