Lighting Design Illuminates Greater Profit

By Dec 15, 2006




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Getting help to gain a larger residential lighting design market share:

If electrical contractors want to grab a larger slice of the lighting design pie, they must “become certified lighting consultants,” said Mark Lien, accredited lighting professional and manager of the SOURCE Educational Center for Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, Ga. “Certified lighting consultants can promote themselves as capable of handling that part of the specifying process to influencers such as architects, builders, owners and interior designers.”

Work with distributors

Electrical contractors can work with their distributor to develop lighting project opportunities, said David Moeller, national marketing manager—construction at Graybar Electric Co., St. Louis. “Many contractors work with repeat customers on design/build projects that involve lighting. These projects may qualify building owners for Energy Policy Act [EPAct] of 2005 tax deductions of up to 60 cents per square foot. However, contractors need to move quickly. This deduction can apply to new construction or lighting renovations placed into service after Dec. 31, 2005, and before Jan. 1, 2008.”

Graybar works with contractors to win lighting retrofit business. “Our teams have the software and skill to do lighting audits,” Moeller said. “We go into a prospect’s facility, along with the contractor and our lighting-supplier representatives, and show prospects the savings. The prospect is hard-pressed not to seriously consider implementing the project with a payback this significant. Paybacks are often near or below the two-year threshold used by many companies. Plus, we can work with the contractor to offer the prospect financing through Graybar Financial Services. This helps prospects overcome budget constraints and complete the installation before the tax deduction expires.”

Wholesalers help boost profits

In the past, it was easier for electrical contractors (ECs) to illuminate residential rooms—one outlet box/fixture in the center of the room, and the job was done. That’s history.

“To be successful today, ECs must be aware of current options, feel well-versed in the nuances of each and clearly convey that information to customers,” said Jeffrey Dross, product manager for Kichler Lighting. Dross suggests evaluating these options:

  • Light layering includes a broad collection of different lighting sources, such as task, accent and ambient.
  • Task lighting in the kitchen can be undercabinet to properly prepare food or as a pendant light over the dinette or counter. Toe-kick kitchen lighting, which is installed below cabinets, allows enough illumination for a midnight refrigerator raid without stubbed toes or squinting eyes.
  • Accent lights are used to emphasize interior architecture and the home’s decorative elements. Accent lights can be used on cabinet tops to spotlight the collectibles or decorative foliage. Accents also can be mounted inside the cabinets or under the toe-kick to define the space and provide nighttime safety.
  • Ambient or general lighting can be done with recessed cans or a centrally located, surface-mounted fixture. In some cases, larger pendants may serve as ambient lighting.

Dross said savvy ECs take the above types of lighting and adapt them for different rooms. For example, in the dining room, eating requires only a minimal amount of light, but placing each dining room light source on a dimmer enables the homeowner to turn all lighting to the maximum when desired. Accent lighting can focus on artwork or take the form of cove molding or tray ceiling lighting. Recessed spots can accent the dining room table. Ambient lighting can include the chandelier over the table and the wall sconces.

In contrast, adequate task lighting is needed for personal grooming in the bathroom. Today’s large, multifunction bathrooms require accent lighting. Light washing over the marble bath walls or spotlighting the artwork on the walls make the room’s details jump. A 60W fixture over a mirror cannot adequately illuminate the whole room, so, it is important to include general lighting.

Portable lamps in bedrooms, halls and living rooms typically handle task lighting. However, hallways may not need task lighting. In the living room and bedrooms, accent lights highlight artwork, cove molding and tray ceilings. The fixture in the center of the room and wall sconces provide ambient lighting for movement around the space.

Light layering, often used in commercial and landscape applications, adds significantly to the aesthetic value of homes. It’s easy to recognize the one home in a neighborhood with professional landscape lighting. The same is true indoors. Provide a wide variety of switching options for rooms using light layering. If there are five sources, use five switches, and use dimming switches for greater flexibility. Teach homebuyers to customize their interiors.

Glare can also be an issue one must take into account. Aging eyes are more susceptible it. Baby boomers may increasingly have problems with typical fixture lighting. Although indirect lighting is the best solution, it is not practical in every room. In bathrooms, using fixtures on the mirror’s sides, rather than one over the top, alleviates most of the glare. Diffusers with premium surface finishes help prevent glare. Outdoor fixtures that are Dark-Sky compliant provide almost perfect exterior light without glare. The light is directed downward, not up into the eye.

Of course, no plan should take place without considering energy-efficient lighting. With advancements in color temperature and color rendering, there is no reason to avoid using fluorescent lighting in homes. Because of higher initial cost, fluorescents are best used in high-use areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry, halls and garages. Because of their infrequent use, there is little reason for fluorescent chandeliers and foyer pieces. Very little energy will be saved.

Also, consider fluorescent for outdoors.

“With the discontinuation of magnetic ballasts, cool temperatures are no longer the enemy of fluorescent lighting. Electronic ballasts operate comfortably in extremely cold temperatures,” Dross said. The benefit comes in many ways:

  • Lights illuminated throughout the night operate longer than almost any indoor fixture.
  • In inclement areas and hard-to-reach locations, a lamp that lasts 13 times longer than a traditional “A” lamp means replacing light bulbs is not a recurring chore.
  • If someone dislikes fluorescents, the look of the light outdoors can improve landscape aesthetics. The bluer light from fluorescents makes foliage look greener and healthier.

“While local power costs determine savings, fluorescent energy use is generally one-third of incandescent,” Dross said. “Those savings, along with a 1:13 replacement rate, add up to nice customer savings.”

Lighting companies are continually developing new solutions to the architectural challenges of new homes.

“If you do not understand them, ask your wholesaler.” Dross said. “Manufacturers or their reps hold ‘lunch and learn’ sessions or ‘counter days’ to help ECs learn new products, technology and use. It is the responsibility of all three to ensure installers and specifiers fully realize new product potential. If you don’t know, ask.”

Enlist manufacturer assistance

Tom Leonard, director of marketing and product development for Leviton Lighting Management Systems Division, said ECs should consider control for every lighting application.

“It’s a value-added element to the project, and numerous manufacturer-based services are available at low or no cost. Leviton’s occupancy sensor layout service produces professional occupancy sensor layouts and supplies as well as CAD drawings with a complete bill of materials.”

ECs also can take advantage of available layout support and design tools. “Programs such as Leviton’s ASAP designer software can automatically perform many of the lighting system design functions through an intuitive GUI program to automatically produce riser diagrams, equipment schedules and all submittal documents,” Leonard said.

ECs can include additional control and/or dimming options as alternate options.

“Adding dimming or additional control options at a moderate incremental cost allows end-users to enjoy the benefits of dimming controls. This is an excellent opportunity to add value to lighting installations,” Leonard said.

Look for fast payback. Occupancy sensors and automatic lighting controls deliver immediate results, further extending the performance and benefits of energy-saving lighting. Partial EPAct tax benefits are available for lighting-only upgrades in accordance with EPAct requirements.

“Employing dual switching reduces installed lighting power consumption by at least 25 percent,” Leonard said. “As power savings increase, tax deductions do as well, resulting in significant savings that impact the bottom line.” For more information, visit

Whether the project is a commercial or residential application, indoors or outdoors, learn to become creative and think outside the box. EC

WOODS writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].






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