Jul 21, 2016

The Best Light Fixtures for Offices & Residential Spaces

A common question of clients considering a new build is whether or not the more expensive, “energy efficient” lighting fixtures are really worth the cost. Which would be considered the best light fixtures for your build – LED, incandescent, fluorescent? Does it all sound like Greek to you?! In this article, we will cover some of what you need to know about lighting fixtures & systems in a commercial or residential build, and how to get the best value for your dollar!


Energy Efficiency Regulations

If you are planning on a new commercial construction project, your primary concern with respect to lighting will be ensuring your project meets energy efficiency building code regulations. For many projects, this means trying to save energy wherever possible, and lighting is a great place to conserve some watts! Because of this, commercial buildings are typically looking at LED lighting fixtures, or fluorescent lighting. LED lighting has become the most popular option in recent years, as it is now available in a variety of colours, and is the most energy efficient option commonly available. LED fixtures come in amazing styles, and you can still get creative with your lighting design! Fluorescent tube lighting is your other option, great for lighting where advanced controls such as dimming are not required, and where keeping initial costs down is a priority.

If you are planning a residential build, your options are a bit more open. Older style incandescent light fixtures (what most of us think of when we think ‘light bulb’) are still available on the market, but are very close to being completely phased out. Fluorescent lighting in the form of CFL’s was the first to replace incandescent bulbs (or ‘lamps’ as the industry calls them), and are still a popular option. Retrofitted LED bulbs can also be used in incandescent light fixtures, which can help with energy efficiency. More information on the pros and cons of the different lamp types is below.

Types of Bulbs

Incandescent – The old style of light bulbs, with the coil in the middle! These bulbs are the least energy efficient, and have the shortest life span. However, they remain the cheapest option.

CFL (Compact Flourescent) – The spiral looking bulbs that are common options to replace old incandescent lights. They cost a bit more than incandescent bulbs, but can last 8-10 times as long. They use around 14 watts to replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb. There is some controversy over CFL bulbs because they contain mercury.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) – The newest energy efficient option, with the highest upfront cost. A standard LED bulb can cost $30 or more! They use the least energy, at around 10 watts to replace a 60 watt incandescent, and can last as much as five times as long as a CFL (40 – 50 times longer than an incandescent!) They were less popular when first brought on the market, as their colour options were limited, dimming was not possible, and the “spread” of the light was not as good. Recent innovations have solved these issues.

Fluorescent Tube Lighting – Standard lighting in many commercial spaces. Provides great overall light coverage, for a reasonable price. Newer T5 and T8 tube lights use about 40% less energy than the older T12 version. These tubes don’t play very nicely with dimmers or control systems however, and may tend to burn out sooner when frequently turned on and off. Fluorescent tubes also contain mercury.

LED Tube Lighting – Now available on the market is LED tube lighting to replace Fluorescent tubes. These lamps can use as much as 30% – 50% less power than a Fluorescent lamp, and will maintain even brightness throughout their life. They are also likely to last at least twice as long as fluorescent.

On to the important question – is the upfront cost of an LED worth it over the other options? The answer is overwhelmingly yes. Despite the larger initial price tag, your energy savings over the years will be substantial, and the longer life span of LEDs only adds to the cost comparison. If you want to read an estimated price comparison, visit this website for residential bulb pricing comparison. For commercial projects, this article provides more information and “pay back” time for tube lighting options.

Other Things to Consider: Natural Light

When planning your lighting, your electrical designer will likely be taking into account the natural light in your building. Using sensors & controls to detect the amount of natural light entering a building can help keep lights off when they aren’t needed, and on when they are. We should note, this is a task that LED lighting excels at. Fluorescent and incandescent lamps don’t do well with regularly being turned on and off, and it will likely shorten their life span. Research also shows that natural light is better for mood! Make sure to incorporate natural light into your lighting plan as much as possible.

Lighting Control Systems

Though you are less likely to see lighting control systems in the home than in the office, they can certainly be used anywhere. However, commercial buildings will need to have a lighting control system incorporated into their lighting design. A control system will detect motion, and ensure lights are off when the room is “empty.” As mentioned above, sensors and control systems can also detect the current level of natural light, and turn lights off when sensible. Your control system may also include dimmers & timers. All of these systems help with energy efficiency, and will make the lighting in your home or office much more dynamic than simply “on” or “off”!



We hope this article will give our clients some great information about choosing the best lighting fixtures for energy efficiency in their home or office! Not a client yet – give us a call or email us today! We’d love to quote on your commercial, multi-family, or custom home build.