Field Testing an Important Step in Lighting Upgrade Process
Part 2 of a 3 part article on understanding facility needs and testing products for a lighting retrofit
Careful consideration of lighting-upgrade options and control strategies is generally sufficient for smaller upgrade projects where the risk of selecting a less-than-optimal system is relatively low. For larger-scale projects, such as upgrading the lighting in an entire office or classroom building, managers might need to conduct a more thorough investigation.
A particular lighting system might look great on paper, offering excellent energy savings potential, low maintenance, and high-quality light. But when it is installed, it comes up short. One of the best ways to avoid this disappointment is by conducting a field test of one or more of the systems being considered.
Field tests allow managers to evaluate the performance of a system before committing to a facilitywide installation. For all lighting-system components, manufacturers predict performance based on assumptions, including annual hours of operation, the number of hours the lamps operate per start, the temperature and humidity levels in the space, and the level of exposure of the light sources to dust and dirt.
But all of those assumptions are generic. Field tests allow managers to validate those assumptions in their particular application, and they allow managers to test the suitability of the system for the application in question. They also give maintenance personnel the opportunity to evaluate the level of maintenance required, as well as its difficulty. Equally important, they allow users to provide feedback on the suitability of the system to their needs.
Designing the test
A field test is not an overly complex or lengthy undertaking. Most last only a couple of weeks. Managers can start by developing a list of characteristics to validate, such as energy efficiency, low maintenance requirements, ease of maintenance, and high-quality light. The clearer the validation list, the better the test results.
Based on that list, identify the parameters the test will need to measure or record. For energy efficiency, a simple recording Watt meter is typically sufficient. Maintenance evaluation is more complex and will require that maintenance personnel test the difficulty of performing routine tasks, such as changing lamps, cleaning fixtures, and replacing ballasts or other electronic modules.
Feedback from occupants is important at this stage. Is the light output of the system too high, too low, or appropriate for the tasks being performed? Do the lighting controls interfere with operations? Does the installation need additional controls? Do the light sources produce glare that interferes with the tasks being performed? Since the color temperature of the light sources will change the appearance of objects within the space, is it appropriate for the operations?
Areas selected for the field test must represent all of the areas within a facility that will have their lighting system upgraded. This might mean installing the same test systems in several locations. For example, an office facility with large glass areas might require setting up a field test in both window and interior offices due to the potential impact that sunlight would have on test results.
Managers also can set up a separate room for each system being tested. Also, perform the same monitoring for one of the existing rooms that eventually will be upgraded. If a space is used regularly, such as a classroom or an office, it might be necessary to only collect data for a couple of weeks. But if the use is irregular, such as in a conference room, or if factors such as weather or the season could impact result, it might be necessary to collect data for a much longer period.