See-Ability...The Ultimate Test For Any Lighting System

September 01, 2016

See-ability...the ultimate test for any lighting system. Does the lighting create an environment in which one can comfortably see? This sounds easy. But it is not as simple as it sounds. As we age, our requirements for providing adequate light shift. The aging eye typically requires increasingly more light. An eye at sixty years of age can require twenty times as much light to see with equal clarity. Knowing this allows the lighting designer to develop a plan that allows for the evolving needs.

Lighting that was adequate at twenty (the seer’s age) becomes intolerable at fifty and sixty. So how can an individual upgrade the lighting in their primary work and/or living spaces? First, explore the effects of different types of light. Warm incandescence is beautiful, cozy, inviting light, which coincidently, makes seeing difficult for many people. The problem is the reduced contrast that warmer sources provide. As the Kelvin temperature rises (K temperature is a gauge of a light source’s apparent color) into cooler K temperatures, contrast improves. Contrast is what allows us to see printed matter easily and clearly. Often, older consumers who have trouble achieving enough light from their reading lamp discover that changing the color of the light can help provide the increased see-ability they are seeking. Changing from a light bulb with a Kelvin Temperature of 2800-3000 to one of 4100-5000 degrees Kelvin can mean the difference in being able to read or not. Go to your favorite lighting store and experiment. Ask to see sources of varying Kelvin temperatures. Sit in a chair and see how the light hits printed matter. Which source works better for you? Incandescent? Fluorescent? LED? There is not a one size fits all solution. Different eyes and different brains process light in very different ways. Some are neurologically sensitive to the cycling of fluorescent light, which flashes on and off many times per second. Others are totally unaware of the fluorescent cycling, and seem very comfortable working with it. Some find the increased contrast of cooler sources necessary, while some find it glaring and difficult to use when reading.

Explore. Play with different sources that are available to you. Try them out at home. If one doesn’t suit you, great….do not get it again. But find someone you trust to help you find different sources and experiment. Have fun with the process. But beware bulbs that are a big bargain. Sometimes they are great bulbs, sometimes they are inferior. Spending a little more for reliable performance can actually be a better deal.