4. Count Lights

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Shoot, how bout how many hours does it take to count light bulbs! If there’s one part of the lighting business that everyone despises, it’s the lighting takeoff. Labor intensive, monotonous, time constrained, and always an element of surprise at some point. The good news is there are tricks to make this process easier, and more importantly, set yourself up for success after the audit. This blog post will focus only on counting lights and associated tasks. The remaining tough questions you need to ask while on site are coming in the next post.

Great, you got permission to do a site visit, researched your prospect, and completed all your prep beforehand. You’re now set up to be as efficient as possible for the onsite takeoff. The most important rule is to set up a process and follow the same process every time. This is essential for being fast, but more importantly will help ensure you don’t miss anything. I’m going to outline my preferred order and methods, but feel free to adapt to your own methods.

First, you need to make sure you have all the tools required for a successful takeoff. The following is a list of the mandatory tools you should have with you:

  1. Tablet with Retrolux (gotta give a plug every now and then!)

  2. Pen and Paper (backup)

  3. Tape Measure (laser preferred)

  4. LuxMeter (Sometimes necessary, sometimes not)

  5. Multi-Meter (to measure voltages)

  6. Hard Hat (required on some sites)

  7. Safety Glasses (required on some sites)

  8. Ladder (To check hard to reach locations)

I used to leave all of these in my truck, just in case I needed to do a takeoff on the fly. (I still have items 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 in my truck since you can do a B+ takeoff without the others.)

The first thing you should do when you arrive is check in with your contact. You can then let them know what you’ll be doing, what help you might need, and most importantly get a guest badge or any other security related items covered. Now that you’re checked in, I like to start at the front entrance and start working my way through the building. Again, following the same order is most important. I like to count hallways till they branch, then back up and do the rooms off of that hallway. If you have a floor plan, you can mark off the rooms as you go. The general order for counting lights is:

  1. 1Create an Area

  2. Enter operating schedule, rate schedule, and optional heating and cooling equipment

  3. Determine what type of existing lamp or luminaire exist in the area

  4. Count them

  5. Note additional important information: location, lighting levels, voltage, controls, etc.

  6. Optional, but recommended: Select Replacement Solution

  7. Repeat Steps 3–6 for each area until no more lights are left in the area.

  8. Go to next Area

I generally like to count lights without my contact following me around as I’ve found it’s easier and faster to do without them asking questions. But, in many cases, they will tag along with you. Use this time to ask them clarifying questions (more on this in next blog), build report (aka talk to them), and most importantly, ask them what the process is for getting the project approved. If you do the takeoff without them, you’ll need to circle back to your contact at the end to get your clarifying questions answered and gain access to locked areas (note them as you go).This is less time on their part, which they will generally appreciate. ALWAYS give them the option to come along or not. I always say “I don’t need you to come with me and want to respect your time, but it’s up to you” or something similar.

One last thing is I always either count exterior lights first or last. I prefer first, especially if I’m running early, but always be aware of security concerns.

Leif Elgethun, CEO, Founder, Recovering Light Counter