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Choosing the Right Fluorescent Ballast

Apr 04, 14 Choosing the Right Fluorescent Ballast

Unless you’re an electrician, it’s probably news to you that many fluorescent lights, such as those used in your kitchen or garage, require electrical devices called ballasts to operate. Ballasts supply the proper voltage to start and run the majority of fluorescent lights. Although typically connected by wires in-between the power source and the bulb, ballasts are sometimes included within the bulbs. This is often the case with compact fluorescents, but this rarely happens with fluorescent tubes.

If your fluorescent bulb doesn’t specify that it has a built-in ballast, chances are, you’ll need to purchase one separately. But with the wide array of options on the market, we understand how finding the right ballast can be a little confusing. That’s why we’ve updated our previous article on choosing fluorescent ballasts: to make this process even easier. The comprehensive information below will help you select the fluorescent ballast you need.

Five Factors to Consider

Lamp Type
Knowing the type of fluorescent light you will use with your ballast is a good start to your search. They can be generally divided as compact fluorescents or fluorescent tubes. When researching your fluorescent bulbs, pay attention to attributes that will help you narrow your options down. Bulb name (such as 2-pin, 4-pin, T8, T12, etc.), base type, and wattage are usually the most helpful information.

ANSI Code
When considering a ballast for your lamp, make sure they have corresponding ANSI (American National Standards Institute) codes. Matching ANSI codes guarantees that the ballast you chose can be used with your lamp. However, ballasts are often compatible with more than one lamp, and vice versa. Based on design and start method, certain ballast options may be preferable to others because they can help your lights operate more efficiently, have longer life spans, or use less energy.

Magnetic vs. Electronic Ballasts
Fluorescent ballasts can be either magnetic or electronic in design. Unless you are simply wanting to replace an older magnetic ballast, try to purchase lights that use a newer electronic ballast instead. Although simpler and cheaper, magnetic ballasts tend to flicker and hum, and they consume excessive amounts of energy to operate. On the other hand, electronic ballasts don’t flicker or hum, and they use modern, more energy efficient technology.

Start Methods
Because an initial current can be quite high, fluorescent ballasts are great for safely starting fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent ballasts have four main types of starting methods: Preheat Start, Rapid Start, Instant Start, and Programmed Start. The latter two (with the most current technology) are the most popular. Each start method has its advantages and drawbacks, as detailed in the following chart.

Preheat Start
(Magnetic Design Only)

Preheat Start ballasts require a starter (usually built-in) to establish the circuit through the ballast and pre-heat the lamp filaments. When the filaments have heated up, the ballast then provides a suitable voltage to the lamp. Several seconds may be required to complete the starting operation.

Rapid Start
(Magnetic or Electronic Design)

Rapid Start ballasts preheat filaments to the proper temperature before fully turning on the lamp. Usually, this is only a brief delay. This method diminishes the stress on the filaments from a strong, initial power surge, thereby extending lamp life.

Instant Start
(Electronic Only)

Instant Start ballasts turn lights on the moment you flip the switch. They provide the quickest, most energy-efficient lighting and are intended for areas with infrequent switching and “on” cycles of several hours, as the initial surge from turning on the lamps can damage them in the long run. These ballasts are ideal for offices, warehouses, and retail spaces.

Programmed Start
Same as Programmed Rapid Start
(Electronic only)

Programmed Start ballasts are the newest ballasts on the market, designed to reduce the energy used by rapid start ballasts as well as the damaging effects of instant start ballasts. These ballasts provide slower-starting, energy-efficient lighting that prolongs lamp life and performs well in frequently switched applications. These ballasts are ideal for hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms.


Ballast Factor and Light Output
Lastly, ballast factor is a measure of the total lumen output for a combined lamp-ballast system. By selecting a ballast with an ideal ballast factor, you can optimize the light output of your fluorescent lighting system and maximize your energy savings. To estimate your total system lumens, multiply the rated lumens of your lamp by the ballast. For example, 3200 lumens x 0.77 BF = 2464 total system lumens.

  • Low Ballast Factor (below 0.77)
    Lower energy usage and reduced light output. Ideal for hallways and bathrooms.
  • Normal Ballast Factor (0.77 to 1.1)
    Near rated energy usage and light output. Ideal for most applications, including offices and retail stores.
  • High Ballast Factor (above 1.1)
    Higher energy usage and up to 10% more light output. Ideal for warehouses and areas with high ceilings.

Do you have any questions for finding the right fluorescent ballast? Let us know in comments or give us a shout on FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Retail Lighting Basics: How to Enhance your Store

Mar 31, 14 Retail Lighting Basics: How to Enhance your Store

Have you ever wondered how much lighting affects a customer’s shopping experience? Well, studies have shown that it has a pretty big impact – more than you might even realize. Because it would be unthinkable to have a store full of products with no light to showcase them, lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when designing the layout of a store.

No two stores are the same and each have different lighting needs, but there are still basic principles and guidelines that should be kept in mind when creating a lighting scheme that will attract customers and keep them coming back for more. Below are a few tips for making the most of your retail space using light.

Color Correctness

Have you ever been inside a store and felt the need to bring a shirt, scarf, or whatever it may be, closer to a window in order to better see its true color? This is because natural daylight has a perfect color rendering index, or what we like to call 100 CRI. We’ve given an explanation of CRI in a previous post, but long story short: the higher the CRI, the more vibrant and true colors will appear to the human eye. When choosing lighting for a retail space, it’s a good idea to install lighting that has a very high CRI around 85 or more. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have a perfect CRI of 100, while LED and fluorescent lights are available in 80+ CRI.

Contrast and Focal Points

retailighting3According to the same aforementioned study, creating contrasts using light and dark areas should be a bigger area of focus the actual brightness of the store. By creating contrasts with lighting, depth is created and customers are better able to perceive the products. Focusing on contrast also gives you the opportunity to create different levels of attention between different products. Using track lighting or spot lights is an effective way to create contrasts and designate focal points. As display windows are usually the customer’s first impression of store, contrasts and focal points are especially important in this area. According to the Museum Store Association, a good rule of thumb is to make these pin-pointed, spot-lit areas three times brighter than the surrounding ambient light.

Create Ambiance

Knowing what kind of atmosphere you want to create in your store is crucial and lighting can help you achieve it. According to a two-part study conducted by Zumtobel, along with the Royal Institute of Technology and Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, the color temperature of light is able to influence the way customers feel about a space. It was found that cool white color temperatures (3500K to 5000K) create a sense of spaciousness, while warm white color temperatures (2700K to 3000K) convey a sense of familiarity and smallness. The color temperature of light you choose is all dependent on the type of atmosphere you want to create.

retaillighting3Well-Lit Shelving

If you’re going to display items inside shelves and cabinets, the interior of your displays should be well-lit. Speaking from personal experience, there are few things more frustrating than digging through a pile of folded shirts on a shelf to find the right size only to realize you can barely see the tag anyways. Using LED tape light hidden within extrusions is a great way to light smaller shelves discretely. The Zumtobel study found that a combination of wide-area backlighting and accent lighting makes the presented items appear to be more attractive and merchandise identification much easier.  

UV Rays and Heat

Something else to take into consideration when you are choosing the type of lighting to use and where to use it is what effect it could potentially have on your products. Using lamps that emit high heat could potentially damage and discolor fabrics and other materials if they are exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) rays  and heat for an extended period of time. LED lighting does not emit UV rays or a noticeable amount of heat, making it a smart option in areas where lights are shone on products constantly.

 

Are there any questions about retail lighting that you would like us to answer? Feel free to leave us a comment below, or give us a shout on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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An Explanation of CRI

Mar 28, 14 An Explanation of CRI

When you’re shopping for light bulbs, what are some of things you look for? The number of watts the bulb consumes? The initial lumen output? Most certainly the life hours, right? Well it’s time to add another one to the list: CRI. Never heard of it? Don’t fret; we’ll break it down for you!

What is CRI?

For starters, CRI stands for color rendering index, and it measures the effect a bulb has on the perceived color of objects. Simply put, CRI measures how well a bulb replicates the sun, which has a perfect CRI of 100. Underneath a CRI of 100, colors look exactly like they should: bold, vibrant, striking.

The great thing about CRI is that it’s easy to understand: the higher the CRI, the better colors will look. The lower the CRI, the worse colors will look. A bulb with a CRI of 80 or above is good, and a bulb with a CRI of 90 and above is very good. A CRI below 80 isn’t that all that great, and will make colors look yellow, washed out, and can even change the hue of objects.  For example, the lights you see in highway fixtures have a very low CRI, which is a very yellow light which leads to a bad CRI. Subsequently making colors tougher to differentiate.

Choosing the Right CRI

6421218149_cf3dc85106_zWhen it comes to residential lighting, you don’t really need bulbs with a very high CRI, especially in places like the living room or the kitchen (bathrooms, vanities, and closets are different since bulbs with a CRI are highly recommended in these areas) since these places mainly just utilize task lighting. For example, if you use BR40 lamps in your recessed lighting fixtures in your living room or kitchen, these bulbs typically have a CRI of around 80, with some bulbs peaking at 85.

9035006096_770e84628a_zHowever, if you’re displaying family portraits, art, or sports memorabilia, then bulbs with a high CRI, such as this Soraa LED MR16, would make these look even better; the colors would look more stunning and bold. The high CRI of these LEDs create brighter brights and whiter whites, while colors become more vibrant. Places where objects are on display, like art galleries, museums, or jewelry stores, will use bulbs with a very high CRI. You can learn more about Soraa’s LED’s in one of our previous blog posts. http://blog.1000bulbs.com/soraa-led-mr16s-changing-the-face-of-lighting/

So, when is CRI not really an important factor? While that’s purely up to you, you can skate by with low CRI bulbs in places like garages or outdoor lighting. Since there’s not a lot of aesthetic appeal in these areas, whether or not your cherry red Craftsman toolbox looks like Ferrari red doesn’t matter all that much.

Where do you use your bulbs with a high CRI? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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Introduction to Outdoor Lighting

Mar 26, 14 Introduction to Outdoor Lighting

As most of us are unlikely to be out in our yards enjoying a glass of cool, fresh lemonade in 50-degree weather, it is easy to forget about our outdoor lighting during the cooler months of the year. However, with the warmer weather just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you will be illuminating your yard. Here are some basic considerations everyone should keep in mind for lighting their outdoor areas year-round.

Choosing Outdoor Lights

Outdoor/Wet Location Approved
Before selecting an outdoor bulb or light fixture, always make sure the product says it’s suitable for outdoor or wet locations (such as any item in our landscape section). If a product is suitable for outdoor locations, then it’s also suitable for wet locations, and vice versa. Unapproved products may become damaged or otherwise hazardous if sprinklers, pool water, rain, or other damp conditions come in contact with their electrical components. If you’re not sure, you can always try contacting the manufacturer to double check. Sometimes a product will say it’s ULETL, or CSA listed for these locations. These are all acronyms for safety organizations that verify products’ operating capabilities in certain locations, including indoor/outdoor, dry, damp, and wet places.

Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage
While perusing potential outdoor lights, you may have noticed many products are offered in either line voltage or low voltage options. But what exactly does this mean?

  • Intermatic Low Voltage Transformer

    Intermatic Low Voltage Transformer

    Line voltage lights run using the standard voltage that powers most appliances and bulbs in your home – usually 120 volts. This includes table lamps, ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, and more.

  • Low voltage lights require a transformer to bring down their voltage supply to 12 or 24 volts. Common low voltage bulbs include miniature bi-pin bulbs found in landscape lighting and MR16s found in indoor track lighting as well as outdoor fixtures. The primary advantage to using low voltage lights is that they are safer to use; a 12- or 24-volt shock won’t do half as much harm as a 120-volt shock. Also, if you’re buying a fixture that uses an MR16, you will have plenty of options for controlling your lights’ beam spread.

Common Outdoor Lights

Security/Motion Sensing Lights
RAB-STL200HSecurity lighting should be top priority as homes possess multiple points of entry for potential intruders. Of course, you should always keep your doors locked, but wouldn’t it be better to ward off unwanted visitors before they get too close for comfort? These 200-degree motion-activated security lights can provide great coverage for your front, back, or side lawn.

Path Lights
AP-112B-LED-T3-4Many homes have pathways or sidewalks leading up to the front entrance or around their backyard. Whether you’re using them to welcome guests to your home or guide them through your yard, low-to-the-ground path lights will create a warm, inviting ambiance in either location. We offer options in many colors and shades to match whatever theme or color scheme you may have.

Step Lights
TROY-RD1115BNAZSteps are easily the most accident-prone areas in the front or backyard, especially since their presence can come as a surprise in the dark. But with proper illumination, you can greatly reduce this hazard. Step lights will illuminate each step in a stairwell or elevated path, drawing guests’ eyes to the floor and ensuring that these spaces remain accident-free.

 

Can you think of any outdoor lighting essentials we missed? Have any questions? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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