How to Cut Costs on Your Commercial Electrical Upgrade Without Sacrificing Safety

How to Cut Costs on Your Commercial Electrical Upgrade Without Sacrificing Safety

Upgrading the electrical system in a commercial building can be a major expense, but there are ways to reduce costs without compromising safety. As an electrical contractor, I aim to provide my commercial clients with cost-effective solutions while following all applicable electrical codes and safety standards. Here are some tips I've learned over the years for achieving cost savings on commercial electrical upgrades.

Evaluate Your Actual Electrical Load Needs

The first step is to accurately evaluate your building's electrical load requirements. This involves looking at the size and number of electrical circuits, types of equipment being used, and anticipated growth in electric demand.

Often, buildings have electrical systems that were oversized during original construction. Or electric needs may have reduced over time as equipment was upgraded to more energy efficient models. By right-sizing the electrical system to your actual needs, you can avoid overspending on unnecessary capacity.

Professional electrical engineers can conduct thorough load calculations to determine your optimal service size and other requirements. This upfront planning helps prevent buying more than you need.

Consider a Phased Approach

For major upgrades in occupied buildings, I typically recommend a phased approach to avoid disrupting tenants and business operations.

Phasing spreads capital expenditures over time. And it allows you to focus first on the backbone upgrades that provide capacity for future growth.

Use Refurbished or Reconditioned Electrical Equipment

New electrical equipment like switchgear, transformers, and panelboards can be very costly. Significant savings can be achieved by using refurbished or reconditioned equipment.

My suppliers test and recondition used equipment to like-new condition. Everything meets NEC and UL safety standards. But at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Savings of 20% or more are common with this strategy. Just be sure to source from a reputable supplier who provides warranty coverage.

Replace Magnetic Ballasts with LED Drivers

Fluorescent lights with magnetic ballasts are energy hogs. Replacing these older fixtures with LED lighting provides huge efficiency gains.

But you can achieve cost savings in the short-term just by swapping out magnetic ballasts for LED drivers. The drivers allow you to use the existing fluorescent tubes. Yet cut lighting electricity use by 35% or more.

Since lighting accounts for 15-20% of a commercial building's electricity use, this one change can generate significant energy and cost reduction.

Use Lower-Cost Alternative Materials

In some cases, you can use alternative materials that provide the same functionality at a lower cost. For example:

Always make sure any material substitutions meet NEC requirements for the installation environment. But here are opportunities to downgrade materials that still offer good performance and safety.


When planning a commercial electrical upgrade, there are many ways to realize cost savings without compromising quality and safety. Accurate load calculations, phasing major upgrades, using refurbished electrical equipment, upgrading lighting ballasts and fixtures, and substituting lower-cost alternative materials can all help to reduce project costs significantly. A qualified electrical contractor can advise on the most cost-effective solutions to meet your business needs and budget.