Despite some of their current shortcomings, we are all enamored with the hope and promise of LEDs. When we begin a design session with a client these days, it’s a matter of minutes until someone asks “can we use LEDs for that?!” We respond with the usual overview that there are some very good LED products on the market now, but there are also a lot of poorly-made products, snake-oil sales claims, and companies without a proven track record. In essence, “proceed with caution” is our approach.
One of the things that has bothered me most about LED fixtures is their visual color temperature. The products that I have seen and tested give off a light that is too cool for my preference. But, the world is changing and perhaps my perspective is starting to change a bit too. The following is A Tale of Two Task Lights: a Recently Acquired Fixture and the Lessons Learned.
Good tales often begin with a historic perspective, and so shall this one. Throughout the ages, people have associated low-level lighting with the warmth of firelight or of a candle. I confess that I love the warmer color temperature of a halogen task light. My desk lamps and even the under-cabinet lighting in my kitchen have always been halogen.
The indirect fluorescent lighting that I also have in the kitchen provides a very energy-efficient and comfortable ambient light level in the evenings, but the color does not deliver the same warm glow as the halogen. When the under-cabinet halogen lights are dimmed, they get even warmer and more ‘buttery’. I have yet to achieve that same warm, low light level with LED, compact fluorescent, or linear fluorescent products.
From among the outpouring of new LED products, I purchased my first LED task light this year. I did this to begin to wean myself off of my halogen diet, or at least to try in good faith to live with this new technology. Perhaps it also relates to the overall picture of striving to live healthier and in a more sustainable way. I suppose a parallel could be made with eating healthier – using less butter and more olive oil, for example. Yes, I started to compost as well.
I put my 50-watt, 2850K halogen task light into storage, and began to use my sleek new 9-watt LED desk fixture. The color temperature is specified at 3000K. For the first month or two I had a knee-jerk negative reaction whenever I turned it on. Too cool – as in temperature, not hip factor. I missed that warm buttery glow. However, over the course of a few months, I am beginning to grow accustomed to its cooler cast. The fixture has excellent glare control and the output is comfortable. If the fixture produced glare, or was either too dim or too bright, those factors would have certainly biased me against the LED task light. But I couldn’t find fault with it in those areas.
It has been about six months and I am now acclimated to the light quality of my new task light. I enjoy using it and the color temperature has sort of grown on me. Does making healthy choices involve accommodation and adjusting our standards, or is it the retooling our thinking and attitudes, which open us up to new options?
I believe that, as LEDs become more widespread in offices and homes, retail, street lighting, parking garages, etc. in the next few years, their shortcomings – particularly in the area of color temperature and glare control – will cause a backlash among users. The marvels and mysteries of LEDs as the great hope for our future will be tarnished by products that don’t live up to their promises and our expectations. While I do believe that the industry will have to deal with these shortcomings, what I have learned is that people are surprisingly adaptable to new technologies.
The visual issues that manufacturer’s have been dealing with – glare, multiple shadowing, effective dimming, cooler color temperature, and that strong desire for warmer color temperatures when dimmed – will get worked out over time as we grow accustomed to a new light.
Photo Credits: Schani (1), Lam Partners (2, 3)