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Your Guide to Installing New Light Bulbs in a Commercial Property

A company may choose to change its lighting for a number of reasons - it could be to upgrade fluorescent tubes to energy efficient LEDs or it could be a design-led choice to replace dated-looking fittings with a modern alternative. Whatever the reason, retrofitting the lighting setup in a commercial property needs some careful planning to ensure the project runs smoothly and causes minimum disruption to the people who use the building.

From deciding what type of lighting is right for your company, to checking your changes meet regulations, this guide will take you through the entire process.

Rules and regulations for workplace lighting

Building Regulations help to safeguard the people using a premises by ensuring the building is a safe and comfortable place to be. Building Regulations approval is required when making any changes to the structure of a building and for any work involving significant changes to electrics, drainage and heat appliances, or when installing cavity wall insulation.

Building Regulations

Changes to electrics can be self-approved by electricians, provided they have permission to self-certify their own work, which means they should be Part P qualified. Part P refers to the section of the Building Regulations that electrics comes under.

If you use a Part P qualified electrician then you won’t need to report the electrical work you are having done to your local authority building control officers to check it meets Building Regulations. This is because the electrician will issue you with a certificate as evidence that the work has been completed by an approved electrician.

Lighting is included in Part L of the Building Regulations which covers the conservation of fuel and power within a building, and includes the energy efficiency of the light bulbs and fittings. If you are installing new lighting then take a look at the Building Regulations as any new bulbs you fit will need to meet the criteria. The energy efficiency of the new bulbs and control gear you fit should be energy efficient:

“Upgrading general lighting systems that have an average lamp efficacy of less than 40 lamp-lumens per circuit-way and that serve areas greater than 100m² by the provision of new luminaries or improved controls.” Taken from Section 6 of Building Regulations 2010 Conservation of Fuel and Power, L2B.

The simplest way to ensure you comply to these regulations is to choose bulbs and fittings manufactured by well-known brands, such as Osram, Philips, GE and so on, as these brands manufacture products that comply with these regulations. When electrical work is involved, such as when upgrading a fluorescent tube to an LED, these products are already tested to comply with most regulations within the Building Regulations act. The best way to ensure a safe and compliant retrofit is to use branded products and get them fitted by a Part P qualified electrician.

Health and safety

Lighting is also covered under the Government’s guidelines for health and safety, specifically whether the lighting installed in a building is fit for purpose and whether or not the level of light is suitable and safe to work in. For example, lighting should be sufficient enough to allow people to see hazards clearly and be able to do their work and use the building comfortably. The Lux Magazine website has more information on the rules and regulations related to workplace lighting and health and safety.

Another key point with health and safety is that the lighting shouldn’t pose a fire hazard by being too close to other material.

Disposal and recycling

There are regulations you will need to follow for the disposal of old lightbulbs and electrics as well. HID lamps and fluorescent tubes need to be disposed of properly as the mercury and gases in these bulbs can pose a threat to the environment; these need to be recycled under the WEEE regulations. WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Regulations and specialist recycling companies will be able to collect and dispose of your bulbs. You can read more about the importance of recycling fluorescent tubes in our guide Replacing and Recycling Fluorescent Tubes Safely, and if you are based in London, check out our Fluorescent Tube Recycling Guide to London.

LEDs vs Fluorescent Tubes

Once you know the legalities around installing new lightbulbs and fittings, the next step is to choose which bulbs to install and whether these require new control gear. It’s common for commercial buildings to be fitted with fluorescent tubes, and when considering upgrading, it could be the time to swap the fluorescents for more energy efficient LEDs or upgrade outdated T12s to the better performing T8 tubes. Whichever option you choose, you can match the lumens of your existing fluorescent lamps with new LEDs, unless the existing light levels seem inadequate, in which case you can choose bulbs with a higher number of lumens to improve the level of light. The lumen levels are printed on most lamps.

Replacing fluorescent tubes

A common upgrade for fluorescent tubes is to change existing T12 tubes for T8s, as T12s are no longer being manufactured due to their inefficiency compared with T8s and T5s. This means they can be difficult to source, although you can still buy T12s from LampShopOnline. It is a simpler job to replace fluorescent tubes with more efficient fluorescent tubes; however, the real savings come from upgrading to LEDs.

Upgrading to LEDs

For many companies, the upfront costs of a total LED upgrade can be off-putting; however, these bulbs are far more energy efficient and have much cheaper running costs compared with higher wattage fluorescents, halogen and incandescent bulbs. For example, in a domestic setting, replacing 10 incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs could save around £240 a year, so the savings for a commercial property will be even more impressive.

Making the change is simple, as anything that is run direct from 240v, such an LED GLS lamp used in a standard desk lamp, is just a straight swap without requiring any changes to the fitting.

Fittings that have control gear, such as ceiling lights, may need bypassing. This requires basic electrical tools that an electrician would typically have, such as wire cutters, wire strippers, screw drivers (including an electrical screwdriver), and additional wire should things need extending or replacing if perished. Most importantly, no changes to fittings or control gear should be made without competent electrical knowledge, and unless you are confident in your electrical abilities you should not attempt to modify a fitting yourself.

It is possible to upgrade T8 fluorescent tubes to T8 LED tubes as they have the same pin configuration as T8s and T12s. T8 LEDs require the control gear bypassing, as they only need to be wired at one end of the fitting because the power supply only needs to be at one end.

Design options

High bay and low bay fittings

High bay and low bay fittings are most commonly seen in warehouses and tend to be fitted with fluorescent tubes, often T12s, and companies can save money and improve light quality by upgrading to T8s or LEDs. To upgrade to LEDs, the bays need the ballast bypassing in the top of the fitting. This is done by running the wires from the mains direct to lamp holders. If the bays have anything other than a screw type lamp in it there may not be an LED alternative for them; however, you should still be able to upgrade to T8 fluorescent tubes if you have T12s in place.

LED panels

If you want a more modern look from your installation then LED panels provide a seamless look as they have a smooth surface that is flush with ceiling tiles in suspended ceilings. LED panels such as our own brand 45w LED Panel 6000K can replace traditional fluorescent tube fittings in suspended ceilings and provide a 37.5% saving in energy when compared with traditional bulbs. They are very easy to fit and have been described by our customers as having “a crisp bright light” that is “almost as good as natural daylight”. In one example, a small retailer changed their existing light bulbs to LED panels and saved £503 of energy a year.

You can save even more money on your energy costs by installing PIR sensors in areas that are not in constant use such as meeting rooms, store cupboards, toilets and corridors. PIR stands for ‘passive infrared’ and fitting one will ensure that lights are turned on automatically when areas are in use and turned off automatically when they are empty.

If you’re ready to upgrade your lighting then speak to the LampShopOnline team on 0113 887 6270 to arrange a site visit.

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Published 2016/09/12