Daylight Lamps Are Just as Good as Daylight (and Other Lighting Lies)

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting isn’t rocket science. But with the advent of more complex lighting sources, it seems like it. With the complexity comes a lot of misinformation. Let’s dispel some lighting myths.

Since daylight is good, I should install "full spectrum" daylight lamps.

Don't be fooled by this marketing. We just can't mimic daylight...yet. Full spectrum lamps are for specialty applications such as color matching in the printing industry. They aren't the most energy efficient source and they aren’t the color temperature people are used to for general indoor lighting.

The spectral distribution of daylight looks like this:

The spectral distribution of daylight

The spectral distribution of a "full spectrum" lamp looks like this. Note the spikes:

The spectral distribution of full spectrum lamp

Like the full spectrum fluorescent, a typical fluorescent lamp also has spikes in the colors it renders:

The spectral distribution of fluorescent

The point is, if you can’t get real daylight into your space, there is no need to go for a daylight lamp whose color temperature is typically in an uncomfortably cool range. Select a high quality lamp with good color rendering in a color temperature that makes you look good and feel good. If possible, mock up several options to see what looks best in your space.

Fluorescent lighting is harsh. (Or fluorescent lights give everything a green cast.)

I’m never sure how to respond to the comment that fluorescent lighting is "harsh." It is actually a soft, diffuse, linear source that is much less harsh than a point source like incandescent or halogen. I think the comment really means, "I don't like the color or brightness of the fluorescent light in my space." In that case, there is an easy solution. Find one with a color and brightness that you do like. Fluorescent lights come in a variety of colors. And lenses, louvers or fixture design can control brightness.

If a product has a long warranty, you can trust that product.

A product warranty is only as good as the manufacturer backing that warranty. In today’s lighting world, there are lots of brand new companies manufacturing LED products. While these products may boast a 5+ year warranty, the company itself may be only 6 months old! If you expect to get a 5 year warranty, make sure it is backed by a solid manufacturer.

What lighting myths have you encountered? Have you heard any lighting claims that seem too good to be true?


Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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