An Electrician’s Guide to Lighting

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When it comes to being an electrician, having the right tools for the job is imperative. But having the right tools requires a thorough understanding of the job and what it entails. The same is true when it comes to commercial and residential lighting projects. Knowing the different types of lighting and the benefits and detriments of each can help you make educated decisions.


Types of Lighting


Incandescent lighting is one of the oldest forms of lighting technology and works by incandescence, which is the production of light caused by heating the filament. These lights are most often used in residential applications and are traditionally valued more for their aesthetics than efficiency. Commercially, incandescent lights are used because they are widely available and have a low upfront cost. These lights also produce a light that is similar in color and brightness to sunlight, which makes them popular, despite their short lifespan and inefficiency.

Verdict: While they have a highly-desirable light color, incandescent lamps are significantly less energy efficient than other lighting sources, and thus undesirable for most projects. With recent advances in technology, there are considerably more cost-efficient options that provide comparable color.



Halogen lamps produce a very bright, white light and are commonly used commercially in outdoor applications such as sports arenas and stadiums. They use a filament that’s heated to the point of glowing, much like incandescent bulbs, but are twice as efficient, providing more light per watt and having a longer life. Halogen bulbs are available in two types: line voltage (120 watt) and low voltage (12 volt). The low voltage versions are also used commercially and can be seen in retail stores as display lighting or spotlights.

Verdict: More efficient than incandescent lights, halogen lights are a suitable and cost-effective option for outdoor and indoor projects that require an abundance of bright, white light.


High-Intensity Discharge (HID)


HID lighting is commonly used in larger spaces such as warehouses and commercial buildings due to their production of large quantities of very bright light. They produce light when an arc passes between cathodes in a pressurized tube, causing metallic additives — sodium or mercury — to vaporize and conduct electricity. While high-pressure HIDs are moderately inefficient, newer low-pressure sodium versions are similar to fluorescent lights in regard to energy consumption.

Verdict: While they do not always produce a pleasing light color, HIDs can be exceptionally energy efficient and are perfect for industrial spaces such as warehouses. In residential settings, HIDs are often used for outdoor security and area lighting.


Light Emitting Diode (LED)


The most efficient lighting method, LEDs produce light by way of an electrical current passing through a semiconductor material to illuminate the tiny light-emitting diodes. Due to their size, several LEDs are sometimes combined to produce a single light bulb. The heat produced by these diodes is then absorbed into a heat sink, keeping the bulbs cool to the touch and adding to the savings and safety.

Verdict: LEDs have a lower wattage than incandescent bulbs, but emit the same light output. They last up to 20 years, can save as much as 86% in energy costs, and are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and wattages, making them ideal for nearly any commercial, industrial, or residential project.




Fluorescent lights are filled with mercury vapor that emits viable UV light when electricity is applied, and are one of the most common types of light used in commercial settings. Most offices and hospitals utilize fluorescent lights as they have a comparable lumen rating and use roughly 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs while lasting 20 times longer.

Verdict: Fluorescent lights are among the most energy-efficient and longest-lasting options available to commercial users. They are ideal for projects where value, efficiency, and brightness are important – often times at a lower upfront cost than LED, but not as efficient for longterm ROI.


Compact Fluorescent (CFL)

Compact fluorescent lighting is based on traditional fluorescent technology, but relies on a shorter internal ballast like traditional incandescent bulbs, allowing users to install them in a wide variety of fixtures. They provide the same energy efficiency as conventional fluorescent fixtures, but often produce a more natural, white lighting, making them more desirable for residential applications.

Verdict: Along with LEDs, CFLs are the most energy efficient lighting options for residential needs. They provide a natural, white light ideal for a multitude of task and ambience lighting, but with advancements in technology, the upfront of cost of LED is lowered to such a point where it makes little sense to choose CFL over its more efficient counter-part, LED. It is however, a more suitable choice than incandescents.


With an understanding of the types of lights and their benefits, you can begin to make educated decisions about the types of light to recommend and utilize in commercial and residential spaces.


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