Contractor Tips

Illustration of a contractor

The right firm
for the job
Tips on working with a contractor

Few considerations are as important to a successful lighting upgrade as working with a reputable contractor. Before you get started, spend some time researching and comparing different firms. It's worth the extra effort to ensure the job is done right.

The top seven factors:

Not all LED lamps are a perfect fit with existing luminaires, so a lighting upgrade may involve more than a simple switch. Be sure your contractor:

  • Does a performance analysis that includes an option with replacement ballasts and without – the age of your ballasts directly affects LED performance. Since LEDs last up to 50,000 hours and allow for the use of controls which can add to energy savings, it may make more sense to re-ballast at the same time you upgrade to LED lamps.
  • Confirms that you have instant-start electronic ballasts – LEDs will not work with rapid start or magnetic ballasts and some may not work with dimmable or programmable-start ballasts.
  • Checks with the manufacturer to determine if the new lamps are compatible with your existing ballasts and/or luminaires (i.e. thermal requirements).
  • Ensures that warranties still apply for the combination of lamp and luminaires proposed on the estimate.
  • Confirms that the new lamps are compatible with your emergency backup system.
Download checklist

2. Seeing iconSeeing is believing

It's a good idea to install samples to ensure that the lamps meet your expectations. You should also verify the energy savings with on-site measurements and check that the light levels, uniformity and light distribution live up to what was outlined in the estimate provided by the contractor.

3. Transparency IconInsist on transparency

Some contractor quotes can be vague, making it hard to compare apples to apples. While one firm may come in with a lower bid, there could be buried costs. Be sure to ask for an itemized estimate so you can easily compare multiple quotes. This should include:

  • The number of fixtures and lamps being installed
  • Where each item is being installed (e.g., stairwell, lobby, garage, etc.)
  • All pricing assumptions used for financial calculations (e.g., energy costs and simple payback)

4. Reference iconAsk for references

If you only do one thing, this is it. If a contractor is not forthcoming with references or details on how long they've been in business, this is a huge red flag. Ask them to connect you with recent customers and to show you examples of past projects. When checking references, ask these questions:

  • Were you satisfied with the contractor's work?
  • Did the job come in on budget?
  • Would you work with this contractor again?

5. Check iconCheck permits, insurance coverage and licences

The advantage of working with a reputable contractor is that they won't take shortcuts that ultimately leave you open to liabilities. Be sure the contractor you choose complies with:

6. Lighting standards iconBe sure you meet current lighting standards

Lighting levels in all buildings must meet the minimum standards outlined in the Toronto Municipal Code, Property Standards 629-36. To ensure your lighting upgrade is up to code, your contractor should:

  • Measure lighting levels before the project
  • Recommend upgrades that will adequately light the space
  • Measure lighting levels after the project to ensure that lighting levels adhere to municipal regulations

7. Time iconChoose long-term quality over short-term price

If an estimate seems low, it may mean that you're getting a lower quality product. With so many new LED suppliers entering the market, quality can be hard to discern. To qualify for incentives your lighting must be:

Checklist: Look for these five essentials


Liability insurance information


Proof of warranty
for both the equipment and installation


Proof of ECRA/ESA licence
(must be included in all correspondence)


List of subcontractors used, if any
and their credentials

Did you know?

It is not sufficient for a lighting retrofit to simply improve lighting levels. Lighting levels degrade over time so your new system must account for lumen depreciation for the specific technology.

Energy Experts
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Lean on our Energy Experts

Before you get started, contact our team. We understand the technologies and applications and have strong working relationships with suppliers and contractors.

We can also help you understand estimates, apply for rebates and navigate the process so you can focus on your day-to-day operations.

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