We are wrapping up our series on selecting color temperature and color rendering index for your lighting. In this article, I’d like to give a little insight into how we think as lighting designers and what that means for you.
There’s no doubt that advancements in LED lighting over the past few years are staggering, as is the number of product options that have made their way to market. In fact, the very thing that makes LEDs so exciting to a lighting designer are also what makes things so difficult for us each time we specify a new product –– so many options.
We carry the weight of wanting to select the perfect lighting for our clients. The quality, light output, color, maintenance, cost, lead-time, and so many other factors have to be juggled to end up at the right choice. How do we navigate the choices and set our clients up for success?
Eenie meenie miney moe: Making the right lighting choice
Looking at a downlight with legacy lighting sources (incandescent, halogen, or fluorescent), my options were pretty limited and I knew what I was consistently getting from my lamp selection. I am now faced with a plethora of color temperatures, tunable white, RGB, five new CRI options, crisp white, saturated white, and the list goes on.
Read more: 'How do I choose between LED products?'
For me, the more options and flexibility a product has, the greater likelihood that I will want to specify the product.
Why? As a designer, I’ll have the most flexibility to make sure that the final product is tailored to my client’s specific needs. But is that always practical? That depends.
Here are a few considerations that will make choosing the right product for your application easier in the long run:
1. Consider the space.
The answer to which product is best depends on exactly what you are trying to light and what atmosphere you’re trying to create. One LED may do a good job of rendering in the red spectrum and would look great lighting a deep cherry wood. This same product, however, may do a terrible job of lighting blue jeans in a retail shop.
Tip: Write a list of the colors found in your space, walk your space, or consider the colors in your brand as you prepare to make a lighting decision.
2. Be specific about your priorities.
So many factors can influence the decision of which product is right for you. Take a few minutes to prioritize what you want to accomplish with your lighting. Here are a few guiding questions that you may want to consider:
- What's more important: long-term energy and maintenance cost or upfront budget?
- Who will maintain your lighting system?
- What is your upfront budget?
- How often will your space or products change?
- What's more important: color quality or light output/ efficiency?
3. Partner with reputable manufacturers.
With the myriad of lighting options available, it’s also important to work with a partner you can trust. Regency’s team will help you vet the manufacturers out there so you end up with a reliable, quality lighting system you can count on. Reputable manufacturers use quality chips and adhere to tight binning procedures, which is a great benefit if you’re looking for color consistency. Some manufacturers also offer modular fixtures that can be easily updated, changed, or replaced in the field to mitigate the risk of having to tear out an entire fixture if something goes bad or you want to upgrade.
Tip: You may be interested in our checklist guide: '9 questions to ask a lighting manufacturer.'
4. Ask about lead times up-front.
One of the most significant challenges with all of these options is the fact that nothing is standard and many products are made to order. More than ever, manufacturers are avoiding the guesswork of forecasting the demand for a specific color temp, CRI, beam spread, or finish combination, which has increased lead times considerably. I cannot count the number of times I’ve found the perfect product for the application but haven’t been able to use it because the product wasn’t "in stock" or ready to ship quickly.
Tip: Consider how important lead time is to you before you even get samples of a product.
Once you’ve addressed the above four items, you’ll have a much clearer path to selecting a product you’re happy with. With that said, remember that lighting is very subjective and each LED and LED luminaire has its own DNA.
So what’s the answer to getting the best lighting product for your application? Consult a lighting specialist and always mock it up. There’s no substitute for getting a few samples and installing them in your space with your furniture, your products, and your atmosphere.
Try not to get overwhelmed with the choices out there. Take decisions one at a time, and remember, we’re here to help!
Check out the rest of our series on lighting color:
- 'What is correlated color temperature and how do you choose it for your lighting?'
- How to choose Color Rendering Index (CRI): A practical guide
- Solving for color consistency in LED lighting