LED Lighting Upgrades: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Michael Tobias
5 Minutes Read
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    LED lighting upgrades can be deployed faster than most other energy efficiency measures, causing minimal disruption. LED lighting also offers an excellent return on investment: typically a payback period below 4 years and a ROI above 25%. It is possible to go wrong with lighting upgrades, however, so getting professional guidance is highly recommended before purchasing any lamps or fixtures.

    The following are some common mistakes when LED upgrades are carried out without adequate professional advice. Lighting quality can be diminished after the upgrade, or you can damage the new lamps by connecting them to the wrong power supply.

    When performed correctly, an LED lighting upgrade offers significant energy savings, above 80% of your previous lighting consumption in some cases. Maintenance is also simplified, since LED products last much longer than incandescent, fluorescent and HID lamps.

    Considering LED lighting for your building?

    Make sure you use the right upgrade for each type of lighting fixture.

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    Mistake #1 - Not Checking the Power Source

    Although incandescent lamps are connected directly to the voltage supply, fluorescent and HID lamps are driven by power-conditioning units called ballasts. In simple terms, a ballast controls the current delivered to the lamp, ensuring it is sufficient for adequate operation but not so high that it may cause damage.

    When upgrading to LED lighting, there are three possibilities with respect to the power source. LED tubes intended to replace fluorescent tubes come in all three versions:




    Many LED products come with an integrated power-conditioning circuit, allowing direct connection to the AC voltage supplied by utility companies.


    To simplify installation, many LED manufacturers have designed lamps that are compatible with the existing ballasts. This way, there is no need to disconnect them.

    The main drawback is a slightly lower efficiency due to the ballast losses. It may also be necessary to replace ballasts later on if they were already old at the time of the LED upgrade.


    Drivers are power conditioning units similar to ballasts, but designed exclusively for LED lighting. Installation can be complex, since ballasts must be replaced with drivers, but LED products with this configuration normally are highly efficient and reliable.

    Before upgrading to LED, make sure you check the power supply requirements. For example, a common mistake is removing lamps that use ballasts, and adding LED lamps that are for a direct connection.

    Mistake #2 - Not Checking the Beam Shape

    If two lamps use the same power supply and the same base type, it does not necessarily mean they are for the same application. LED products are characterized by their design flexibility, and this means there are many beam shapes available. For example:

    1. An A-series LED bulb has a globe shape and emits light in all directions.
    2. On the other hand, a PAR bulb (parabolic aluminized reflector) emits most of its lighting output in a narrow beam.

    Many A-series and PAR bulbs share base types, but you will get poor results if the beam shape is not suitable for an application. For example, if you use a PAR bulb in a table lamp, you will get a narrow beam towards the ceiling and almost no lighting towards the sides.

    Mistake #3 - Not Checking the Color Performance

    All light sources have a color rendering index (CRI) and a correlated color temperature (CCT). The CRI has a maximum value of 100 and it describes how well the light source reveals the colors of other objects and surfaces. On the other hand, the CCT describes the color of the light source itself, typically ranging from 2700K (warm white) to 6500K (daylight white).

    1. For the CRI, a higher value is always better, although LED products with a high CRI normally come with a higher price tag. The maximum CRI of 100 indicates a light source that can match the performance of natural lighting (sunlight).
    2. For the CCT, there is no single value that can be considered “the best”, since different CCT values are suited for different applications. For example, warm white is recommended in bedrooms, while daylight white is recommended for high-precision work in industrial settings.

    A well-designed lighting system provides the right amount of light, where it is needed, and with the right color properties. Lighting efficiency is important, but quality should not be sacrificed.

    Mistake #4 - Not Checking Incentive Programs

    Governments and utility companies are aware of the benefits offered offered by LED lighting. As a result, they often introduce incentive programs to make lighting upgrades more affordable for energy consumers. However, these incentive programs establish technical requirements for eligibility, and you may miss out if you upgrade lighting without checking these requirements.

    If you are in New York City, you can check the incentives available from Con Edison. Depending on your type of property and its location, you may even get some LED upgrades for free. In the case of New Jersey, energy efficiency incentives are managed through the NJ Clean Energy Program. Note that these programs are not exclusive for lighting, so check the full range of incentives available if you are planning other building upgrades.


    LED lighting upgrades are quick and offer a short payback period, but lighting results can be poor if the new lamps and fixtures are not selected carefully. Getting in touch with qualified design professionals is highly recommended to ensure you get both efficiency and performance. Energy savings should not be achieved at the expense of lighting quality and human comfort.

    If your building is covered by Local Law 88 of 2009, your must upgrade your lighting according to the requirements of the NYC Energy Conservation Code. However, this is a great opportunity to deploy an LED lighting system that exceeds the code, offering long-term savings.

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    Tags : Lighting Efficiency Energy Efficiency Lighting Design

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