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Most people don’t ever think about lighting. It’s just there. You flip the switch and your lights burst forth with the necessary lumens to help you do your tasks.

Stop for a second and look up and around? How many lights and/or light fixtures do you see? What about the parking lot outside your office? How many parking lot pole lights and/or wallpack lights do you see? Are any of them unnecessary? Is it too dark in some places?

It is likely that an electrical engineer or an electrical contractor designed the lighting system you park your car under and the overhead lighting that you work under every day. Odds are that person was not trained or certified specifically in lighting, much less trained or certified in energy efficient lighting design. What’s wrong with electrical engineers and electrical contractors?

Nothing.

They are licensed professionals who are experts in their craft. They know electrical design, codes, requirements, and best practices. The problem is not in what they know….it’s in what they don’t know.

Take this picture for example. I snapped this photo at a high school in Middle Tennessee where I attended a regional basketball tournament with my family last week.

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What’s wrong with this picture?

There are LED wallpack light fixtures on the exterior wall, shining down on the sidewalk. Seems okay, right? Well, there are also about a dozen 75-watt metal halide uplights, mounted in concrete in the grass, shining up on the building wall. You’ve got lights shining on lights. Why?

The problem with this is that the wallpacks are 100% useless. They provide no utilitarian or design purpose. An electrical engineer or electrical contractor decided that the building needed wallpacks (because they all do, right?) and ordered that they be installed. No one ever stopped to think about whether or not they were needed.

Furthermore, the uplights–while useful to make the building look beautiful and attractive at night–are overkill. Had they been mounted a few feet further from the wall, they would need only about 1/3 of those lights. That’s a 1/3 less fixtures, 1/3 less junction boxes, 1/3 less concrete, and 1/3 less ongoing maintenance.

These professionals know electricity and they know a bit about lighting, but they are not trained to know about efficiency. On top of that, they don’t usually consider–or know how to consider–the ongoing maintenance costs or issues caused by the lights they specify. Like I said: it isn’t what they know that is the problem….it’s what they don’t know.

My beef isn’t with electrical engineers or electrical contractors–they’re just doing their job.

We love them because we partner with them every day to complete projects for our customers. But why do building owners, general contractors, and architects hire them to specify lighting when it is clearly not their area of expertise? My employees know how to wire buildings and run circuits. But we’re not licensed to do this; therefore, we’re not qualified to handle that responsibility even though we know how. We rely on our partner electrical engineers and electrical contractors to execute the part of the project they are experts in. Ocassionally, we get called to do an entire electrical design for a new building. We would never think of taking this responsibility on ourselves. We always reach out to our partners.

What’s wrong with electrical engineers and electrical contractors? Nothing.

The point is that good lighting design on the front end–design that pays attention to energy costs, maintenance costs, and light disbursement–can save thousands of dollars in construction costs, ongoing energy costs, and ongoing maintenance costs. The value of hiring a lighting contractor who is experienced in designing efficient lighting systems is worth every penny.

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