What are photometric designs and why do they matter?

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Lighting plays a critical role in commercial and industrial businesses. It impacts safety, productivity, mood, ambiance, product merchandising, and even profitability. This is why achieving the right amount of light for the activities happening in the space is so important.

But how do we achieve the “right” amount of light? Underlit areas, as one can imagine, creates a long list of problems ranging from safety hazards to poor customer experiences. The same can be said with overlit areas, which can lead to glares, excessive energy use, poor lighting consistency, and harsh lighting for customers.

The secret to finding that perfect balance is done through photometrics, which is the science behind how lighting behaves in a particular environment. In this piece, we’ll cover some of the key benefits of photometrics, and why all C&I properties should consider photometric design plans for their future lighting investments.

Achieve the right light levels

Lighting designers that leverage photometrics are able to quantifiably measure how much light is optimal for a particular activity happening in a facility. The Illuminating Engineering Society (or IES) publishes standards that determine the optimal amount of light for a particular environment or activity. These light level standards, which are measured in units of foot candles, can be incorporated into photometric software that allows lighting designers to learn which fixtures and optics will best achieve that recommended amount of light.

Achieve the right consistency

In addition to achieving the correct light levels, photometrics also enable lighting designers to achieve an optimal lighting consistency throughout the facility. Shadows and big fluctuations in light levels from space to space, known as lighting “hot spots”, creates visibility challenges as the eyes have to adjust.

Consistency can be a big issue particularly for industrial facilities like manufacturing plants or distribution centers that have long, ongoing operating hours (i.g. 24/5 – 24/7). This is because burned out bulbs can be expensive and taxing to replace when factoring in the the costs with halting production, sourcing the correct equipment, and getting over the top of machines to replace the bulb. As a result, it’s common for these types of facilities to carry on operations with the burned out bulbs — creating “hot spots” over time that subtly diminishes lighting quality and visibility.

Photometric designs can help to eliminate hot spots and deploy consistent, evenly distributed light.

Reduce maintenance demands

As mentioned before, maintenance demands can be especially heavy for industrial facilities with long operating hours. One major advantage of photometric plans is that it allows design teams to achieve consistent, optimized light levels in the most efficient way — commonly leading to both a reduction in fixture count, as well as increases in fixture life expectancies.

With photometric software, design teams can determine the best optics to effectively distribute the light produced, allowing the fixture to both cover more ground and consume energy in the most efficient in the most way (reducing the amount of energy that needs to be consumed to achieve the light levels needed). Industrial facilities with dated technologies like HPS or CFL have the opportunity to both reduce their fixture counts (often by as much as 50%+) while 10x’ing the life expectancy!

LED-Lighting-optics-overview
Lighting Optics: each of the fixtures above consume the same amount of energy and produce the amount of light. Integrating the proper optics achieves light levels needed in the most efficient manner.

Maximize energy efficiency gains

Photometric design plans are key to maximizing the energy efficiency of your lighting system. Lighting designers can first determine the optimal IES recommended light levels for a given space, then incorporate fixtures and lumen packages that achieve this light level using the least amount of energy.

Design plans that don’t incorporate photometrics are susceptible to either overlighting spaces, or integrating optics that don’t achieve the light in the most efficient manner, which leads to excessive energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Create safer, more productive environments

As a result of a brighter and evenly distributed light levels, your workforce is better positioned to reduce mistakes, be more alert, quickly detect hazards, and avoid accidents.

And these aren’t just marginal improvements. In a study conducted by Philips, improved lighting for facilities in the metal industry led to a 52% reduction in accidents when increasing light levels from ~30 to 185 foot candles.

A different study conducted by the CDC also demonstrated that improved lighting in mining environments led to huge improvements to worker safety, including:

  • 94% faster trip hazard detection
  • 79% faster peripheral motion detection to detect pinning/striking hazards
  • 71% faster machine movement hazard detection

Beyond safety, optimal lighting in industrial facilities has also led to big gains in productivity. The same study by Philips tied better light levels to improvements in task performance, garnering an 8% increase in productivity, as well as seeing reduced product waste that stemmed from poor visibility.

Remove guesswork from ROI

At PEC, we refer to this as “try before you buy.” With the benefit of highly accurate and dependable measurements, photometric design plans allow businesses that are considering a lighting investment to confidently determine ROI and project payback periods.

Our lighting design teams handle this process with 3 fundamental steps:

  1. On-site energy audits: As a first step to any project, a PEC Sales Engineer will tour your facility to measure foot candles, document existing lighting technology + wattage, and observe how the space is used to gather IES recommended light levels.
  2. Verify audit with utility bill: Following the audit, we’ll verify the measurements gathered with your monthly energy bill to ensure we’ve gathered an accurate snapshot of your system
  3. Design retrofit in photometric software: Once the energy baseline has been established, the Sales Engineer will recreate your facility and lighting system in advanced lighting software to measure current performance and determine areas for improvement. They will then build out several retrofit design options that optimize light levels, consistency, energy use, and life expectancy.
Energy audits an photometrics overview image

After this process, the design plan options, ROI calculations, and cash flow reports will be presented to you so you can confidently determine if a retrofit is the right investment for your business.

Get in touch

Ready to learn why over 5,000 businesses work with PEC to deploy LED retrofits? Get started with a brief 15-minute introductory call with our team to see how you could potentially benefit.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/20042615.html

http://www.pecnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/industrial_lighting_and_productivity.pdf

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