Top 10 Avoidable Lighting Mistakes

04/30/2013 | By Janelle Penny

Guard against expense, hassle, and dissatisfaction with these tips

Is your facility suffering from poor lighting quality or burning through lamps too quickly? You may be inadvertently making one of these all-too-common lighting mistakes and wasting time, energy, and money as a result. Review your lighting practices and conduct an informal walk-through to find correctable lighting mistakes and decrease energy consumption.

Is your lighting really performing at its maximum capability? These lighting mistakes and myths are more common than you might think.

If any of these sound familiar, don’t fret. It’s not too late to improve your lighting quality and building performance. Consider these 10 tips as a launch pad to more efficient energy use.

1) I can’t afford to improve the lighting.
With the economy still in recovery mode, it’s easy to fall victim to this misconception, especially if your definition of improvement involves a deep retrofit building-wide.

However, savings are possible with easier, more affordable retrofits that don’t involve tearing out the old lighting system piece by piece.

“You can achieve savings while also increasing illumination,” notes Chuck Kanupke, general manager for the U.S. headquarters of Retrofit Ltd, a lighting and reflector designer. “There’s a focus on retrofits, but you can create an increase in luminance with reflector technology.”

Still not convinced? Talk to your local utility and go online to see what kinds of rebates, grants, and assistance your facility can obtain. Try checking out, a searchable database of incentives.

2) This luminaire is too expensive.
Even if you’ve already decided to take on a retrofit, it can be easy to fall victim to this way of thinking, says Craig Marquardt, director of optical engineering for Acuity Brands Lighting.

“People look at the cost for a traditional light source, then look at an LED luminaire, and compare them side by side,” Marquardt explains. “You need to take the extra step and compare your entire project. If you have a big parking lot with a couple hundred light fixtures, don’t compare just one fixture, compare the entire project – including the maintenance costs.”

3) More light is the answer to dark shelves.
Overlighting is common in big box stores with high ceilings, Kanupke explains. In many cases, the stores were designed before energy rates began to increase dramatically, so project engineers would put in a surplus of lamps to ensure proper illumination.

“Stores will have this high population of fixture devices, but they don’t have the ability to redirect the lighting and use all of the wasted lumens above the fixture,” Kanupke says. “They’re looking for ways to improve the footcandle coverage in a particular area so it becomes more appealing.”

4) Too much light? Take out a few lamps.
This problem can stem from energy management mistakes or building occupants trying to reduce the light in an overlit space. Neither contributes to a high-performance building.

The occupants with too much light may benefit from more granular personal lighting control, while the solution for energy concerns likely involves an energy efficiency upgrade.

“Typically, when you go into a store that has just detubed to use fewer lamps, it’s noticeably dark and there isn’t as much excitement,” Kanupke explains. “You save energy, but you lose a lot by not having the brightness your customers need.”

5) We need to save money – let’s relamp.
As the discontinued T12 tubes disappear from the market, it’s increasingly common for organizations to relamp with energy-efficient T8s, notes Mark Havira, senior consultant for Efficient Lighting Consultants. However, it’s easy to overlook key differences – namely that T12s have magnetic ballasts and T8s have electronic ones. Not changing the ballast along with the lamp causes early burnout, wasting money and maintenance time.

“What happens is that somebody on the board says ‘We need to save money or energy, so let’s relamp the facility,’” Havira says. “The guy who changes the lamps isn’t an electrician; he just knows that these new lamps use less energy. There’s a lot more involved than that in order for lamps to fire properly.”

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