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06/19/13 Workplace Lighting: Illuminance and Lux

Article- June 2013 By Larson Electronics.com

 LED High Bay Light Fixture

Larson Electronics 300 Watt LED High Bay Light Fixture


 Lighting in the industrial workspace has a profound effect on every process in the work area. Accuracy, coordination, alertness, efficiency, safety, and more are all to one extent or another dependent upon proper illumination and can be adversely affected when the quality and amount of lighting available does not meet minimum requirements. For most buildings, lighting layout and design is determined during the building’s planning and design stage. This is usually effective for providing basic illumination, but is generally inadequate when it comes to providing the optimal illumination needed for a fully equipped workspace.

Once a building, be it an office, warehouse, or manufacturing facility, is fully finished and equipped, general overhead and wall mounted lighting cannot provide the proper amount or quality of light directly to the work surfaces. Walls and partition additions, and equipment installation and layout changes affect how well lighting is dispersed, and in order to correctly illuminate different areas it becomes necessary to install dedicated fixtures geared towards providing supplemental illumination capable of directly illuminating a particular workspace.


The amount and quality of illumination needed for a specific location depends in large part upon the type of work being performed. Lighting levels for a general office space will differ from those needed in a manufacturing area, as will the levels needed for warehouses or locations where close work such as electronics and design testing are performed. The basic measure of lighting levels is noted as Illuminance and is measured in foot candles.  A foot candle is equal to one lumen of light density per square foot, and one lux is equal to one lumen of light density per square meter. In essence, this is the amount of light actually measured at a targeted surface. This is why you will sometimes see the light output of a particular lamp noted as producing 5 lumens at 8 feet, or 8 lux at 3 meters for example. This is a more effective way to measure illumination in the workplace since it is not really the total lumens a lamp puts out that determines how effectively it will illuminate a task area, but rather how many lumens actually reach the task surface.



For different tasks and types of locations there are different recommended levels of illuminance. This is usually directly related to the complexity and detail of the work being performed. Additionally, it is also important to include color quality of lighting as well when considering effectively illuminating a particular task area. Different types of lamps can produce light with different color qualities. For example, a typical incandescent lamp produces more of its light in the orange/yellow portion of the light spectrum.

Although most of us are quite accustomed to the traditional incandescent bulb and consider it to be a source of “white” light, the truth is that this light is more yellowish in actual color. This color quality of the light in question can have a significant effect on how we perceive the object it is illuminating. For a more extreme example, consider those large parking lots where you see the high or low pressure sodium lamps in use. These lamps produce light that is very reddish/orange in color, and as a result, when you look at the many cars in the lot, their paint colors appear very muted and oftentimes difficult to differentiate. A blue car can appear almost black under these lights, and a white car may appear light red for example. So, you can just imagine how hard it would be to work with electronics and wiring under the light from a low pressure sodium lamp; yellow wires would look orange, white wires might appear red, and color coded circuits and connectors would become an indecipherable mess!


For most general applications there is a recommended level of illuminance. General illumination, such as walkways or open spaces require only the minimum illumination, while areas where detail oriented tasks are performed can require very high illuminance levels. For example, a parking lot might require only 20 to 50 lux since it is only necessary to be able to navigate while walking to a vehicle. In a technological manufacturing setting however, lux levels as high as 1000 to 2000 lux can be necessary.

 
Below are some basic recommended lux levels for various locations or types of tasks provided by the Illuminating Engineering Society. Keep in mind these are general guidelines and not official recommendations such as those provided by regulatory bodies such as OSHA. For more stringent guidelines and regulatory compliance you should consult with your local agency tasked with providing such information.


IES ILLUMINANCE CATEGORIES and VALUES - for GENERIC INDOOR ACTIVITIES

ACTIVITY                       CATEGORY     LUX           FOOTCANDLES
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Public spaces with dark           A       20-30-50          2-3-5  
surroundings 
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Simple orientation for short      B       50-75-100        5-7.5-10
temporary visits                  
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Working spaces where visual       C      100-150-200       10-15-20
tasks are only occasionally
performed
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of visual tasks of    D      200-300-500       20-30-50
high contrast or large size
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of visual tasks of    E      500-750-1000      50-75-100
medium contrast or small size
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of visual tasks of    F     1000-1500-2000    100-150-200
low contrast or very sm size
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of visual tasks of    G     2000-3000-5000    200-300-500
low contrast or very sm size
over a prolonged period
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of very prolonged     H     5000-7500-10000   500-750-1000
and exacting visual tasks     
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Performance of very special       I   10000-15000-20000 1000-1500-2000
visual tasks of extremely low
contrast       
----------------------------------------------------------------------
A-C for illuminances over a large area (ie lobby space)
D-F for localized tasks
G-I for extremely difficult visual tasks


When considering adding illumination or improving existing lighting systems it is a good idea to include the location and type of work that will be performed into your assessments. Poor lighting can slow worker performance, increase error rates, lower worker stamina and endurance, and even adversely affect the overall safety of a given location or task. Although factors such as color quality and lamp color temperature also affect the effectiveness of a given lighting system, unless there is adequate illuminance at the work surface, lighting will not reach its fullest potential.





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