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LED Lighting for Churches
Churches in the 1800s had state-of-the-art kerosene lamps, with tall chimneys and brass fonts to house oil. They had beautiful etched glass shades to diffuse their light and minimize glare as well. The lamps were raised and lowered for cleaning and refueling through spring systems.
With time, electric lighting took over. Some churches maintained their original glass fixtures, adapting them for electrical use. Today, some still use some of the old hooks used for the kerosene lamps.
With the rising costs of energy, churches all over the U.S. are faced with a lighting challenge very unique to them. Should they replace the cherished antiques with newer, energy efficient, and higher-quality lighting?
Church lighting and its need for an upgrade is a multifaceted problem. Needs that go beyond ordinary building lighting needs.
Challenges of Church Lighting
A church has unique architectural difficulties. Which include large open rooms with high ceilings. The lighting needs of the buildings are often artistic in form from the bulb, fixture shape, light distribution, and the height of the lights. These aspects impact the amount of light availed, and this is why most sanctuaries often appear under-lit.
The other issue is technical. Most church buildings are old by today's standards. Designed in an era before electrical wiring was a crucial consideration in building design. The electrical wiring can hardly cope with increased wattage, let alone extra bulbs.
With traditional bulbs, the solution to adequate church lighting is increasing the wattage or doubling the quantity. This not only causes skyrocketing energy bills but overloads the buildings’ electrical system. This leads to electrical instability that could cause various hazards.
Sanctuaries need lights that create captivating scenes, changing the entire ambiance of the space. The light required is not purely for lighting purposes but for mood setting and to change the atmosphere. The lighting in a church should not only provide dimension but depth. Also creating feelings of confidence and comfort.
A lighting solution that brightens the sanctuary
New light fixtures or retrofits that complement or match the décor in the church
Modern lighting solutions that are energy efficient and easy to maintain.
Considerations Picking Church Lighting
Illuminance of Tasks
A task area needs optimal lighting. Places of worship are no different. Optimal lighting in task areas should be the main criteria used when installing lighting. The light levels should allow for the tasks done in them safely and efficiently. Proper light levels also reduce eyestrain, enabling comfort during long hours of use.
Illuminance, measured in lux or foot candles (FC) is the amount of light falling on a given surface. One foot candle is the total amount of light that hits a 1-square-foot surface when light is shined on it from a foot away. 1 FC equals 10.8 lux.
Building standards use illuminance to ensure the minimum light levels are availed for specific environments. These regulations ensure that workspaces do not have the typical shortcomings of too much or too little lighting.
The sun's illuminance on a clear day is about 10000 lux. Indoors, areas closest to windows, which receive natural light, can hit 1000 lux. It's typical to find low levels of light in the middle of larger buildings. Necessitating the use of additional artificial lighting.
In church buildings, 20-30 foot candles of light are recommended for ease of reading. The light fixtures should also be evenly distributed to cut shadows and bright spots.
Plane of Task
Lights installed in a church, mosque or temple should give adequate lighting on a vertical and horizontal plane. Horizontal illuminance is the total amount of light that lands on the building's horizontal surfaces, such as the pews. The vertical illuminance is the amount of light that falls on vertical surfaces, such as the sanctuary's walls.
Vertical and horizontal illuminance is also measured in foot-candles or lux. The right illuminance on all planes prevents shadow formation. In churches, it is quite common for tasks to occur on both vertical and horizontal planes. Most churches tend to provide very low illuminance on the vertical plane. This is thanks to the narrow distribution of luminaires or an insufficient number.
Buildings with high ceilings have very sensitive lighting requirements. The horizontal plane's illumination levels may meet the required recommendations. While the vertical plane's levels are non-uniform and reduced.
Using broad light distribution luminaires can help solve this problem. But the spacing of the light fixtures may have to be reduced. When using traditional bulbs, reflectors are used to mitigate the imbalance of light. LED church lights have unidirectional light that moves in a single direction. Conventional bulbs are multidirectional, dispersing the light in all angles. Thus wasting much of it.
With LEDs, the light directed to a task area will be delivered to the area. But with multi-directional bulbs, much of that light hardly reaches the task area. Which is why they are often coupled with reflectors. Reflectors are still a crude way of redirecting light. They don't perform optimally, which means they may have to be coupled with higher wattage bulbs, resulting in increased energy usage.
Glare is a sensation of the eyes brought on by a light source's uncontrolled brightness. Glare can be very uncomfortable and disabling in higher quantities.
How to Reduce Glare
Glare can be reduced by the use of light diffusers for intense LED lights. These are features that cover the lens of the light fixtures to give off a softer beam of light without glare. Luminaires can also be installed in a way that they discharge some of the light upwards to diffuse it. Where possible, relocated to reduce glare and maintain proper light output.
Color affects how people feel or think, bringing on feelings of relaxation and calmness in a worship atmosphere when used right. The color temperature of a white light indicates its tint. But when it comes to light, there are many shades of white.
Warm white, for example, has a yellowish tint to it while cool white is a bluish kind of white. Daylight white lies between both whites and is the whitest light there is, comparable to the sun's light at midday.
The system used to indicate the tints of light is known as the correlated color temperature (CCT). Light does not have temperature. But the system compares light colors to the colors of a metallic item, for example iron, has when heated up.
Warm light colors invoke feelings of coziness and comfort. They are very common in the home environment and the hospitality business. Cool blue lighting is more common in industrial settings with high bay lights having color temperatures ranging between 4500-5000K. Higher color temperatures of above 6500K are often used in specialty applications like a jewelry display.
In the church interiors, warm light in the worship environment is preferred. Fluorescent lighting, for example, has cold lighting that evokes feelings of gloom.
Church buildings in cold areas also benefit from warm color lighting because they may be difficult to heat in cold weather. When they are illuminated by warm light sources (with a color temperature between 2700K-3000K), they look more cordial to the users. Lights with differing color temperatures can highlight specific areas within the church.
Solid state LED lights offer a high degree of finesse with light output. Not only do they have a perfect color rendering index (CRI), but the color temperature can be changed when required. The mix of sophisticated software and mixable LED modules is what makes tunable LED lights so beneficial to the church.