Lighting Retrofits – 5 Myths

Photo by Mitch Kennedy

Too much light causes glare, eyestrain, fatigue and headaches. Improving the quality of light can increase worker production or classroom test scores by 10 – 15%! So let’s get it right!

1) MYTH: De-lamping saves money.

TRUTH: De-lamping is the process of removing bulbs from fixtures. For example, if there is a 4-bulb fluorescent fixture, you could de-lamp by removing two of the four. You will save electricity, but you might make it too dark and worker productivity will suffer, costing a lot more money than the electricity. FYI – a lighting change that is for better quality lighting can INCREASE productivity by 15% (human factors engineering studies prove it).

SOLUTION: Consider swapping out for High Output (HO) low wattage bulbs instead. You can go from 4 bulbs each rated at 32 Watts to 4 bulbs each rated at 28 watts – without sacrificing the quantity of light.

2) MYTH: All bulbs and types of lighting are the same.

TRUTH: When all bulbs were the same it was only the watts that really mattered. Today, every type of bulb has a unique signature color bandwidth. Some bulbs, like incandescents, are very warm with lots of yellow in the color. Others, like LEDs, are very cold with much more blue and bright white. The color of light matters most when an effect or task is critical. For example, when you want your food to look good at a restaurant, use warm lights. If you want to stay awake, more blue or bright white light is better. Mixing lighting types is an unspoken sin in the lighting industry. Even two same-sized fluorescent bulbs can have a different color.

SOLUTION: Consider the goal of your lighting when starting or re-lamping a space. Also try to match the Color Rendition Index (CRI) or the temperature rates (in Kelvins) when you buy replacements or re-lamp just one area of a building, as that’s when it’s most noticeable.

3) MYTH: Lighting retrofits save lots of money.

TRUTH: This is a common selling point for all lighting sales people. And it can be true in certain instances. However, if the building has larger users of electricity like electric ovens, plastic injection molding machines or very large motors, the lighting will be a much smaller percent of the total bill. In manufacturing spaces, it’s common for lighting to be only 10% of the total facility electrical use.

SOLUTION: I did just mention that fact about productivity, so consider an upgrade in the spaces where QA / QC, and shipping / receiving are taking place if they seem overly dim. Better yet, measure with a light meter and compare to national illumination standards for the task in question. You have to “Know your loads!” Perhaps that money would be better spent on the biggest energy users rather than the easiest.

4) MYTH: LED’s aren’t bright enough.

TRUTH: A common exclamation is – “Look at how few watts they have!” This is a common misconception. Brightness is actually measured by lumens and lux, not by watts. And LED’s are atypical in their light production. Being solid state, they emit light in other bands of color that our night-vision parts of the eye detect more easily. That is why LEDs look so much brighter in parking lots and other areas where they are used at night.

SOLUTION: When shopping, compare bulbs on Lumen output to get an apples-to-apples match.

5) MYTH: Too much is never enough!

TRUTH: The old “more is better’ philosophy doesn’t apply to lighting. You want the 3 Bears approach instead, not too much, not too little, but just right. How do you accomplish this? Well you have to measure. Any lighting retrofit company worth its salt can conduct a light level analysis for you.

SOLUTION: In fact, you can pick up your own meter for less than $200, and learn to do it yourself. There are standard levels specified by lighting engineers and human factors / industrial engineers for all types of tasks and room uses. For reference, I suggest locating a copy of the American National Standard A11 for Industrial Lighting, which provides lighting levels for most tasks. Sometimes these charts are available for free download through various lighting vendor channels or websites.

Any myths I missed?

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