So I manage this parking garage with metal halide lighting, and another with sodium vapor lighting. Metal halide used to be the best you could get. More similar to daylight. But it has its drawbacks. Like sucking energy. I’ve been “lobbying” for about 7 years I think to make a change. Finally I annoyed people enough that the owners allowed a company to come in and, for free, put in four LED bulbs as a demonstration.
That in itself is a huge advance. You can now take an LED bulb and screw it into the same fixture you’re already using, whereas prior to the past year, you would have had to replace all the fixtures. About five times more expensive.
So the company put in these four bulbs. And they are not as bright, without question. However, the real question is whether or not they are sufficiently bright. If they are, and they reduce your electricity bill by 80%, I think I can live with it.
But what is the first thing that happens? One of my employees comes to work and says, “Why is it so dark in here?” I totally had to suppress my urge to laugh out loud. I said, “It isn’t dark, it just isn’t the same kind of light you’re used to.” She’s used to this blazing inferno of a halide light shining into the window of her work area. My assistant manager was even more succinct. “Get a desk lamp”, she said.
The same employee switched roles later in the day and went to another area of the office where she proclaimed, “It’s dark over here too!” “This is just wrong! I could barely see over here to begin with! Now I will have to wear my reading glasses all day! I used to be able to only put them on when I needed them!” I just didn’t comment. I am actually pretty good, I think, at being sensitive to employees’ working conditions. But in this case, silence was the better part of valor. Because if I had spoken at all, it would have been something sarcastic, like, that sounds like a personal problem. Maybe you need glasses more than you would like. Maybe you should get over yourself, since last time I checked, the world does not revolve around your needs. Now you see why I didn’t say anything. That said, I don’t blame her for expressing her discomfort. It isn’t her job to look at the big picture or take the long view. That’s my job. Sigh. It’s lonely at the top. Or close to the top. Three or four steps below the top. Or maybe five.
One of the other interesting things that happened was that my client (the person I report to), sort of the owner’s rep if you will, came to observe and had a conversation with the lighting guy, and he just kept throwing up obstacles as to why we couldn’t do this. Finally he said, without using that exact word, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that five years from now some new technology will come out and someone will ask me why I didn’t wait for it. If I were him, I’d be more worried about being asked why I didn’t take the opportunity to save 80% on my utility bill for the last five years, even if it wasn’t the perfect futuristic solution.
In the end, though, what probably fascinates me most is our perceptions, including our perception of light. One of the reasons the LED lights don’t appear as bright is that we’ve become accustomed to that blazing inferno produced by halide lights. The LED’s are more focused. They have no “backsplash” in which light is thrown onto the ceiling as well as the floor. Of course LED’s also produce almost no heat, a very good thing as far as my lightbulb-changing guy is concerned. He has another piece of the small picture.