There are many benefits to a well-lit shop. First, studies have shown that workers are more productive in shops with proper lighting. Also, the quality of work is substantially better when employees can see what they are working on.
It is best to work on a project in light that is similar to the light in which consumers will view the finished project. If your shop appears more like the inside of a cave than a sunny afternoon, it may be affecting your cost of doing business more than you realize.
We have to ask the question: What is the best type of lighting to use? It depends on a few factors. You have to consider shop ceiling height, the size of the room and economic factors. The amounts of different lighting applications are endless. We can’t possibly cover all the options in this article, so instead we will cover the three most popular options.
How can you beat natural lighting? Studies have definitely shown that worker productivity increases with natural light. According to Eric Corey Freed in his article “The Benefits of Natural Light,” “studies have proven daylightling makes employees more comfortable and productive. Reduced absenteeism, employee satisfaction and higher productivity are all bottom line benefits from the use of natural daylighting. An increase of just 1 percent in productivity provides enough financial savings to a company to pay their entire energy bill.”
I recently viewed a video made by Vetrazzo that featured the company’s shop. Natural lighting was installed. The narrator mentioned that on sunny days they don’t even have to turn lights on. The employees love the feel and the business owners love the savings in energy costs. Installing natural lighting is a big undertaking, but it is definitely something worth considering.
FLUORESCENT VS. HID LIGHTING
HID lighting with CDM (ceramic discharge metal halid) lamps (Figure 1) vs. fluorescent lighting Linear T8 Lamps (Figure 2) can get very confusing so I enlisted the help of a lighting specialist, George Mulcahy of WESCO Distribution in Worcester, Mass. The following is a list of some pros and cons of these two types of lighting:
CDM lamps use slightly less lumen/per watt (LPW). You can view it kind of like miles per gallon; the watts used for a CDM lamp would be 81.6 whereas a T8 would use 87.5.
A CDM lamp works better over a wider range of temperatures (-40 to 140 F) while maintaining a constant lumen output.
CDM point source does a superior job of spreading light over a wider area and with more intensity than fluorescent, which is diffused and has little intensity. This is especially important in a shop that needs to look for defects before shipping its products.
CDM lights work well in large buildings, but on the negative side, they are very expensive to purchase. The lamps don’t last as long as fluorescent, and the replacement bulbs are expensive to purchase as well.
T8 lights produce a very high light output. They also produce less heat than a CDM light, in theory offering longer life.
The point source on a T8 light is much smaller. Due to this fact, you need to have more T8 lights installed in your shop to achieve the light output you would get with fewer CDM lights.
Motion detectors can be installed on T8 lights, so when the activity slows down and workers leave, the area the lights go off. You are not able to do this with CDM. If you turn them off, you have to wait at least four minutes to have them return to full light output.
Mulcahy added that maintenance of lights is also very important. Light levels decrease over time. Due to aging lamps and dirt on fixture lenses, the amount of light can be reduced by as much as 40 to 60 percent. Here are a few simple maintenance rules to follow to get the most use of your lights:
Make sure to wipe dust off the fixtures and lenses at least once every six months or more frequently if dirt accumulates in a shorter period of time.
Change out lenses if they become yellow, usually those made of plastic. Glass only needs to be wiped clean as needed.
If you can, paint all surfaces (ceiling and walls) white. Make sure to clean the dust off your walls every so often.
Make sure to change burned-out lamps. Note: It’s best to replace lamps all at once when they reach 70 percent of rated life. This is known as “group re-lamping” and will ensure a consistently maintained lighting level over the lamp life across the entire shop. In addition, you will save the fixture components, ballast and starting elements from excessive wear and tear and keep repair costs down.
As we have seen, considering the type of lighting you are using is really worthwhile. It can lower costs and increase productivity and work quality considerably, so take the time to evaluate the lighting in your shop.
About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at email@example.com.