When the Crave brothers of Waterloo, Wisconsin, built their shop in 2008, their options for shop lighting seemed endless. The one thing the four brothers knew was that they wanted lighting that was energy efficient. “Our biggest goal was to limit electrical use,” says Tom Crave.
According to Greg Brenneman, Iowa State University ag engineering specialist, the Craves were halfway there when it came to what they needed to know as they looked at lighting.
“Farmers should consider two general questions,” Brenneman says. “First, how much lighting is needed for the task? General office and shop work may only require about 50 foot-candles, but detailed benchwork or specific office deskwork may require 100 foot-candles. General machinery storage only requires 3 to 5 foot-candles of illumination.”
The second question is how much light are you getting for the electricity used? “Significant energy savings are possible when using some of the newer fluorescent or high-intensity discharge lamps in areas where lighting is frequently used,” Brenneman notes.
Bulb of preference
For years, the preferred choices for lighting a farm shop were high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, such as metal halides or high-pressure sodium lamps, and T12 fluorescents. Each has its pros and cons.
Metal halides are available in a pulse-start or standard version. Typically, pulse-start is more efficient and has 50% more lamp life than the standard version.
High-pressure sodium vapors are more efficient than metal halides. They also work well in cold weather and are usually used for outside lighting.
HID fixtures produce intense light in small areas, which may be seen as a negative. They require a few minutes to warm up to reach their full light output.
Fluorescent lamps, on the other hand, emit diffused light, which has made them a popular choice for spaces with ceilings less than 15 feet high.
As lighting technology has advanced, a more intense and efficient fluorescent lamp, coupled with specially designed reflecting fixtures, has allowed fluorescents to break through ceiling-height barriers and become a direct competitor with HID lamps.
“As the T5s and T8s have gotten better, they've become more popular,” says Eric Howlett, vice president of Midwest Electric L.L.C., Johnson Creek, Wisconsin.
Types of Lighting
Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lights (CCFL)
These lights last two to three times longer than compact fluorescent lights (CFL), will start at lower temperatures, are compatible with many types of dimmers, and can be turned on and off frequently without significantly shortening bulb life. However, they are more expensive and are a bit less energy-efficient than CFLs.
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)
CFLs can replace incandescent bulbs, as they don't require any wiring changes. Typically, they use 75% less energy than incandescents and can last 10 times longer. However, they won't operate below 0°, and they reach full light output after about a minute. Best suited in areas where lights stay on for extended periods of time.