Electrical Contractor Tips to Prevent 4 Profit-Killing Retrofit Mistakes

Jeff Seifert | May 6, '22

Electrical Contractor Tips to Prevent 4 Profit-Killing Retrofit Mistakes

Lighting retrofits are among the most promising opportunities for electrical contractors right now, which is great news for your business growth. But with margins tightening and clients expecting more work in less time, you can’t afford to make mistakes that eat into your profits.

Here are the most common mistakes contractors and their team members make while working on LED lighting retrofit projects—and some tips from an experienced electric contractor to help you avoid these mistakes.

Mistake No. 1: Missing Fixtures During the Lighting Retrofit Audit

Like most electrical contractors, you probably tell your customers there will be no change orders unless they specifically request it.

So, if you miss a fixture while performing a lighting retrofit audit, the cost of replacing that fixture typically falls to your business.

The cost for missing a fixture during a lighting audit goes beyond the price of the fixture itself: Shipping, handling, and installation costs can all nibble into your profits. There are administrative costs to consider as well, like the time needed to review the audit, confirm the mistake and formulate a solution. You may also have to send an auditor back to the facility to conduct a second audit, which is extremely costly.

Mistake No. 2: Miscounting Fixtures During the Audit

If you’ve ever personally conducted a lighting retrofit audit, you know it’s all too easy to get distracted and lose track of your place in the count. It’s even easier to lose count in a large space with hundreds of similar fixtures or if someone interrupts you as you make your way down a long corridor.

As with missing fixtures, your business is responsible for covering all costs related to miscounting fixtures, so it pays to be accurate.

Mistake No. 3: Calling Out the Wrong Technology or Wattage

Unfortunately, calling out the wrong technology or wattage during a lighting audit happens regularly.

It’s understandable: for example, in cases such as a decorative fixture mounted on a high ceiling, it can be almost impossible to see the key characteristics of a lighting fixture. (There are ways to gain information about a hard-to-reach light fixture. We will share some tips later on.)

Mistake No. 4: Choosing the Wrong Solutions to Retrofit Fixtures

Identifying the best retrofit solution for each light fixture isn’t as simple as matching lumen output to base type. It takes specialized training and a high level of lighting knowledge.

Choosing the wrong retrofit solutions can trigger a ripple effect that drives up costs:

  • Downtime while you search for a better solution and wait for it to be delivered
  • Shipping expenses (to return the first solution and receive the replacement)
  • The cost of extra fixtures to remedy the mistake
  • Frustrated customers

Electrical Contractor Tips for Avoiding Costly Errors During a Lighting Retrofit

You probably noticed all four of the mistakes on our list occur before the install work begins. This is because seemingly minor mistakes made during the lighting audit can potentially snowball into major profit-killers down the road.

We’ve all learned this lesson the hard way at some point: It’s always more affordable to catch and correct mistakes early than deal with their consequences later.

So, to help you do just that, we asked Charles Maddox, Director of Procurement at Entegrity Partners, how he and his team maximize their profits while performing lighting retrofit projects. Maddox agrees that “the audit is the most important part of the process.” He also told us that avoiding expensive mistakes boils down to “training and having the proper tools to be successful.”

Maddox offered these expert electrical contractor tips to make your retrofit audits go as smoothly—and profitably—as possible:

Slow Down, Be Careful, and Start Over If You Have To

“As an employer, make sure your audit team knows they have all the time they need to gather good data,” Maddox said. “If you lose track, start over. Trust me: It’s cheaper for you to recount now than to get the count wrong.”

“And don’t forget to return to areas you missed!” he added. “Missing fixtures can come from a locked door or an area you breeze by and don’t notice, or just simply forget to go back with someone to open the door or show the area.”

Take Pictures, Take Notes and Ask Questions

“To a trained professional, a picture is literally worth a thousand words,” Maddox said. If you’re unsure about a fixture’s wattage or technology, you can always scrutinize the picture later or run it by an experienced expert.

Facilities and maintenance personnel can be invaluable information sources, as well.

“They might be able to tell you what’s in the fixture because they, too, have a hard time accessing it, and therefore, they hate it and remember quite well the monster of a fixture that’s caused them so much trouble,” Maddox said.

When all else fails, and you still can’t positively ID a fixture, make a detailed note of it so the team responsible for creating the proposal can “make good assumptions and cover any potential issues ahead of time,” Maddox told us.

Maintain a Highly Informed Staff

“Being able to walk and count at the same time simply isn’t enough skill to be a lighting auditor,” Maddox said, sharing a hard truth. You need to be sure your auditors have the training and experience necessary to be successful.

How SnapCount Helps Electrical Contractors Preserve Profit

When audit accuracy can mean the difference between maximizing your profit and losing money on a lighting retrofit job, the old-fashioned paper and pencil approach to recording and tracking audit data is just too unreliable.

Lighting retrofit software SnapCount helps electrical contractors avoid costly errors and stay organized while conducting a lighting retrofit audit. “SnapCount is a great tool to have in one's toolbox,” Maddox said. “I find it very user-friendly and very easy to train new auditors on.”

Maddox also pointed out that SnapCount’s functionality enables many of the problem-avoiding strategies he recommended in his electrical contractor tips, such as taking, storing, and transmitting photos and detailed notes.

“No platform or technology will replace the need for training and knowledge,” Maddox concluded. “But SnapCount sure helps make the job much easier and more efficient.”

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Jeff Seifert

Written by Jeff Seifert

Jeff is passionate about helping lighting and energy retrofit organizations accelerate and optimize their operations. Jeff is responsible for the sales, marketing and business development activities of StreamLinx, including client engagement, assessments and deployment initiation. Jeff’s background includes 27 years in software, process automation and consulting. During his career, he has helped companies large and small optimize their performance by leveraging digital methods, advanced analytics and business process automation.

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