Productivity: Lighten up

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. We are renovating our offices and debating what type of lighting we should install. Does the type of lighting matter, and if so, do you have any advice as to which lighting technologies might be best?

A. Many studies have shown that the quality of office lighting can affect your employees' productivity. While sunlight is considered the best lighting source, evidence suggests that LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is fast becoming the most popular artificial lighting option. For example, a survey from Osram Sylvania found that 65% of Americans have purchased LEDs for use in their homes. In addition, as of March 15, the Home Depot website was shown to carry 362 LED light choices, compared with 150 fluorescent, 45 incandescent, 39 high-pressure sodium, 12 halogen, and two krypton lights. Presented below are reasons you might consider LED lighting.

  1. Brighter and better. LED lights are approximately 400% brighter than incandescent lights (assuming the same wattage for each bulb), and they produce very little infrared light and ultraviolet emissions, which are considered harmful to human eyes. LED lighting can also be aimed in a specific direction without using reflectors, which helps them achieve a higher efficiency compared with conventional lighting. In addition, LED lights are instantly bright when switched on, compared with many halogen-type bulbs that can take up to several minutes to achieve maximum brightness.
  2. Longer lasting. The typical LED light is expected to last up to 100,000 hours, or 22 years, assuming 50% usage. This reduces maintenance costs related to replacing bulbs and minimizes the need to stockpile replacement light bulbs. (Given that the headlight bulbs in my 1967 Volkswagen Beetle lasted for nearly 15 years despite rough driving conditions, it's about time that indoor light bulbs started lasting longer than a year or two.)
  3. More energy efficient. The typical LED light uses at least 75% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs, with many studies suggesting up to 80% savings.
  4. Environmentally friendly. LED lights are free of toxic chemicals; conventional fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury and other materials that can be dangerous to the environment.
  5. More durable. LED lights are more resistant to shock, vibrations, and exposure to bad weather. LED lights are not adversely affected by continually being switched on and off and are considered more reliable in extreme cold weather, but not in hot weather. (As an example, the LifeLED light, which is rated as being particularly heat tolerant, reportedly functions at optimal efficiency from minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  6. Low heat. LED lights give off very little heat, which makes them safer to use around children, pets, or flammable materials.

The primary disadvantage of LED lights is that they usually have a higher cost (per lumen) compared with some alternatives.

Of course, upgrading to LED may mean switching out your light fixtures, which is costly. Other disadvantages of LED bulbs are that dimmer switches must usually be upgraded to dim LED lighting, and some LED lighting is known to interfere with some radio signals.

In conclusion, I recommend that your renovation maximize sunlight as much as possible and that you evaluate the possibility of upgrading to LED lighting.

About the author

J. Carlton Collins ( is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

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