Categories Lighting

Lighting and Human Health

According to the US Census Bureau, as of April 1, 2010, there are 40.3 million people who were 65 and older in the United States, accounting for 13 percent of the total population; this number will more than double to more than 88 million by 2050. Many industries, organizations and communities are planning for the graying of America, one being long-term care living facilities where, according to the National Center for Assisted Living, as of 2008, more than 900,000 people nationwide live in assisted living settings.

Making these facilities welcoming, intuitive to older adults’ needs and even redesigning the lighting greatly affects this populations’ quality of life.

Importance of Correct Lighting
Innovative lighting designs and advanced technologies, including LEDs, photosensors and occupancy sensors, can help seniors in long-term care facilities maintain independence and be more comfortable.

It has long been understood that poor lighting is not only associated with an adverse environment, as we all relate to the mental image of the “dark dungeon” or “dimly lit alley,” but that there is a cause and effect relationship with human health. The most prominent example is season affective disorder syndrome, or SADS, which is a winter-season depression that effects sensitive individuals in the higher latitudes where the day/night cycle is more extreme, right up to the Arctic or Antarctic circles, where there will be winter days when the sun will literally fail to rise fully above the horizon. Experimentation with “light therapy” proved effective in extreme cases, adding momentum to a new realm of studies of the interaction between light and humans.

According to a paper by the Center for Health Design, “The Impact of Light on Outcomes in Healthcare Settings,” light impacts human health and performance by four main mechanisms:

  • Enabling performance of visual tasks
  • Controlling the body’s circadian system
  • Affecting mood and perception
  • Facilitating direct absorption for critical chemical reactions within the body

As people age, their eyes also undergo changes. The lens and cornea begin to yellow and darken, and the pupils shrink in size. The aging eye also changes to have a high degree of light scatter as cataracts form, and the field of vision becomes limited. For this reason the colors that are chosen for the elderly should remove any yellowing and brightness since the eyes of a 60-year-old can only filter a third of someone age 20.

Additionally, elderly persons may have difficulty distinguishing between colors. They need three times the amount of light to see, but are sensitive to glare. Colors such as red, green, yellow or blue will appear muted to the elderly eye.

Light and Sleep Cycles
Because of changes in the transparency of the eye’s lens, the elderly are especially susceptible to sleep disturbances as the amount of circadian light received through the eye is diminished. Disease-specific biological changes, as experienced with Alzheimer’s and dementia, contribute to sleep disruption and are experienced as difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, decrease in slow-wave and REM cycles, shorter duration of sleep and frequent daytime napping.

Light serves to synchronize the human body bio-chemical clock. For instance, it has been found that blue light (465 nm wavelength) can reduce the melatonin in our blood stream, making us more alert – this is what sunlight produces from morning until afternoon. However, as the day progresses, the intensity of the blue-spectrum in sunlight reduces while there is an increase in reds and purples, thus triggering the increase in melatonin that enables sleep and body repair. The effect of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance is blue-shifted – a lamp with a correlated color temperature of 6,500 K (cold light) induces greater melatonin suppression and an enhanced alerting effect than does a lamp with a CCT of 3,000 K (warm light).

Light directly influences the amount of melatonin, and other related hormones, that a person’s brain produces, which indirectly affects alertness. With artificially driven imbalances, it’s not just sleep that is affected; almost our entire metabolism, including immune responses, is regulated in this way, and there is the potential for more serious health effects. Conversely, supplemental melatonin has been indicated with positive health effects including slowing down aging processes, and potentially slowing or reversing brain-involved conditions, including Alzheimer’s.

Hard-to-reach lighting controls and bright, glaring room lights add to the difficulty seniors have getting up in the middle of the night. Additionally, nurses may need to check residents several times at night and often disrupt their sleep and comfort by repeatedly turning on the room lights.

Poor lighting can accentuate existing vision problems and reading difficulties among the elderly, it can cause depression and disrupt sleep cycles. However, improving long-term care facilities’ lighting is documented to improve residents’ health. These studies have shown that the quality and type of lighting can have a significant impact on our health and comfort, particularly for anybody who spends long periods in artificially lit buildings, such as the elderly and the infirm.

Categories LED

LEDs Bring Big Savings to Retail Centers

Almost every industry, business and municipality has a parking lot that needs night-time illuminating. As energy costs continue to soar and strict energy mandates are enforced, municipalities and private property owners are looking for ways to cuts costs.

Fortunately, energy is a very controllable operating expense; by prudent, energy efficiency investments, operating costs can be reduced. One key to making day-to-day operations more energy efficient and more sustainable is through the installation of exterior LED luminaires.

Retail Centers – Retail stores, shopping malls and entertainment complexes are major energy consumers. Malls, “big box” mega-stores and retail outlets are not usually considered energy intensive on a square foot basis, but because of their large size and long hours of operation, they often run up extensive energy bills.

The parking lots for these facilities represent a challenging environment for lighting solutions. The lighting must accommodate vehicular and pedestrian traffic, endure harsh environments and address public safety considerations.


Image depicts TopDek in a typical retail parking application

Parking Lots and LED Luminaires – Going green is an initiative that nearly every industry is being forced to consider. The desire to incorporate new technologies to meet green initiatives and lessen costs is driving unprecedented change. Outdated light fixtures are being replaced with parking lot luminaires designed specifically for energy efficiency and sustainability. And while the upfront cost of LED luminaires is typically more than traditional lighting systems, it will be paid back to owners in lower electric bills, reduced maintenance and disposal fees.

Many parking lots are illuminated with high intensity discharge (HID) lighting sources. Because this type of lighting is not suitable to frequent switching, this lighting is typically operated the entire evening, even when the parking lot is mostly or completely empty. LED luminaires, however, are amenable to control systems such as motion sensors to further reduce electricity consumption.

The opportunity for savings is enormous, in part because LED luminaires have the potential to control the LED source emission more precisely than traditional HID luminaires, reducing waste light and limiting glare.

An innovative program, the Partners in Project Green in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Center for Landscape Research, offers companies (in the Pearson Eco-Business Zone) a Green Parking Lot Program. Specifically, it provides companies assistance in the (re)design of their parking lots and landscaping to include green features that can help them reduce costs, enhance safety and enrich the aesthetics of the facility, while improving local air and water quality. Installing LED luminaires is an excellent complement to this forward-thinking program.

Exterior lighting has three primary functions – safety, security and ambiance. With sustainability and design now complementing each other, LED luminaires for outdoor general lighting provide a win for everyone and retail properties retain their aesthetic integrity while saving on energy and maintenance.

Importance of Color Rendering and Distribution – Mall parking lot lighting represents a critical component for a business to achieve a high retail sales volume. Businesses must provide shoppers with safety and optimal visibility.
Color rendering should be considered as an important lighting performance element to showcase a business’ storefront displays, outdoor exhibits and landscaping features that create an aesthetically pleasing environment throughout the general grounds surrounding the mall itself.

Parking lots around malls experience a high volume of pedestrian traffic, and vehicular traffic tends to increase as closing time approaches. It is necessary for a business to provide appropriate lighting performance to insure a safe and comfortable environment is maintained.

Many cities have lighting mandates for parking lot illumination that identify a specific set of lighting performance metrics. Unfortunately, many businesses might not be aware if their parking lot lighting performance levels have fallen below minimum acceptable levels, which happen when lamps deteriorate over an extended period of time.

Distributing light and containing it within the property’s boundaries are essential components to remaining in compliance with regulatory codes pertaining to dark skies and energy efficiency.

The size and layout of the parking lot determine the specific lighting performance requirements. For example, if the parking lot is asymmetrical and located in a less safe part of town, the need for security may require a bright perimeter of light that is focused on the edges and corners of the lot while simultaneously contained within the property line.

Parking Lot Safety – Security professionals have long known that locations where people and their valuables are together, such as in parking lots, are criminals’ favorite targets. A key element of security in most surface lots is visibility – for employees, customers and passers-by; and a significant part of visibility is lighting.

According to Witherspoon Security Consulting, the exterior lighting should enable parkers and employees to see individuals at night at a distance of 75 feet or more and to identify a human face at about 30 feet. Employees who are working after-hours or visitors entering the building at night need to have efficient parking lot illumination fixtures so they can safely return to their vehicle.

Proper lighting creates better security and the perception of security, which can increase patronage of the parking facility, individual stores and the area in general.

Mindwave Research of Austin, Texas, conducted a survey, which showed that LEDs’ bright white light can help improve public feelings of safety in city spaces. After the addition of LED luminaires in a Raleigh, NC, municipal parking garage:

  • Both men and women felt significantly safer post-installation: 74 percent rated the garage as feeling “very safe,” while only 2 percent did not feel safe.
  • These figures contrast with the pre-installation numbers: Only 42 percent felt “very safe” with the original lighting, and 13 percent did not feel safe.

Opportunity – In the United States alone, it’s been determined there are more than 20 million parking lot lights, providing an excellent opportunity to retrofit with LED luminaires for increased security, reduced energy consumption and lowered maintenance costs.

Categories Lighting

Controlling Standby Power for Smart Lighting in Consumer Applications

Smart lighting is characterized by the sophistication in lighting control that has grown with the emergence of LED-based lighting. In fact, smart lighting is not practically achievable with traditional incandescent light sources and it is not as common with fluorescent light sources either.

To clarify: it is possible to control incandescent and, to a lesser extent, fluorescent light sources using phase-cut TRIAC dimmers and occupancy sensors. The driver circuits required for LED light sources, however, are more suitable to the low-voltage analog and PWM signals that are most readily associated with microprocessor control. But bringing the bulb within the control of a computer system opens up many other possibilities: power waste can be reduced; the user experience can be enhanced and the light source can even be used for data transfer. The challenge for smart lighting is to make use of all the functions afforded by computer control without losing efficiency – since efficiency was the reason the world looked to LED in the first place.

While commercial applications have already begun to adopt smart lighting, consumer applications are often tied to bulb-sized lighting nodes with low-power consumption, which makes the quiescent power consumption of the controller more of an issue. Consumers are unlikely to re-wire their houses simply to accept a hard-wired lighting system such as Power over Ethernet, Emerge etc., so most of the consumer-facing products in the marketplace today rely on wireless communication protocols (ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth or BLE, for example ) to control the lamp.

A 60 W A19 lamp today uses perhaps 7.2 W and is around 90 percent efficient – drawing approximately 8 W from the AC supply. ENERGY STAR suggests that the average bulb is on for less than three hours per day. The control electronics have to be on all the time, scanning for a start-up signal that will turn the bulb on. One popular smart-dimmable consumer bulb cites 0.45 W consumption in standby. If we ignore the power used by the base station (a base station can control 50 lamps), it means that the power consumption of the most common LED bulb is increased by around 50 percent by adding smart controls.

The ENERGY STAR Lamp Specification – Version 2.0 (Draft) has a section on standby power for connected lamps, with recommendations from various groups. 0.5 W has been proposed as a starting point. Several groups are pushing for a higher power level (>1 W was suggested during a recent presentation at Strategies in Light 2015).

This problem will get worse over time as LED conversion efficiency continues to increase (and therefore the power drawn by the lamp for lighting decreases).


Figure 1. DER-227(2) A 3 W power supply showing 70% conversion efficiency at 150 mW (0.3 A) output

How much power is required for a Wi-Fi transceiver?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently produced a report(1) which showed Wi-Fi transceiver standby/idle power use as being between 0.004 and 0.13 W. At this power level, power-supply conversion efficiency can be expected to achieve perhaps 70 percent (see Figure 1) suggesting a power budget of <200 mW would be achievable (and reduce control power to approximately 15 percent of the total power in the above example).

Smart technology for consumer LED bulbs and luminaires offers opportunities to fundamentally change how we use and experience light within the home. The benefits are significant but the fundamental benefit of energy saving must not be forgotten in the search for the limits of that new functionality.

Categories LED

High-Quality LED Luminaires Make Dramatic Improvement at Car Dealership

Car dealerships use a lot of illumination. While these lights serve a dual purpose of attracting potential customers and as a 24/7 security system, they devour energy, which is the third-highest overhead expenditure for dealerships, so reducing electricity consumption is a major consideration. By living and working sustainably, dealerships can reduce costs, increase their brand recognition, and attract more customers.

Including this extensive use of lighting, auto dealerships consume on average more energy per square foot than a typical office building: using about 110 kBTU/sq-ft compared to prime office space at 93 kBTU (source: National Automobile Dealers Association). This can mean thousands of dollars in energy costs for the typical dealership each year.

Chevrolet and Sustainability
Chevrolet’s dedication reaches further than compliance with the law to encompass the integration of sound environmental practices into business decisions. Guided by environmental principles, the company considers the environment throughout all aspects of their business, from supply chain, to manufacturing, to the vehicles on the road. These are the principles that help frame Chevrolet’s planning and decision-making for the company’s future.

Love Chevrolet | Columbia, South Carolina
Love Chevrolet is a family owned business that was established in 1961. Love Chevrolet is a member of the Love Automotive/RV Group that also represents Buick, GMC Truck, Mitsubishi, Hino Trucks and multiple RV brands.

As a customer-focused and forward-thinking business, Michael Love, president of Love Automotive/RV, is always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase operational efficiencies while promoting sound sustainability practices. To that end, Love Chevrolet recently completed a LED lighting upgrade.

In a one-for-one replacement, (148) 1,000W metal halide (MH) fixtures on the dealership’s primary and secondary sales lots, back lot and driveway were upgraded to 120W, 240W and 300W LED area light luminaires. Additionally, (100) 400W MH fixtures were upgraded to 120W high bay LED luminaires in the service check-in area and service bays, and (25) 400W MH fixtures were upgraded to 70W low bay LED luminaires in the detailing shop. Also retrofit were nine 250W MH fixtures to 60W LED wall packs and (18) 400W MH fixtures to 90W LED canopy lights in the primary sales lot.

This replacement is reducing the dealership’s electricity energy consumption by almost 50 percent. Prior to the LED installation, the monthly electric bill was $14,270, since the upgrade the monthly bill is averaging $7,000, while also increasing the foot candles – light on the ground, and the light uniformity increased.

The previously installed MH fixtures would regularly burn out. However, at the cost of $50 to $70 each light plus labor hours the dealership delayed repairing them until sections were poorly illuminated because they needed to rent a bucket truck to change lights. Unfortunately, as soon as a group of lights were repaired, other fixtures would burn out – the dealership never experienced all fixtures working at the same time. Also, as the lights aged, the quality of light decreased causing different color lighting in various areas. Now, the new LED luminaires are virtually maintenance free and come with a five year warranty.

“These lights make our inventory show better and stand out more from the street,” said Ben Hoover, general manager Love Chevrolet. “Additionally, we anticipate these new lights will last three times longer than the old fixtures and, the best part, eliminate maintenance and the need to move cars to accommodate the rented bucket trucks to change out the burned out lamps.”

The automobile dealership industry, like many businesses, typically only has one chance to make a positive impression with the customer, so it’s important to show products as best as possible. The luminaires’ uniform lighting eliminates dim areas between lamp poles, improving the automobiles’ vibrancy.

The new LED lights have also made a tremendous difference in the service drive and repair shop.  On the first day of installation, only one out of five rows of lights was able to be mounted. Yet those fixtures alone made a dramatic improvement and clearly showed the distinction between the two technologies. The LED luminaires provided brighter illumination without any shadows, which the technicians noticed it immediately.

“The upgraded luminaires deliver crisp, uniform illumination across the shop floor, detail bay and parts department,” said Mark Williamson, service and body shop director. “Additionally, the service technicians previously used fluorescent drop-light bulbs to see underneath the vehicle, these are now almost eliminated with the addition of the LED lights, which have improved technicians’ productivity, safety and morale.”

Customers also have noticed the difference in the service drive area, and have positively commented on this and inquired about the changes.

After seeing the product, learning about the energy savings and SCE&G EnergyWise incentives, and determining that the dealership would have only a two year ROI on the $250,000 total investment, it was an easy decision to retrofit. The LED luminaires provide consistent light levels, reduce hazardous waste disposal and provide dramatically more efficient light distribution than the MH fixtures.

“When we looked at the energy savings we’re getting, and that it’s really the right thing to do for the environment, it’s just a win-win for everybody,” Hoover explained.

”These lights absolutely provide the level of illumination we were looking for to make our location bright and secure,” Michael Love, president of Love Automotive/RV said. “And, as the guy paying the bills, I’m impressed with the tremendous energy savings and payback.  My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.”