Ideas about standard office lighting are changing

Lighting the office environment: incentives to change. Various studies in the U.S. have shown that 80% to 90% of electricity that is used is the result of energy expended in business, industrial, and retail establishments. More specifically to our subject, 20% to 25% of all the electricity expended in the U.S. is utilized for lighting, not for generating heat or power. Official estimates state that even if only done where it can prove profitable, installing efficient lighting could cut electricity required for lighting by 50%, save about $12 billion dollars a year for U.S. businesses and reduce green house emissions by 7.5 million tons, according to official estimates.

Providing desk lighting supplemental to overhead standard office lighting is one simple step that can be taken to increase comfort and cut down overhead lighting needs. Typical lights installed in offices are "one-size-fits-all" solutions that are usually set in the ceiling and provide very brightly lit office areas. However, lighting industry experts have concluded that the amount of light required in the office to read a computer screen is 5x (five times) less than the light required to read paperwork. That means that most offices are extremely "over lit" for the duties employees are most often performing. Additionally, some types of overhead lights, or their placement compared to the placement of the work area, can result in darker than appropriate illumination. Both too much and too little light causes eyestrain or other specific Computer Vision Syndromes (CVS). A Cornell University study that was completed in the 1990s reported eye strain to be the office worker complaint during the study and that 75% wanted more control over their area's lighting.

Lamp with ceiling mount
Lamp with Desk Clamp
Lamp with wall mount attachment

Often overlooked desk lighting solution. Providing employees (1) adjustable task desk lamps that has a directed beam which they can focus on tasks while also (2) changing the level of their office's standard ambient illumination are two of many changes business can make.

Task lamps provide a focused area of illumination onto specific reading materials or items. Paperwork projects require 5x more light than computer screen work. Correctly placed and adjusted next to the work area needing illumination, these task focused lamps offer improved clarity without casting glare and minimizing shadows. Different styles (desk base, edge clamp, wall clamp, or others) are available and models are designed utilizing any one of a variety of bulb types, such as compact fluorescent, halogen, incandescent, LED, full spectrum, or other specialized bulbs. 

Making ambient illumination changes in lighting the office environment . There are many ways of managing office lighting. If computer work is a primary function in the office, chances are the office lighting that has been installed in the ceiling is far too bright for that function, though it may be great for reading paperwork. Establishing some control over lowering that illumination can be managed in several ways. One way is by removing several bulbs from an overhead fluorescent tube fixture. Or, rewiring may allow for the installation of dimmer switches. In situations where there are more than one bank of lights in the room, arranging for different on-off switches controlling different banks may be an option. A complete redesign of building lighting may be the chosen course of action for some firms. And, while a mixture of natural light is optimal, too much light or glare from window light hitting the screen can be a serious problem. Having office blinds that can be easily adjusted by occupants at various times of the day is also important.

Taking the next steps in lighting the office environment. Selecting more energy efficient products, such as the type of light bulbs used, places control directly into the hands of consumers, not just corporations. One part of your business office or home action plan can include substituting existing bulbs and fixtures with light bulbs or light fixtures that have earned the ENERGY STAR qualification. These qualified products "use at least 2/3 less energy than standard lighting, generate 70 percent less heat, and last up to 10 times longer." The Energy Str website also states that over 450 pounds of emissions from power plants can be prevented over the lifetime of use for each qualified Energy Star CFL (compact fluorescent light) used. To gain the greatest financial savings, replace bulbs in areas where the lights are on the most often.

Energy Star CFL (compact fluorescent light)



Choosing the right light for desk lighting with a task lamp and other fixtures

Choosing the right light for desk lighting with a task lamp and other fixtures. Choosing correct compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs helps ensure satisfactory performance. The bulb's packaging should explain its use. Here are three tips as examples:

  • Choose the color based on the environment. A CFL with a cooler color might be better for task lighting, rather than the warmer tone designed for home use.
  • If the bulb is to be used in a recessed fixture, a CFL labeled "reflector" style is better to use than a standard CFL bulb.
  • Make sure you select a CFL that is designed to work with the specific fixture you're planning, such as a dimmer vs. a 1 or 3-way switch vs. outdoors.

Streamlining your lighting to meet individual needs makes sense all around as it helps ensure human comfort and health, business efficiency, profitability, and environmental sustainability.