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Lighting Safety for Parking Garages

by Allison Kelley 24 November, 2015 03:19

Parking garages are reputed to be poorly-lit and uninviting places. However, brighter lighting may not always be optimum because of excessive glare and over-illumination. For best lighting practices that increase safety, choose a higher quality light that reduces glare with a high color-rendering index, or CRI.

When lighting a parking garage, it is important to tailor light level to location to improve visual clarity, ease eye strain, and increase safety. Lamps with higher CRI render colors more accurately and enable a driver to better distinguish between features and colors within the garage as opposed to casting both pedestrians, vehicles, and walls in the same poor quality light. Altering light levels within the garage also eases eye strain. The entrances and exits to the garage should have the highest levels of light followed by ramp areas. 

The human eye is highly adaptable; however, it takes a few minutes for a driver’s eyes to fully adjust to a dramatic change in light levels. During the daytime, brightly lit entrances ease the transition from a darker parking garage to the bright outdoors. As the driver continues through the garage, light levels may gradually decrease. Ramps, representing a transition between the brighter, entrance lighting and the darker garage interiors, should be lit accordingly. Finally, low, uniform lighting is sufficient for parking areas.

Uniform lighting within the garage interior reduces shadows and contrast, increasing the visibility of pedestrians. In order to achieve uniform lighting, choose fixtures which emit light upward and downward with wide distributions.

A well-lit garage often incorporates physical changes, such as daylighting and paint color, into the lighting system as well. Often parking structures appear dark and uninviting because concrete does not reflect light very well. Wherever possible, paint surfaces light colors to help reflect light. Further, incorporating daylighting into the structure design increases light levels and reduces energy demand during the day.

Lighting controls also reduce energy consumption by adjusting light output according to occupant activity and daylight. Some LED fixtures are equipped with occupancy sensors and can dim lamps in areas with less traffic. Photo-sensors can also be incorporated in garage-top lighting to control lighting on the top floor of the structure as well.

When incorporating the above recommendations, LED technology is a great option to consider. LED lamps lower energy and maintenance costs, are compatible with a wide range of controls, and have very high color rendering indexes. Many LED options exist specifically for garage applications. These include LED vapor tight fixtures which are optimal in areas where water may get into the fixture and LED garage lighters, which are efficient replacements for metal halide and high pressure sodium fixtures within garages.  

The improvement that LED technology offers over high pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide lamps where color-rendering is concerned is substantial. HPS lamps have a CRI of 30 out of 100 and metal halide lamps rank at a modest 60 within the index. LED bulbs, however, regularly have a CRI of 75 or higher. Ditching HPS technology in favor of LED lighting means that your parking garage will never be washed in a orange hue again. Both drivers and pedestrians will be safer once the visual clarity in your garage is improved.

If you would like to learn more about lighting control, brightness, or LED technology for your parking application, call 888-455-2800 to speak with a certified Lighting Specialists. Additionally, our blog, The Light Source and our Learning Center are updated with new information regularly.


Commercial Lighting | Energy Efficiency | Expert Lighting Tips | Light Fixtures

Energy Efficiency: Ways to Save in the Classroom

by Allison Kelley 16 November, 2015 10:45

Each year, America’s schools spend more on energy than they do on textbooks and computers combined according to ENERGY STAR®. After salaries and benefits, utility costs are the largest operating expense for school districts and strained budgets often lead to fewer maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades, compounding these issues. With this in mind, it is important for school districts to identify affordable, energy-reduction strategies to lessen this financial burden. Lighting upgrades are a good start.

Lighting typically represents around 26% of a school’s energy consumption and fortunately, lighting is one of the few expenses which can be easily reduced. Retrofits can save between 30 and 50 percent of energy costs without negatively affecting the classroom experience. Read on for tips on how to select the most effective, energy-efficient lighting system for your school.


Inside a classroom, it is important to maintain comfortable lighting. Students should not have to strain their eyes to adjust between tasks on their desks and the board. Minimizing high-contrast lighting can help improve mood, concentration, and visual comfort. Each of these factors enables better learning.LED recessed troffers and pendant fixtures are often great mechanisms to create even, uniform light which minimizes contrast. Additionally, troffer retrofit kits, which come with built-in bulbs and ballasts, make transitioning to energy efficient lighting stress-free. These fixtures are often fully dimmable, allowing for versatile classroom lighting.

Classroom lighting must be versatile and controllable due to the variety of teaching methods that require different light levels. During a creative period of artwork, reading, or social time, daylight glare should be controlled. Choose lighting which provides 30-50 foot-candles (lumens per square foot), for these tasks.  30-50 foot-candles are also optimal for a lecture at a chalkboard or whiteboard and lighting the board with additional vertical surface lighting also improves board visibility. During a multimedia presentation, however, it is important to be able to dim the lights to 15 foot-candles or less.

Using sunlight to provide supplemental lighting to rooms during daylight hours is one way to reduce energy costs. Using daylight, or “daylighting”, creates optimum conditions for learning and should be used wherever possible in classrooms, administrative offices, gymnasiums, and meeting rooms. Daylighting sensors can be used to balance artificial light and create optimum lighting conditions.

Soft, uniform, electric lighting should supplement daylighting wherever necessary to create a comfortable learning environment.  As stated previously, LED recessed troffers are ideal for lighting a room uniformly. Replacing T12 fluorescent lamps with T8 and T5 lamps with electronic ballasts can also reduce energy consumption by 35%. Gymnasiums, in particular, benefit from T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps because of their quick startup times and low heat output. If you wish to convert to LED technology, LED high bay fixtures and LED HID retrofit lamps are great, energy-efficient choices for a gymnasium as well. Investing in ENERGY STAR LED exit signs will also significantly reduce energy costs, with LED exit signs lasting 25 times longer than conventional exit signs. LED bulbs also out-perform incandescent bulbs in scoreboards and will not need replacing for years to come.

In combination with occupancy sensors and timers, lighting retrofit savings-per-classroom can double. Sensors and dimmers are equally appropriate for other school settings, such as hallways, bathrooms, storage areas, libraries, and faculty offices. Occupancy sensors in particular can reduce lighting use in these lesser-used areas dramatically.

Though operating budgets in school systems are tight, school facilities typically operate for 50 years or more. Therefore, school systems benefit from a long-term perspective and should take life-cycle costs associated with Total Cost of Ownership into account. Though some upgrades are costly up-front, payback for many upgrades occurs within a few years with a high return on investment. Additionally, a variety of rebate programs directed specifically at school systems help reduce upfront costs. If you are curious where your school system could save money, sign up for a FREE Lighting Assessment with Bulbs.com. A member of our Energy Services team can assess your current lighting system and identify products and rebates to help you save.


If you have any questions about rebates in your area or our Free Lighting Assessment, please contact one of our certified Lighting Specialists at 888-455-2800.

Total Cost of Ownership- Environmental Impacts

by Allison Kelley 3 November, 2015 04:12

Over the past few weeks, Bulbs.com has sought to unearth various costs associated with lighting that the average consumer might not consider while purchasing a light bulb. These costs, including operation, maintenance, and replacement costs, culminate in what is called “Total Cost of Ownership.”

Each of these unexpected costs means that incandescent and halogen light bulbs are increasingly expensive to operate in comparison to their energy efficient counterparts. Therefore, if you make purchasing decisions based on monetary incentives, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) are your best options.


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9 Daylight Saving Time Facts

by Allison Kelley 30 October, 2015 05:54

On Sunday November 1st at 2:00AM the clocks will be turned back one hour and come Monday, your morning commute will be brighter. Though turning your clocks back one hour may seem simple enough, daylight saving time (DST) has actually had a very complex history. Consider a few of the following daylight saving time facts as you set your clock back this year.

  1. It’s called “daylight saving time,” not “daylight savings time.”

Many people are guilty of pluralizing the second word in this phrase, however this is not grammatically correct. Since the word “saving” acts as part of an adjective, not a verb, the singular form is correct.

  1. Benjamin Franklin did not invent the concept.

In 1784, when he was unhappily awoken by the rising sun, the founding father penned a satirical essay which concluded that a sleep schedule coinciding with the sun would save a lot of money on candles and lamp oil. By capitalizing on “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles,” he argued that Parisians could save the modern day equivalent of $200 million! However, Franklin never proposed changing the clocks to fit this schedule as some erroneously believe.


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Energy Efficiency

Total Cost of Ownership- Labor and Maintenance Cost Savings

by Allison Kelley 21 October, 2015 03:38

As we learned a couple weeks ago, the obvious and hidden costs associated with purchasing and operating a lighting system factors into the Total Cost of Ownership, or the true cost of a light bulb. This week, I will explain the cooling and labor maintenance costs associated with lighting systems. These costs differ according to bulb type; therefore bulb type should be the most important factor to consider when purchasing new bulbs.

The first bulb type to consider is incandescent. According to Merriam-Webster, the word incandescent means “to produce bright light when heated”. In this bulb type, an electrical current is passed through a metal filament in the bulb. The electricity heats the filament until it glows, just like a hot iron rod does when exposed to a flame. Unfortunately, unless you are using your lamp as a heater, this energy is wasted every time you turn on the light. In fact, approximately 90 watts of a 100 watt bulb escapes as heat and only 10 watts actually generates light.

What’s more, halogen incandescent bulbs produce twice as much heat as standard incandescent bulbs. If you live in a warm climate, your air conditioning and lighting systems could be at odds with one another. This brings us to the first unexpected cost that lighting poses: increased cooling costs. Upgrading your lighting system to one which produces less heat is one way to save money on your utility bill.

One Bulbs.com customer, the Grand Canyon Association (GCA), realized these savings when it replaced halogen track lighting in two of its facilities with LED bulbs. After the GCA’s Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Kolb Studio replaced 218 halogen bulbs, the buildings saw an 84% decrease in energy consumption. In part, this is because the new LED bulbs operate at 95 degrees, a much lower temperature than the 220 degrees that the old halogen bulbs were operating at, resulting in reduced cooling costs.

Many retailers featuring jewelry, clothing or products know firsthand how much heat these halogen light bulbs can put off- often times requiring year round cooling. By switching from halogen to LED, retailers can save hundreds of dollars every month in cooling costs.

LED bulbs are the most energy efficient bulbs on the market today because they produce light in a radically different way than their predecessors—through the play of electricity throughout a semiconductor. Because of this technology, LEDs are able to convert more energy into visible light and waste far less energy in the form of heat and UV radiation. They also don’t have a filament to burn out, helping LEDs last anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 hours—that’s up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This brings us to the second, hidden cost within total cost of ownership, installation and maintenance costs.

Though changing out a single light bulb may take a homeowner 15 minutes at most, when a building has over 200 bulbs, lighting maintenance quickly becomes both labor-intensive and time-consuming. Someone needs to be paid to keep track of each of these bulbs and to spend the time replacing them when needed.

So, how much does lighting maintenance really cost? Let’s assume that the individual responsible for changing these bulbs earns $12 an hour and that it takes approximately 15 minutes to change a bulb. Replacing a single bulb would cost $3 (for 15 minutes of labor). However, though it would only cost $3 to change a single LED, during that time 50 incandescent bulbs will have burned out. At $3 per bulb, the labor costs for incandescent bulbs reach $150 (50 x $3).

On a larger scale, if a building has over 200 bulbs, like the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Kolb Studio, replacing 200 LED bulbs would cost $600 (200 x $3.00). But replacing the equivalent amount of incandescent bulbs would cost $30,000 (200 x $150) for labor maintenance costs alone! As you can see, bulbs with longer expected lives reduce labor and maintenance costs significantly. At the Verkamp’s Visitor Center, the LEDs installed are rated to last 50,000 hours—that’s over 10 years of use per bulb if each is used for 12 hours/day!

Total Cost of Ownership includes far more than just purchase price and operating costs. There is a lot to consider and if you’d like to learn more about Total Cost of Ownership, check out the video above. Next week look for a post discussing the environmental costs associated with your lighting purchases. If you have other questions about a transition to LED or Total Cost of Ownership, please contact one of our certified Lighting Specialists at 888-455-2800. 


Total Cost of Ownership- Added Savings with Utility Rebates

by Nicole Michaud 14 October, 2015 03:50

Last week we introduced the topic of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for lighting. In the post we showed a simple equation to calculate the TCO of a bulb. The cheaper or less expensive upfront cost of a bulb may not always be the best option in the long run. Factors including the wattage, kWh rate, product cost, rated life, are all considered in your cost of ownership.

There are other ways to save when considering a switch to energy efficiency lighting such as LED. In addition to your long-term cost savings, utility sponsored rebates are an excellent way to reduce your upfront or initial costs- further reducing your Total Cost of Ownership.


What is Total Cost of Ownership?

by Nicole Michaud 5 October, 2015 04:19

**An earlier version of this post included inaccurate information regarding Total Cost of Ownership and has since been corrected**

When deciding which light bulb to purchase, the cost of the bulb can be a major factor in your decision. But the cheapest bulb on the shelf might not always be the least expensive option in the long run. The truth is that the bulb you buy will determine your cost in the long term. Some bulbs cost more to use, operate, and maintain than others. These costs, all together, are known as your total cost of ownership. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a financial estimate intended to help consumers and business owners determine the direct and indirect costs of a product. In terms of lighting, the cost of ownership takes into account the upfront cost of the product, the hours used, kWh rate, and the rated life of the light bulb.


Everline LED Retrofit kits now available at Bulbs.com

by Elizabeth Karpinski 14 July, 2015 11:55

Everyone wants to be energy efficient these days: it can help to reduce energy costs- key for all businesses.

If you’re happy with the performance, light output, layout, and appearance of your current lighting system then there’s no need for a full replacement of your fixtures. Retrofit kits let you improve upon the existing fixtures without having to go through the time and cost of replacing them.  Not only are they fast and easy to install, but they are one of the most cost effective way to save on lighting. Depending on circumstances, they may even qualify for available utility rebate programs.


Top Lighting Picks for Summer

by Elizabeth Karpinski 10 July, 2015 06:23

With July 4th behind us, it’s officially summer and time to think about your outdoor lighting needs. Here are some of our favorite products to light the night!

Bug Lights

Anytime you’re outside in the summer, there’s one thing that’s sure to ruin it: bugs. The problem tends to be worse at night because traditional lights attract them.

Most people are so used to seeing bugs on their outdoor lights they’ve never wondered why, or how to stop them. Insects see light differently than people do, and they’re most attracted to shorter wavelengths—light at the far end of the spectrum, close to ultraviolet light. So all too often, the most attractive light in the area will be the manmade outdoor light around your deck, porch or patio.

Bug lights use filtered yellow glass to minimize the short spectrum light—so they don’t attract insects. If you haven’t yet, this summer is the time to switch.


Energy Efficient Lighting Assessment for Commercial Customers

by Elizabeth Karpinski 26 June, 2015 04:59

Most of the time it’s easy to see when technology is improving: new smartphones roll off the shelves every few months. But for other technologies, change can be harder to recognize—especially if you’re used to your current set up.

According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which is the most current data available, more than 2 million facilities built between 1980 and 2003 have been using the same lighting systems for the past few decades- despite the number of advances in lighting technology made since then. Three quarters of commercial buildings have outdated technology.

Do you know if yours does?


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