By Heather Haffener with contributions from Bryce Mahn
During the winter months in Alaska, interior and exterior lighting play a large role in safety, health, and productivity. Alaska has the second-highest electricity costs in the nation, second only to Hawaii. The average kilowatt-hour (kWh) cost is approximately 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, with the national average being approximately 10 c/kWh. Even this isn’t a complete picture; for example, Fairbanks is 24c/kWh and Galena is 60c/kWh. With the use of energy in mind, saving on costs can be as easy as changing out existing fluorescent and traditional bulbs for LED lights.
As technology evolves, replacing your current lighting scheme with LEDs is simple. New LEDs can be retrofitted into existing mounts and fixtures and are available in a spectrum of colors. Although developed for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs in white-light general illumination applications are one of today’s most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing technologies. ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs use only 20–25 percent of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. LEDs use 25–30 percent of the energy and last eight to 25 times longer than halogen incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs are currently available in many products, such as replacements for 40W, 60W, and 75W traditional incandescents, reflector bulbs often used in recessed fixtures, small track lights, desk lamps, kitchen undercabinet lighting, and outdoor area lights.
For businesses, a lighting design customized to your products and services is critical. A 2010 study compared sales of two different displays of baskets, one with dynamic lighting installation and one without, and the baskets with the dynamic lighting solution sold better. This isn’t just limited to retail; even in office buildings the results are compelling. A different 2010 study measured the impact of giving employees greater control of their lighting and found a 20 percent increase in work performance. In commercial office buildings, where the greatest expense is usually the employee’s time, a 20 percent increase in performance makes a big difference in profit at the end of the year. Even in the home, the same study showed a 30 percent reduction in fatigue, given a better lighting scheme.
As Alaskans, we can appreciate the impact of proper light, and there is substantial research supporting upgrades of subpar lighting. A skilled lighting designer can work with stakeholders to determine the right level of light for each unique space in a facility. Eyestrain and increased stress levels can result from lighting that is too bright, while stimulation of hormones that cause sadness, fatigue, and even depression can result from lighting that is too dim. In addition, inadequate or faulty lighting such as flickering fluorescents can distract attention or disturb patient recovery due to bulb outages and maintenance interruptions. A lighting strategy planned around providing sufficient ambient and natural lighting creates a calming, welcoming environment that encourages a healthy sleep-wake cycle, improves moods, and lowers fatigue.
While poor lighting is relatively easy to detect, “subpar” lighting is harder to identify but has similar drawbacks. Identifying factors include needing more time trying to read something that is dimly lit or frequently leaving a space that is overlit. Additionally, proper light placement has become an issue—any time a light fixture is turned off because it is creating glare on a screen or causes discomfort, that renders the light useless. Correct lighting can be left on or adjusted to provide comfort and reduce eye strain in any situation.
The future of lighting is centered around personalization and control accessibility. Moving dimmers beyond wall mounts, new “smart light” technology allows for each fixture to be controlled from a mobile application on your phone. This is ideal for a work environment so that each individual can control their space for the ideal setting given the task at hand.
If you are ready to update your own home or workspace lighting scheme, contact PDC Engineers’ lighting design professionals to help find the ideal shade for you.