Throwing light on your lighting choices

27th January 2016

Fiona MacLennan writes: I recently attended a seminar, arranged by Green Business Fife and NJS Lighting Solutions, on the use …

Fiona MacLennan writes: I recently attended a seminar, arranged by Green Business Fife and NJS Lighting Solutions, on the use of LED lighting – Making the Right Choice. We had excellent contributions from a range of speakers, which included designers, manufacturers and suppliers as well as a case study of a recent lighting replacement project at Diageo presented by the project manager at the plant.

Resource Efficient Scotland also provided information on their SME loans scheme which provides interest free loans to allow SMEs to make efficiency improvements which include more efficient lighting.

Lighting is a major user of energy and producer of emissions for many in the arts and culture whether for theatres, galleries or museums – even for touring companies. We use lighting on stage, in the auditorium, cafes, in display spaces and it has to be fit for purpose and we can’t do without it. LED lighting is often seen as the answer to all our lighting problems.

  • It uses a fraction of the energy of traditional technologies for the same light output such as halogen lighting.
  • With lower energy use we should see lower costs and emissions.
  • It comes in an array of colours so doesn’t need colour filtering.
  • It can be easily controlled and can be switched on and off instantly unlike other low energy technologies like compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • It is now available in a huge range of shapes and sizes both to replace traditional bulbs or for whole new types of fittings and effects.
  • The expected lifetime of most bulbs is more than 10 years.
  • New legislation means that most high energy use bulbs such as Mercury and Sodium will be phased out within the next 2-5 years so replacement bulbs will be unobtainable

With all those advantages it seems like we should all be changing to LED lighting or should we? The answer is ‘probably’ but as with all new technologies it’s worth taking some time to understand what you want it to do and analysing the costs and benefits. We learned yesterday about the importance of choosing the right colour to suit the location. The way that the human eye works means that the colour of lighting can have major effects on our mood, how efficiently we work and how safe we feel.

LED lights come in such a dazzling array of colours, shapes and sizes that it can make choosing the correct type difficult. Added to that is the range of manufacturing quality. The cheaper fittings often disappoint because of poor illumination and early failure. So how do we avoid costly mistakes?

  • For large schemes think about appointing a designer who can guide you through the technology choices. Moving to LED lights can save 40 -50% in energy costs but using the best controls can save a further 20-30%. Controls are now available to maintain a constant illumination level in spaces with daylight avoiding wasteful use of artificial light when the sun is shining. Software controlled lights can be programmed to come on as you approach corridors and stairwells. The list is endless.
  • For small schemes it’s worth spending a small amount on trialling bulbs and fittings to find out what you like.
  • Think about replacing old fittings as well as bulbs if they are in inaccessible spaces to avoid having to arrange access at heights when the fittings fail (as they often do after 10-15 years).
  • Remember LED lighting is not maintenance free. Keeping the light fittings dust free can extend the lifetime of the lamps by years. So factor regular cleaning into your costs.
  • Consider paying a bit more for better quality. Make sure that any equipment you buy is certified and from a knowledgeable supplier. LED lights are made up of several components all of which can fail if they are of poor quality. Ask your supplier to guarantee the whole light fitting before agreeing the purchase.

The good news is that when done properly, LED lighting can save you up to 70% of your lighting costs and produce great results, providing a much improved experience in spaces as diverse as car parks to cafes. Tessa Ward of Diageo explained the benefits of their new warehouse lighting which had previously been supplied by traditional SON (Sodium) fittings. Users are no longer bathed in a permanent orange glow and can now distinguish between colours of blue, green and white labels (everything looked orange before!), see into previously dark corners and are happier with their new brighter surroundings. Added to that, they hope to reduce costs, saving tens of thousands of pounds on electricity bills and reducing their maintenance efforts significantly too.

Image credit: Museum of Technology by Pirhan (Creative Commons)

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