Illinois Manufacturer Turns on the Light to Energy Savings

What do you do when you move your manufacturing and main distribution center into a new facility, and your business is built on providing key components to manufacturers of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting? Put your money where your mouth is!

Thomas Research Products (TRP) is a leading provider of LED drivers in North America, along with LED light engines, surge protectors for lighting and energy-saving lighting controls. The company's main distribution center is located at its corporate headquarters where it maintains one of the nation’s larger inventories. The facility also houses the main production line for many of its controls, including its lighting surge-protector products.

In 2014 when TRP prepared to move into a larger 48,000-square-foot facility in Elgin, Ill., the move presented an opportunity to relight the facility with LED luminaires. The existing lighting in the manufacturing, warehouse and shipping areas consisted of metal halide high-bay fixtures. Each luminaire was almost 20 years old and consumed 458 watts, which meant a lot of energy dollars were spent on lighting the space.

Project Goals

Vice president Greg Andrews started looking at options to change out the old lighting. He had experience overseeing a lighting overhaul at TRP's previous facility three years earlier. He began by measuring the existing light in the Elgin facility before the company took possession of the building. The quality of the light reaching the floor was low with uneven distribution. His primary goals for the project would be maximizing energy savings, increasing light levels and improving the distribution of the light while reducing maintenance requirements.

Andrews could have chosen a fluorescent high-bay solution. At 218 watts per fixture, this would have saved 240 watts each. However, that was not as effective as an LED solution. One of TRP's customers is Precision-Paragon Lighting (P2). P2 general manager Joe Martin suggested Andrews consider one of his company’s LED high-bay luminaires that uses only 132 watts. This would result in saving more than 325 watts per fixture.

The design of the P2 fixture also provides for long life, with a 95-percent lumen maintenance of greater than 60,000 hours. Since the manufacturing area in the facility runs two shifts, these fixtures could operate more than seven years with no visible degradation in light levels. The P2 luminaire also utilizes an LED driver from TRP with universal voltage input, so no step-down transformer was needed to connect the fixtures to the existing 277-volt circuits.

Making Sense of Occupancy

Andrews was also conscious of even greater energy savings potential.

"The best way to save money is to turn them off, so we chose to use the best occupancy sensors money can buy," he noted.

The P2 fixture’s high-bay design accepts an optional occupancy sensor. This lighting control uses passive infrared technology to provide simple on/off control and includes a daylight sensor for when there is sufficient natural light. Andrews chose to have the sensor installed on each fixture.

Early on in this project, some people questioned installing occupancy sensors on luminaires in manufacturing. Andrews was not concerned because of the company's previous retrofit experience. He knew that people move enough during production that the lights stay on as needed. The sensors switch the fixtures off and on more often in the warehouse where there are less people working.


Because the LED luminaires would be used in areas with very different functions, Andrews chose optics appropriate for each area. For 30 fixtures in the warehouse, an "aisle lighter" optic was installed. This asymmetric lens design offers higher vertical footcandles and more uniform light down the racking aisles. For the fixtures to be installed in manufacturing and shipping, an open area optic provides maximum 360-degree area coverage.

Rebate Savings

The electrical needs of the facility in Elgin, Ill., are served by Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison. The utility offers rebates to commercial customers, which made the retrofit installation financially attractive as well. The high efficiency of the chosen fixture qualified for an incentive of $0.50 per watt reduced. The occupancy sensors also qualified for an additional incentive of $0.12 per watt controlled by the devices.


In total, 100 LED luminaires were used in a one-for-one replacement of the original fixtures. The units were mounted at 20 feet above the floor, lighting almost 35,000 square feet of the building. Light levels were now double the original measurements. The distribution of the light was also much more uniform.

Although the design of the P2 fixture does not provide any uplight, painting the walls produced enough reflectivity to prevent the ceiling from being too dark. In the manufacturing area, the ceiling and floor were also painted, creating additional reflectivity. The building already had a number of skylights in both key areas, so daylight also provides light during primary business hours.

The results of the project have been well-received by employees and visitors.

"Yes, I'm pleased," Andrews said. "It's amazing how far the technology has come."

For this LED driver manufacturer, the move not only provided an opportunity to save energy and improve the quality of the light, but it also created an effective showcase for their own product.

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