Keeping up appearances

Saving energy in schools doesn’t have to mean a drop in light quality, say Colin Lawson from Tamlite Lighting

Due to their long lifespans and potential for energy savings, LEDs are gaining popularity in the education sector. Yet too often schools are finding that LEDs mean compromising on light quality. However, it is possible to maintain quality of light while also taking advantage of LED technology, but only if you bear in mind a few golden rules. 

1 Consider the ‘temperature’ of the lights

Warmth doesn’t just come from the radiators – lighting also has a temperature. This temperature level can drastically affect how a classroom feels. A light that’s on the blue end of the spectrum inevitably feels cold. And a warm, yellow light creates a different ambience to one with a cool, white ‘daylight’ feel.

Look carefully at an LED product’s colour temperature level, which is measured in Kelvin (K). The most popular level, in use for decades, is 3500-4000 Kelvin, which creates a comfortable warm-white colour appearance. LEDs with a higher, colder temperature level may still be appropriate – but only in non-teaching spaces like corridors or toilets. 

2 Beware the glare

Part of the reason LEDs have such potential for energy saving is that they are able to generate a huge amount of light from a source the diameter of a pencil lead. However, this makes them especially prone to creating glare, which can lead to tiredness and headaches, as well as making reading more difficult.

Look for products that have been designed with glare control in mind. This means obstructing the direct view of the LED or using an optic to spread the light over a larger area. However, be aware that glare control reduces an LED’s efficiency, so the energy savings on offer from low-glare products are likely to be lower. 

3 Keep your colours natural

In daylight, you see colours as they really are, but under artificial light, these colours are often distorted. This is due to a poor colour rendering index (CRI). Low-quality LEDs are especially likely to render colours poorly and, under this type of light, some colours will look distorted or muddy – hardly an enhancement to the teaching experience!

CRI is measured on a scale from 1-100. Bear in mind when considering LED options that the minimum acceptable CRI is 85 where people are present for long periods of time. 

4 Stress test your supplier

Remember that not all LEDs are created equal. In this new and rapidly-evolving arena, there remains a lot of confusion surrounding the performance of LEDs. And, unfortunately, some disreputable suppliers may exploit this confusion. This makes it extremely important to demand credible figures to back up any claims made by your LED supplier. 

5 Consider all options

The fact is: there are many new, LED-only companies in the market. Naturally, these companies have a vested interest in selling LEDs, rather than the best lighting solution. Although LED gets all the attention, there are other forms of energy-efficient lighting – notably, new-generation fluorescents – that can often provide better light quality at a similar energy-saving rate to LED.

Above all, don’t get blinded by the hype about LED. Ask the tough questions and dig deep into issues like glare, colour rendering and colour temperature. This is why Tamlite has launched the ‘infinity’ mark of assurance. This mark features on the products within Tamlite’s LED range that meet specific high performance standards for efficiency, life, colour rendering, colour temperature and testing. It has been developed to help customers to differentiate ‘performance’ products from lower-specification LED products. 

Remember: energy savings are important, but they’re not more important than creating a comfortable space that helps children to learn.

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