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Planning and Budgeting For Your Commercial Solar Lighting Project

SEPCO 8/9/16 10:00 AM
Planning and Budgeting For Your Commercial Solar Lighting Project

Purchasing a good-quality commercial solar lighting system can be a daunting task. The numbers alone can make you cringe! And with designs ranging in looks, technology, features, and more, the price can vary greatly. A lower-cost system may not have all the features and performances required by the project, and therefore, a higher-cost system will need to be used to ensure all specifications are met.


Plus, the savings are sometimes missed when looking at a project's initial costs. You can't look at just the initial cost of the systems. You have to look at the overall project savings including installation, lack of trenching and wiring, and so much more. The lack of energy bills should also be taken into account, but also the maintenance, replacement parts, future labor costs, etc.


But don't be disconcerted; there are ways to help budget your commercial solar lighting projects and make them more affordable. Here are a few tips that can help make or break your project.


1. Set the Project Budget 

Find out your budget and tell your specifier in the beginning stages of the project. If they know your budget, they will be more apt to follow with it than just quote you whatever they think will work. Giving them something to go on takes away the initial sticker shock of purchase and allows them to work within your budget when designing the initial project.


The budget is especially vital when comparing electrical costs vs. solar. The initial installation of electrical can be much higher than a solar project, especially when you have to trench in grid power to the location. However, if electricity already exists and is in full working order, the price of solar can be much higher. Depending on why solar has become an option and explaining your reasoning to the specifier will help them understand what the end purpose is and allow them to help you determine the best course of action.


2. Look for Incentives

If you don't have a budget planned out but want to find a way to lower the costs from what the original quote was, check out incentives for using renewable energy. There are grants and tax incentives available for just about any business looking to use solar lighting for their facility. Some great resources are The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), the Department of Energy, and contacting your local power company for additional information. The best first step is seeing if you qualify for the Federal Tax Incentive of 26% (as of 2022), which includes purchasing and installing your solar system. Just note that this incentive will reduce over time but is not going away at this point.


3. Work in Phases

Sometimes a project can’t be completed all at once, either to development, timing, or financial issues. This can include the budget for solar LED lighting systems. Breaking a project into phases can alleviate some financial frustration with a project. It will allow you to focus more on the most important parts of a project and stretch your budget.


We have worked on many projects that were completed in various phases, either during the same or across multiple years. Having a reputable manufacturer will ensure that the systems you install will be the same throughout, no matter how many phases a project takes to finish out.


4. Look at Short- and Long-Term Costs

Don't forget to consider the short- and long-term costs associated with a commercial solar lighting project, such as installation and maintenance. Review all documents to ensure that the company stands by their product with a warranty and provides you the length of coverage for each component, not just a system as a whole.


Since different parts of the system have a range of life spans, the warranty should reflect this and not just be a comprehensive warranty on the product. The worst warranty will only cover the system for 1 or 2 years, leaving you in the dark for any issues afterward.


5. Work with a Lighting Designer

Sometimes you may think you need a 400-Watt equivalent light to illuminate an area; instead, you need only a small 25 Watt light to provide the light you need. Sometimes that is entirely wrong too. Working with a lighting designer can ensure that the light levels and area of coverage work for your project.


Lighting designers work with specialized programs that use a mix of AutoCAD files and IES files to show light performance. The lighting designer considers obstacles, restrictions, project scope, and requirements to provide a solution that can meet your needs. Instead of just placing poles where you may think they look good, a lighting designer will place the fixtures where they are needed. This ensures that the correct number of poles, lighting distribution patterns, and fixture mounting heights are used.


These are some of the best tips to make sure your commercial solar lighting project stays within your budget, and the project is finished with great success. Working with your solar lighting specifier will ensure that your project will meet your needs and not kill your bottom line.