For Most Light Problems, Here’s A Light Solution

 

Working in the lighting industry for over 25 years, I’ve had, and heard, my share of problems with fluorescents and incandescents.

With incandescents, it’s pretty simple – the light’s burned out, the glass shell is broken or the light isn’t getting juice. They’re what I call the “dumb” light of our industry, which is one of the many reasons why I’m so pro-fluorescent.

Yet with CFL’s higher IQ – like most smart people – comes more challenges. From pre-heats to instant on, there is a long list of things that can go wrong; light won’t come on, light flickers, light comes on at the ends but the middle stays dark, light glows then fades, light has dark rings around it, light hums when it shouldn’t, light is strange color when lit – the problems are endless.

Luckily for me and all my brethren in the lighting and electrical industry, there are fewer reasons that cause these fluorescent problems than there are problems themselves, and even fewer solutions that solve those problems.

Yet that doesn’t mean that figuring out the reason or solving the problem is always a piece of cake.

It can be as simple as no power getting to the fixture or a burnt-out bulb to more complex issues, like a bad circuit, bad starter, bad socket, bad ballast, grounding issues, low line voltage, bad connection to the metal reflectors…and the list goes on.

As any of you light pros can attest, it can sometimes be challenging when we’re trying to help solve a problem for a customer who doesn’t live in our “light” world and therefore may not know a ballast from a breaker. I personally love these customers, because they inevitably allow me a “teachable” moment, to explain what’s going on in terms they can understand and shine a little light on this industry that I so dearly love.

For contractor or laymen, there are lots of trouble-shooting resources on the internet. Even though I may be relatively new to the web and all the very powerful tools it provides (and, let’s face it, all the silly time killers that I generally avoid) when I find something I like, I want to share it with you – particularly if it pertains to our industry.

I’d like to recommend one, in particular, that I think does a great job of explaining the lighting problem, the potential reason and the possible solution.

Before I offer it here, I do want to send out one warning to untrained consumers who read this blog – never ever ever under any circumstances attempt to do any troubleshooting or do-it-yourself lighting fixes yourself. There’s a reason electricians have to go through all those years of training and apprenticeship in order to be licensed and bonded in the state of Iowa. Leave it to the pros!

Having said that, I wanted to share with you this very smart, concise, handy guide to fluorescent lighting troubleshooting that I stumbled upon recently. It’s actually an older web site, from 2006, but I love the way it’s laid out and easy to understand. Just click the URL below:

http://nemesis.lonestar.org/reference/electricity/fluorescent/trouble.html

Whether you’re a an experienced electrician or don’t know a thing about lights, this guide can either be a great resource, or just very interesting reading. Happy problem solving, and let me know if it helps.

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com


LED Linear Light Replacement – Hype Vs. Fact

I always want to pass along great information, even if I didn’t think of it.

For what I”m about to share with you, I’ll gladly pass credit on to Jim Brodrick, Lighting Program Manager for the U.S. Department Of Energy. Jim probably knows more about LED technology than any other person in the world. So when he says something on the subject, we in the light business treat him like the old E. F. Hutton commercials – when he talks, we listen.

One of the things Jim has been talking about recently is LED linear light replacement, and in particular, research done through the U.S. Government’s Caliper program, which analyzes the latest and greatest lights to hit the market, to see if they live up to their marketing hype. What he’s uncovered through the testing, is something that all of us in the industry, should know.

One Caliper report that Jim shared from last year, showed that LED linear replacement lamps may not be ready to replace T12 and T8 fluorescents.

“LED technology is not yet ready to displace linear fluorescent lamps as replacement light sources in recessed troffers for general interior lighting.”

 

I’m no word smith but I get the drift – we probably need to pull back a bit before we anoint LED as the greatest thing since sliced bread, at least in its current form, as applied to replacing office fluorescents.

Some of the problems included:

1. CALiPER found that the light output from LED replacement lamps only amounted to half, at most of fluorescent it was supposed to replace. Their lower than expected light output, performance and efficiency meant that testers had to add extra lights, in order to maintain standard fluorescent output. Which kinda screws up the whole idea of using them.

2. Another problem the Caliper testing uncovered, says Jim, is that troffers fitted with LED replacement lamps had “narrower light distribution, which could compromise illumination uniformity and vertical illumination in existing installations.”

3. The news gets worse – further testing in three of the four LED’s required bypassing the fluorescent ballast. If you’re retrofitting, that means more labor, higher cost and more of a pain in the ballast. Efficiency was also diminished, wattage became uncertain, lighting colors became too cool to match other lights – you can see where Jim is going with this.

More testing last year pretty much verified the earlier research. Light output in the LED replacement lamps performed below the T8’s and T12’s they were replacing, at almost every benchmark – output, efficiency, color, additional labor you name it.

And then there’s the additional cost. We all know that LED replacement lamps are expensive – they average upwards of $100, even $150, compared to the miserly $3 T8 standard fluorescent. And, as the report noted, nobody knows how these LED’s hold up, long-term, because there ISN’T any long-term – they haven’t been out long enough. Whatever the lights are promising in terms of lifetime usage hours – I’ve seen some at over 50,000 hours – that’s nothing but an educated guess by the manufactures.

Of course the other issue revealed by the testing is that the fluorescents themselves have their own sets of problems. Low temperatures negatively affect their performance. There’s the mercury issue, although Philips has done a fantastic job of reducing it, by over 30% compared to competitors bulbs, in most cases. The report is highly critical of manufacturer’s over-hyped claims on their products – as if this is anything new to us who distribute them.  T8 technology still is one hell of a light!

As for LED’s – if they live up to the hype, great, we’ll be on the front lines, singing their praises to our contractor clients. But for now we’ll hang onto our incredibly efficient stringently tested high performing T8’s – unless and until the truly “next best thing” comes along.

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com


What’s The Right Light For Your Room?

 

A lot of us are working on Spring cleaning and remodeling projects, as we get our homes and businesses ready for more friends, family and foot traffic.

Improving the lighting is as important to the look of the areas where we live, work and shop as anything, and a lot of people come to us at Adventure Lighting seeking advice on the proper way to light these areas. While we don’t pretend to be professional light designers, we’ve certainly seen our share of lights and lit space, enough to be able to offer these simple tips for you.

1. Dare To Be Different

I tell home owners and business owners all the time – experiment with your lighting! Let your imagination run wild! And it doesn’t matter whether your talking about lighting in a residential living space, or retail shopping area – let your hair down.

Why? Think about how much lighting we’ve seen throughout our lives – literally hundreds of thousands of lit bulbs in uncountable situations, most of it set up in very common, standard ways. And there’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes, as the saying goes, a cigar is just a cigar, and a light is just a light…regardless of how much it pains me to say that.

But even though our eyes are drawn to light, it takes a lot to really grab and hold our attention – since our eyes think they’ve seen it all. Well we’ll show them a thing or two! :) Be bold, innovative, playful – use lights and fixtures that are interesting and unusual (I’m sure we have a few among the 100,000 we stock in our Adventure Lighting warehouse) to illuminate areas in ways you’ve never seen before. Mix traditional with unique, be willing to experiment – the visual space you light up is like a canvas, so be the painter and have fun!

2. Use multi-bulb dramatic lighting to show off

 Whether you want to show off a new painting, plant or retail display, try fixtures that use several lights. In residential environments, this is most common in bathrooms and kitchens but don’t feel limited to these areas. In retail settings, try isolating the multi-light fixtures in corners, to showcase particular merchandise – this can also create some very interesting shadow effects, depending on how you position the display.

Of course, depending on the retail setting, you may have to make due with traditional flourescents and fixtures. But even so, don’t be afraid to experiment by adding other smaller, more intimate light fixtures – when properly positioned, this combination can create dynamically lit areas that that will grab the attention of your customers.

3. Pay attention to lighting color

 More than anything else, the color of the lights you use will dictate how the light is reflected in the room, be it residential or retail. Using off-white colors – from tan to blue or red –  will give the room a warmer, more inviting tint. Yet this needs to be balanced, particularly in a retail setting, by what people are looking at in the room and how they need to see it. Obviously, if your customers need to read a lot of small print on labels, then white, bright colors becomes a necessity.

But you also don’t have to light the entire retail space like a grocery store, either – unless it is a grocery store! The lack of light can be more interesting to a shopper’s eyes than the usual highly illuminated space they’re used to seeing in stores. So again, be willing to play with the color of the lights, to create a more soothing, relaxed retail experience. 

4. Add LED lights to add dollars at the cash register

 Retail studies over the years show that when planned out, properly illuminated retail environments can dramatically increase store traffic and sales. In particular, the use of LED lighting – for floor displays, window displays and to indicate different departments and product categories – can have a powerful impact at the cash register.

People who shop your store obviously don’t know your store like you do. Lighting is the perfect way to “illuminate” them, at least as much as signage can and sometimes when your employees can’t. :) These lights can focus on particular merchandise or even help guide shoppers in the way they walk through your store – and how you want them to experience it.

The right lights – whether for a residential or retail setting – are critical to creating the perfect environment for you, your family, your guests or your customers. Finding the right lighting look means knowing what works best, and being willing to play with it. In the end, lighting really is like paint and your room, a canvas – so have fun, and paint!

 

 

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com


Buying Local – A Bright Idea

 

Let’s talk about buying local.

Sure, this may not seem like it has anything to do with lighting, on the face of it. But at the risk of leaving my area of expertise (at least the one I claim some knowledge in) the concept of buying local can be illuminating.

None of us needs a business degree from Harvard to understand that spending our money with locally owned companies is probably good for our local Central Iowa economy. Yet I admit – as a local businessperson, my personal stake in this issue may cloud my opinion. So I decided to do what all of us do when we want to know more about something that we think we know a lot about already, but aren’t sure.

I googled it.

Here is what I found.

 

Of the major and not so major studies done over the past 10 years, one thing is clear – buying local is not just some sort of feel-good idea invented by an ad agency to boost sales. Buying local has a profound economic impact on the towns and cities where it is practiced by residents. In fact, more and more research strongly indicates that buying local is literally the life’s blood of our communities – it keeps our communities alive.

One study, by the New Economics Foundation, a London think-tank, found that when people purchase produce at a local farmer’s market vs. a chain supermarket, up to twice the money stays in the community. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle.

Boyle compares the money we spend to blood – “our life’s blood” as I said earlier. When we buy from big box and on-line retailers vs. locally owned Central Iowa businesses and suppliers, that “blood” flows out, and away, from our Des Moines community.

That means we run the risk of bleeding to death – one dollar at a time, one transaction at a time – until there is nothing left, what researchers call “ghost towns” or “clone towns,” in which almost all the businesses are national franchises and big box stores.

Can we imagine what this would look like? Yes – we’re already seeing in, on city blocks and entire mile-long stretches of businesses throughout Des Moines.

So what about the perceived higher cost of local goods and services, to shoppers?

If I had a nickel…lol.

First, let’s look at the big picture.

Any difference in the purchase price of merchandise we buy from local businesses vs. big box stores, disappears when we look at the increase in local employment, plus the relationships that grow when people buy from people they know. We know who we’re  buying from therefore we know what we’re  getting – there’s name and a face that is now accountable to us for what we just purchased. If it doesn’t work, if it tastes bad, if it fails to live up to our expectations, we go straight to the source, who almost always will deal with it immediately, to our complete satisfaction. Good luck getting that with a big box store.

On behalf of our company, Adventure Lighting, I can look our customers in the eye without blinking and tell them point-blank and categorically that we are not only cost-competitive with the big box stores, but we blow them out of the water on quality, knowledge, service and resources. We have over 100,000 lights in our warehouse, and I know for an absolute fact that employees at big box stores all over town send customers to us, because they ain’t got it and know we do.

Buying local means our money flows through our community – faster and in more hands, more often. Money spent locally has a greater impact on everyone than money spent in big box stores – it supports local charities and civic projects. It sends our kids to college, builds new homes, keeps our neighbors and friends and family members employed. It keeps our core values, our way of life, alive.

Priceless.

So thank you for buying local. It may not have a thing to do with lighting, but it sure has everything to do with creating a brighter future – for all of us.

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 


LED Freezer Lights – Hot Topic, Cool Look

LED lighting has been a hot topic lately, particularly when it comes to their application as freezer lighting for grocery and convenience stores. 

For every day lighting use, the superior LED technology hasn’t quite pushed aside the CFL or even the creaky incandescent. (Stay tuned – it’s coming in the next few months.) For now,  consider its use in temperature controlled food displays, the LED’s first shot over the CFL’s bow. 

In fact, LED has already begun pushing aside typical fluorescents in grocery store freezer lighting and with good reason – the advantages are just too numerous for store owners to ignore.  

The average reach-in cooler at a store is lit with a 58 watt fluorescent light bulb.  Replacing that bulb with a LED strip specially designed for that application, uses only 30 watts of energy. The difference, shown below, is striking: 

As you can see,  not only is there significant energy savings to be found in terms of the energy used by LED’s vs. fluorescents, but an extra benefit comes from the LED’s expelling less heat, therefore the coolers don’t have to work so hard. 

Here are before and after pictures of a typical commercial cooler – with standard fluorescents, and using new LED technology.  

  

But if you’re not a store owner, you may be asking the obvious – “What’s in it for me?” Unfortunately, there may not be much. Certainly by reducing the cost of doing business for store owners via lower energy costs, it can help reduce costs for the average consumer – if owners choose to pass along those savings to their customers.  

Okay, not likely. What IS of benefit to consumers is being able to count on meats and other foods lasting longer while in freezers and coolers.  This is because there is significantly less heat, and NO UV light ruining food while it’s in the freezers or meat cases. Ultimately, then, LED’s are a win-win for both owners and the customers who visit their stores.  

LED lighting is on the horizon and coming quickly.  We think that in the next 3 years every grocery store and convenience store will be equiped with this cutting edge technology.  So the next time you’re strolling through your local grocery store, take a look and see if you notice any changes taking place in the way food is displayed in the freezer case. It could be the brand new LED, an incredible advance in lighting technology that’s going to change how we light everything.  

  

Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com 


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