The Great Space Case

The functional and artistic aspects of lighting spaces continue to reach new levels of sophistication. Lighting plans are no longer as simple as “Locate a fixture and screw in an incandescent lamp,” or “Install a fluorescent tube.” These days, owners and tenants want their builders—and electrical contractors (ECs)—to consider the ambience of spaces to be lit, identify specific lighting functions and promote reduced energy bills. Your response, before introducing the latest and greatest devices, could be to assist in developing a frame of reference.

The concept

Melissa Conchilla, owner and principal designer of MAC Design Group, Harrisburg, Pa., a recipient of a Cooper Lighting Source Award, said that understanding the functions of a room should be a major lighting concern.

“Some rooms will require more lighting for tasks than others,” Conchilla said. “A kitchen, bathroom and office or conference room have more involved tasks than a corridor or bedroom.”

Beyond that, she recommends discussing the room’s final paint selections as well as furniture, systems furniture, window treatments and carpets.

“All can make a room feel very dark or dreary if not lit properly. For instance, a space with fewer reflectance values increases the number of fixtures required to meet light levels,” she said.

She said layering a lighting system—using more than one type of fixture—can increase the brightness and comfort level of a room. In a commercial application, this can be achieved, for example, by lighting a wall opposite a window to balance the interior.

“Design the lighting system first, and then select the fixture that meets the needs of the design,” Conchilla said. “Remember that every lamp cannot be used in all applications. A compact fluorescent screw-base lamp type should not be retrofit into any downlight.”

Since more consumers are approaching lighting as a complement to a room’s environment, ECs have to be familiar with the tools they have to work with.

An old solution that still works

Though fluorescent lamps have been on the market for a long time, their use continues unabated, causing manufacturers to continually strive to improve their overall appeal in the marketplace.

A recent addition to the marketplace is Lam Lighting’s Luxxtra FL compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which offer features that increase the product’s viability in many applications.

Craig Brauks, general manager, Lam Lighting, Santa Ana, Calif., said the lamps are high-performance, indirect CFL fixtures with energy efficiency.

“They are offered in a choice of uplight and downlight combinations,” he said, “that allow their use in virtually any public or private commercial, institutional or light industrial environment.” These could include building lobbies and reception areas, schools and gymnasiums, and retail areas.

The fixture is designed to remain unobtrusive. It has an architectural profile with a broad, disc-shaped housing, simple frame, and conical lens. Eight biaxial or three 120-watt PLH CFLs provide illumination.

According to Brauks, the bulbs mimic illumination levels and light quality of metal halide lamps, but they provide up to 40 percent greater operating efficiency and improved color. He claims the PLH lamp can be used in environments with high ambient temperatures without loss of lumen output.

As fluorescent lamp and ballast manufacturers attempt to overcome the stereotypical perception of these devices, Advance, Rosemont, Ill., introduced AmbiStar Electronic Ballasts, which, in the company’s words, are “Saving energy with Style.” Designed for use with 120-volt T12 fluorescent lamps, the product is built around the footprint of its magnetic ballast counterparts, according to Dan Lee, Advance’s electronic fluorescent product manager.

“Advance’s 120-volt T12 fluorescent lamps represent an easy-to-install, energy-efficient replacement solution, which optimizes lighting applications in the residential and hospitality sectors,” Lee said.

The company’s effort mirrors an industry-wide attempt to increase the use of fluorescent technology in residential applications.

“This new family of electronic ballasts allows residential and hospitality users to enjoy the green and energy-efficient benefits of fluorescent lighting in a warm and comfortable solution,” Lee said. “They will not interfere with other electronic devices in the home, and [they] incorporate a broad range of safety features to ensure their safe and reliable operation.”

The new ballasts have been FCC Class B EMI rated, feature instant-on technology, maintain consistent and flicker-free startups, and are offered in several sizes and configurations for use throughout a residence. Interestingly, they also are designed to work with most incandescent dimmers, which previously was not possible with fluorescent lighting, as the lamps would flicker. Advance has intended the ballasts to replace federally outlawed magnetic ballasts in new construction or refurbishment.

More on dimming

These days, the changes in ambience and potential energy savings created by the use of dimmers is a given. However, manufacturers continue to find new methods of tweaking the products.

At Lutron, in Coopersburg, Pa., for example, the company recently added the Skylark with eco-dim. According to the company, this dimmer comes preset to automatically save 15 percent energy over a standard switch by limiting the maximum power delivered to light bulbs.

“Limiting maximum power by this much automatically extends bulb life by at least four times as compared to using a standard switch,” said Lauren Margolin, Lutron project engineer. “As you dim the lights further, more energy is saved, and the ambience of the room is improved.”

However, there is a consideration. “The 15-percent energy savings is accomplished by slightly reducing the output of a lamp, which also results in a cooler temperature and longer filament life,” she said.

Skylark with eco-dim is rated for 600 watts and is available in single-pole and three-way applications.

“It is a wallbox product, not system related,” Margolin said, so it may be installed independently of other home management devices.

In addition, Lutron recently introduced the Hi-lume 3D digital addressable dimming ballasts, which can dim lights to less than one percent and more than 100 percent illumination while upholding the efficiency of a nondimming ballast. Lutron’s Hi-lume technology allows multiple ballast factors of 0.85 to 1.17 at high-end and will dim to less than 1 percent of the high end light output.

The new kid on the block

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have recently experienced a groundswell of acceptance, as more manufacturers enter the market with products that are rendering historically utilitarian incandescent lamps obsolete.

There is no denying the efficacy of LEDs, so their use is becoming more widespread, that is only when a product is available that fits a specific need, and the budget allows the purchase.

“Improvements in LEDs have improved their intensity and illuminative qualities,” said Jeff Oliveros, director of engineering at Lumex, Palatine, Ill. “However, there is no comparing their price with incandescents.”

Oliveros explained that LEDs reasonably can be compared to semiconductors created on wafer rather than chips, factors that dramatically increase manufacturing and raw materials’ cost. Although, the most recently developed chips are larger and have increased current from around 10–20 milliamps (mA) to a total of 350 mA. Therefore, the new chips are as much as 35 times more powerful than their predecessors. This means more power (light) is produced, using less energy and lamp life that is as much as 10 times that of incandescents.

With the announcement of the company’s newest Par 20 Short Neck and R30 LED lamps, LEDtronics of Torrance, Calif., claims to have responded to three needs in one fell swoop.

“In addition to providing vivid light, these direct incandescent replacement bulbs combine advanced LED technologies with standard 25-mm Edison screw bases and light-optimizing designs to produce vivid light,” said Jordon P. Papanier, marketing manager.

The Par 20 lamps are versatile, being available in 15-, 20-, and 22-degree light-emitting modes. They also are small, measuring only 3.5 inches long with a 2.53-inch diameter, an ideal size for specific spot light applications.

“Since they draw only 2.5 watts of power, energy savings will quickly add up, when compared to 30-watt or 50-watt incandescent bulbs,” Papanier said. Of the LED 30, he said, “Similarly, with a power draw of only 4.5 watts, the savings add up quickly,” compared to a conventional 55- or 60-watt incandescent lamp.

Plus, color choices cover the spectrum: The new lamps are offered in warm white (3,000 kelvin), pure white (5,500 kelvin), cool white (8,000 kelvin), 633 nm red, 592 nm yellow, 525 nm aqua green and 470 nm blue. Infrared lamps also are an option.

Not to be outdone by West Coast competitors, Oliveros’ Lumex, Palatine, Ill., recently introduced high-intensity, energy-efficient LEDs, offered in two surface-mount packages. This addition to a line of LEDs adds lamps designed for use as backlights for decorative lighting or, interestingly, animated signs, warning lights and alarms.

Options are abundant. Lumex offers the high-power SuperFLUX LEDs in 10 versions, all using chip technology, and they are available in five color combinations.

Also new, the AstraLEDs provide the highest intensity of Lumex’s High Power family. These 1W high-power LEDs deliver a total flux level of up to 30 lumens with power input of 350 mA. Plus, Lumex’s LEDs may be surface mounted, so they are unobtrusive.

As the market expands, we can look to a future that will include an increase in LED use, coupled with price reductions. Of course, once little more than a stepchild in the grand scheme of commercial or residential planning and construction, the lamp and fixture industry now deservedly occupies a position at the forefront of the planning process. Coupled with recent trends in design/build and specifications, it’s becoming important for ECs to know what options they have to achieve a specified environment. EC

LAWRENCE is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at


About the Author

Ed Lawrence

Freelance Writer
Ed Lawrence is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at

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