Inspire Your House Lighting

Inspire Your House Lighting

With the release of the Chroma-Q Inspire, let's take this opportunity to delve into the world of LED for house lighting and have a look at the issues that using the wrong LED source may throw up and how choosing the right LED houselights will vastly improve your venue and line your back pocket.

House lighting is the unsung hero or the poorer cousin of venue lighting that we all take for granted, that is until it doesn't work. For many years, our trusty tungsten lamps, namely in this country the Par 38, have given us the consistent coverage and lux on the audience that we required. They aren't pretty but they do the job. However we all know the downside of these lamps, constant bulb changes in extremely awkward places, large power draw and cheaply designed fittings that have a tendency to disintegrate.

For these reasons and with the emergence of LED technology we have been searching for a workhorse alternative to these fittings. However it isn't that easy, when I mentioned we take house lights for granted I was referring to the fact that we take the consistent coverage and reliability of the tungsten fitting for granted and when we move to LED we need to consider this. We need to factor in all of the usual LED suspects - output, colour rendering, dimming, colour consistency and reliability. Not only do these factors affect the fitting's aesthetic performance but when we start talking houselights we are entering the world of Workplace Health and Safety where we all know that consistency and reliability is key.

All this aside, if we choose the right fitting we can get some great advantages and improvements including cost savings (electricity and labour) and the ability to colour mix and use the house lights not just as a means of illumination but as an integral part of the performance.

"Change to LED and you will save a fortune in electricity costs", this a familiar line by many an LED fixture salesman but this is only partially true - it is important to be very realistic and thorough when preparing a cost to benefit analysis on the transition to LED houselights. We need to look at the whole picture - including the draw of the old fittings, the burn time and also the previous costing on labour then we need to factor this against the initial cost of the new fitting. It is when we factor in all of these rewards that we start to see the realistic economical/fiscal advantage of LED house lighting.

So why isn't power my biggest saving? It can be, it really depends on the application and the specific circumstances of your venue, there is no one size fits all answer. As I said previously the amount of electricity saved when changing to LED relies on two factors, the power draw of the new fittings vs. the power draw of the old fittings and the burn time (i.e. how many hours do you use these fittings), air conditioning and heat load is a factor but for the purposes of this discussion we will just use the raw power costs we can quantify easily.

As for power draw, it is fairly obvious that as the difference between the draw of the new fittings vs. the old fittings increases the savings in electricity costs also increase. The same goes for burn time, the more you use the fittings the more savings you start to see. Both burn time and power draw work hand in hand to give you more money back in your pocket (or take it out).

A note about burn time: it is a common misconception that house lights don't get much use in a venue i.e. only turned on for the hour before a show and the 25 minutes after per day. But any of us that have done extensive venue work know that in most venues house lighting and work lights are one in the same, therefore they get plenty of work in a day. The cleaners come in and turn them on at 4:30am and they don't get turned off until show time at 8pm that night. They can get a good 10 hours a day.

Let's do a bit of a quantitative analysis:

A venue is replacing 60 x 250w Incandescent houselights with 110w Chroma-Q Inspire fittings. They run a typical week of shows with a burn time of about 8-10 hours a day. The results you can see below.

Jands LED Cost Savings Graph 

You can see from this example analysis that the power savings over 6 years use you will save upwards of $40,000 in electricity costs at 21c kw/hr (keep in mind this is an example and shouldn't be used as gospel). You start to save a lot of money even with a 150w difference in power draw between fixtures.

The other cost saving to think about is labour costs. Every incandescent house light has a bulb and at some stage within a couple of hundred hours this bulb will need to be changed and someone will need to change it, which you will have to pay. We all know that these lamps are rarely put in easily accessed locations so the time it takes to change even a few of these lamps can be astronomical. For example: Take the 60 fixtures from the previous example, it probably isn't unreasonable to have one staff member on a 4 hour call each week to change house light globes, at $25 an hour this will end up at around $5,000 per year. So over 6 years you are looking at $30,000.

When you add labour cost to electricity costs you can save anywhere near $70,000 over 6 years, this is where the investment in LED starts to really stack up.

Colour rendering is an important factor to consider when choosing an LED house light. Imagine having a program written in red ink, that none of the audience can read preshow because the house lights don't have enough red spectrum in their output. Or even more worrying, imagine missing a step on a seating bank because the poor colour rendering of the house light made the edge of the step invisible (litigation anyone?). You can see from these examples, that a full colour spectrum is very important for a house light (again something we have taken for granted with incandescent fixtures), therefore you must choose a quality LED house light fixture with a high CRI and adjustable colour/colour temperature. The Chroma-Q Inspire has an extremely high CRI of over 90 and because it is an RGBW fixture you have the ability to adjust the individual LED colours to balance the colour temperature and the spectrum across the seating bank.

Another important factor to consider is chromatic shadow. Chromatic shadowing being the effect when LED's in a fixture aren't properly homogenized and you are left with multi coloured shadowing from objects. Not only does this not look good, it is also a workplace health and safety issue for an audience, imagine walking up a set of stairs and missing a step because the chromatic shadow confused the edge of the step (these lawsuits are starting to add up). Therefore it is important to choose a fixture like the Inspire that has a fully homogenized output and no chromatic shadowing.

A fantastic advantage you gain by going with an LED house light such as the Chroma-Q Inspire, is that you have the ability to vary the colour across the audience area. Using the installed house lights and no extra rigging you can create a mood across an audience or theme a function space for a client, and you can save your theatrical fixtures for the talent. The Inspire has an RGBW engine so allows for full mixing of millions of colours in many different modes, such as direct RGBW and HSI.

As I mentioned previously, when we venture into the world of replacement house lighting we have to seriously consider the ramifications for Workplace Health and Safety. I have previously mentioned colour rendering which is a very real problem that you will have to contend with on bad quality LED fixtures that haven't been designed well. Drops in colour spectrum can cause confusion and render previously effective safety tools such as coloured markers on the edge of steps unrecognisable and therefore unsafe. This can leave you open for litigation and no one in our industry wants to open that can of worms.

The other thing to seriously consider is luminance levels on audience areas. Although there are no definitive regulations on luminance for audience areas there are minimum recommended lux values. For an auditorium church or public hall the minimum recommended lux level is 200lux. Therefore you need to provide a high output LED fixture that is capable of this output whilst still keeping its power consumption low enough to provide the savings benefit to justify the outlay. This is where the Chroma-Q Inspire really excels, drawing only 110w the Inspire punches out over 4000 lumens of output, this allows over 200 lux @ 6m, plenty of illumination for an audience area. The other factor to take into account is consistent brightness across the beam, this is important because an audience area needs to have consistent output across the floor area. Some badly made LED fixtures have hot spots and dull spots which remove this consistency, a quality LED house light like the Chroma-Q Inspire has a consistently bright beam with the same edge drop off as an incandescent fixture, so you can consistently light an area and blend multiple units together.

Bookmark and Share


Please comment using the form below (email will not be displayed)





Please note that your comment will only appear after it has been moderated.


Security key