Let’s say there was a place you could go to get the latest information on lighting, including hard-to-find items and maybe even some decent prices. Considering the historic fact that lighting makes up about 25 percent of the dollars electrical contractors spend on the purchase of materials for installation, you’d probably take a look at least.

There is such a place––the “LightFair” tradeshow (www.lightfair.com)––which happens every spring. But even it can’t bring to the sharpest, most attentive showgoer what the Web can every day.

Product information

Lighting is a product-intensive part of the electrical business. A crop of new lamps seems to come out more than annually. Fixtures (some of them designed to make best use of these lamps) are regularly updated, renovated or created. Ballast and reflectors are important too.

No single product can produce dramatic savings and environmental change for your customers as a well-applied lighting control.

Where can you find out about all this? Visit www.lightsearch.com. According to the established rankings of links to various electrical Web sites, LightSearch has more sites placing links to it (1,818 as of this writing) than any other nonproprietary industry site, including ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR (which ranks second).

LightSearch is a no-nonsense site that’s totally devoted to products. In fact, the site’s free, monthly e-mail newsletter is devoid of promotional wording. Instead, it includes the latest lighting products.

Buying lighting online

A number of sites––some of them with a few years of operation––sell lighting online. Contractors might divide these into three broad classes:

• “Hard-to-find” lighting––there’s always one or more items for some special jobs in a given year (typically renovations or retrofits) that call for a lighting item that your local electrical distributors can’t quite put their finger on. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find such stuff online, but it can’t hurt to look. Sites in this category include www.topbulb.com, www.bulbs.com and www.elites.com.

• Lighting sites––if you’re a contractor who is often involved with lighting (probably in residential), you might well find yourself prowling these sites, to see what your high-end customers might be finding themselves on the Web. One such place is www.lightingforthehome.com.

LFTH might be deemed a “johnny-come-lately,” since it was just brought online in February. However, it should be noted that David Burtner, the genius behind LightSearch, is the brains behind this one, too. LFTH doesn’t sell lighting; rather, it just provides an all-in-one-place site for the homeowner (much the way LightSearch does for the specifier, lighting designer or contractor).

• Specialty lighting sites––the old racetrack saying is that there are “horses for courses,” and there are lighting Web sites for special situations. Consider www.audiovisualexpress.com, a place to find special bulbs for A/V needs. Or www.lightingFX.com, a place for mini-halogens and other special effects-type lighting. There’s also www.lighting-inc.com, which claims to be the home of “the most current list of architectural manufacturers and links.”

If you go to the Web to buy lighting, remember that, unlike your local electrical distributor, the lighting Web sites are just going to box it and ship it to you. Generally, they can’t answer questions, handle expediting, or marshal shipments to your job site (as distributors will). So for whatever you save on the front-end, you might well end up paying in the back end (in handling expenses and other product support functions you’ll have to do yourself).

Lighting information sources

Lighting is an industry “made” for the Web, because there is a ton of information out there, with more generated daily by manufacturers, distributors, associations and others. To “bone up” on lighting, consider visiting the following Web sites:

www.lighting.com––the online resource for lighting professionals. It includes news, information, and, of course, products and manufacturers.

www.iesna.org/industrylist.html––the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America––you can find the latest manufacturer news here.

www.iald.org––International Association of Lighting Designers. Do you need a lighting designer or would you like to find out what these folks are talking about to one another?

www.ecmag.com/backsearch––this site hosts an online archive of articles from the print editions of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine. There is a checkbox in the search menu for lighting articles; if you just check that box, and do nothing else except hit the “search” button, you’ll get back 58 articles from ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR on contractors and lighting. EC

SALIMANDO is a Vienna, Va.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. He can be reached at jsali@cris.com.