Workplace Makeover: The importance of lighting

  • Kaneland School has updated lighting designed for the auditorium.

    Kaneland School has updated lighting designed for the auditorium.

  • Naperville Library has unique lighting that cuts down on glare, making it easier to read.

    Naperville Library has unique lighting that cuts down on glare, making it easier to read.

By Jean Murphy
Contributing Writer
Posted2/29/2016 6:12 AM

The importance of excellent lighting in a work space cannot be overstated. In order to perform their best with maximum productivity, workers need good light to see what they are doing.

But many offices are still putting up with inferior lighting systems making use of fluorescent bulbs which often flicker, buzz or hum annoyingly and actually dim slowly and consistently over time. Unfortunately, the electric bills associated with fluorescent lighting do not dim over time. This type of lighting uses lots of electricity. In addition, those mercury-laden bulbs only last an average of 5,000 hours and at that point they need to be replaced and disposed of in an environmentally-responsible manner.


LED lighting is becoming the choice for more and more businesses -- for offices, warehouses, manufacturing spaces, parking lots/garages and much more, according to David Scheck, partner in LED Rite, an LED lighting firm located in Hampshire.

"The use of LED lighting is expanding at an increasing rate as people increasingly understand and believe in the solutions provided by LEDs," Scheck said. "The volume of sales today, combined with better designs, are driving down the cost of LEDs so there is no longer a big price differential between fluorescent lighting and LEDs. People are now opting to take advantage of the large energy savings and the superior quality of LED lights which also go on and off instantly and do not need time to warm up."

They also appreciate the immensely longer life of LED bulbs (approximately 60,000 hours) which spreads the cost over many more years and also saves on labor when you consider the time and effort involved in changing hard-to-reach bulbs in auditoriums, foyers, stadiums and even staircases.

In many instances where there is currently fluorescent lighting that is not ancient, the existing fixtures or troffers can be retrofitted for LED lighting by simply replacing the ballasts and bulbs. The fixtures themselves do not need to be replaced unless it is determined during an office makeover that the lighting needs to be relocated, explained Mike Warren, Workplace Culture Consultant for Rieke Office Interiors (ROI) of Elgin.

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"It is pretty slick. They don't have to remove the fixtures at all and yet they can get a much more visually appealing office with more energy-efficient, better quality light," Warren said.

"To me, the fact that LEDs save money and the environment by using less energy is great, but the most compelling argument for LED lighting is the superiority of the light that they produce. Poor light can cause eye strain and nasty headaches. LED lighting is a cost-effective way to improve the environment for everyone who works, meets or sets foot in your office space. And when the environment is appealing, improved morale and productivity can soon follow," he explained.

There are also many color variations in LEDs which can be chosen to meet specific needs. For instance, 2500K is usually chosen for homes and mood restaurants. In offices, LEDs ranging from 3000K to 4500K are the norm, while in manufacturing, warehouse and parking lot applications where crisp white light is needed, the choice is usually 5000K to 6000K, according to Warren. LEDs can also be used in the "can" accent fixtures often found in reception areas, in front of display walls and in elevators and even in pendants and track lighting.

The ability to control LEDs using motion detectors, photocells and smartphones is another advantage which helps control costs, Scheck said. LED Rite can equip fixtures with occupancy sensors which turn on and off, based on when there are people present, and with "daylight harvesting" sensors which power fixtures up and down, based on the amount of ambient light present in a room at any given time.


Using LED fixtures equipped with sensors and automated controls allows companies to use less energy and spend less money because the LEDs use less power than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs and the various sensors allow the lights to be used at a lower power when there are lots of windows in a room or for fewer hours each day in low traffic areas like restrooms.

"Switching to LED has compounding effects. If you have an older troffer that requires 180 watts of fluorescents to run, when you switch to LEDs, that immediately drops energy consumption to 40 watts. When you add vacancy sensors they drop consumption to 20 watts and if daylight harvesting sensors are also added it drops further to 10 watts. So when you retrofit your troffers, you can conceivably make your fixtures 90 percent more productive," Scheck explained.

And when it is finally time to change out those hardy LEDs, there is none of the mercury in that waste that you would find in fluorescent bulbs.