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Tips for Choosing the Right Type of Lighting

Tips for Choosing the Right Type of Lighting


Lighting is an important feature of every indoor environment, no matter its purpose. The right lighting provides an illumination level at a color tone that’s appropriate for the tasks performed in that area and helps establish an appropriate atmosphere, suitable to its purpose. If you’re retrofitting lighting for an existing building or trying to choose new lighting, it can feel overwhelming when faced with the many choices available. Here are a few general things to consider if you’re planning a lighting project or upgrade. 

Lighting Color Temperatures

Color temperature is expressed as a numeric value and describes the look, feel and general ambiance a light produces. Color temperature is measured on the degrees Kelvin (K) scale of 1000 to 10000. Color temperatures described as warm or soft white will measure below 3500K and will appear more yellow. Middle or neutral temperatures average 3500K. Lamps with cooler temperatures will be between 4000 and 4100K. At the top end of the scale, lamps with temperatures at or above 5000K can feel as bright as daylight, and are considered to be color accurate.

Light bulbs and lamps are labeled according to where they fall on the Kelvin scale, making it easier to choose the right lighting for the application. 

Light Output

Light output describes the amount of light a lamp or bulb produces and is expressed in lumens. The higher the value in lumens (lm) the brighter the light. Watts are now used to express the amount of energy a light bulb uses. 

The U.S. Department of Energy offers loose translations of watts to lumens. For example, if you're replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb, look for something with about 1,600 lumens. To replace a 40-watt bulb, you'll want about 450 lumens. 

These values, including estimates of yearly energy costs, life expectancy, light appearance and energy used, are all clearly provided on the product's label.  


The right lighting is critical for some tasks such as those performed in operating rooms, or in electrical equipment rooms. If the area is a dedicated work environment, workplace safety should be top of mind, and any appropriate lighting illumination standards must be followed. 

In commercial environments, lighting intensity will vary significantly depending on the application, whether it’s a restaurant, office, retail environment, healthcare facility or warehouse. Lighting color temperature is something people don’t typically notice unless it’s wrong. For example, lighting that gives off a brighter daylight ambiance would feel noticeably off in a hospitality environment such as a restaurant. The chart below is a starting place for lighting temperature and output in different professional environments, along with possible lighting choices for each.  

Lighting Environment Color Temperature Light Appearance Lighting Output Lighting Types

Restaurants, hotel rooms, retail stores.

3000K or Less

Warm White

800 lm

Office spaces, classrooms, restrooms, supermarkets.


Neutral-white hues with even tones.

1,000 lm

Merchandise showrrooms, hospitals, parking garages.


Cool White-Bluish-white hues with sharp tones.

1,500 lm

Warehouses, manufacturing facilities.

5,000K and Above

Daylight - Blueish hues with sharp tones.

1,500+ lm

Lighting Safety Requirements and Efficiency Standards

OSHA Standard 1926.56 on illumination offers minimum lighting values in foot candles for specific construction applications including general construction, offices, manufacturing plants, warehouses and many others. One foot candle will saturate one square foot with one lumen of light. For example, for general construction area lighting, OSHA requires at least 3 foot candles of lighting. For first aid stations, infirmaries and offices, OSHA requires 30 foot candles of light intensity. The following recommendations from The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) offers more guidance on how to achieve optimum lighting levels for common areas using foot candles.
The California Energy Commission has set forth efficiency regulations that apply to appliances as well as lighting. California Title 20 (CA Title 20) is the portion of this regulation that applies to lighting and lighting fixture products with the overall goal to reduce energy use. Lighting products comply with CA Title 20 efficiency standards when they meet specific performance standards such as rated life and lumens per watt.

Once you have considered the safety requirements, efficiency standards, lighting color temperature, and how the environment will be used, you can start to narrow down what type of light bulbs, lamps and fixtures you will need. Here’s a breakdown of some common lamps and light bulbs available and suggestions for how to match the right light to the environment. 

Light Bulbs and Lamps

Linear – These straight, tube-shaped bulbs are used to provide everyday lighting to large open spaces like office environments and factories. 

Standard & Decorative – Standard lamps have a wide range of uses, and are used in work environments and homes. Standard lamps typically have a screw-in base and are manufactured to fit a wide variety of fixtures. 

Spot, Reflector & Flood Lights – These lamps use a reflective surface on the interior to direct light outward and increase brightness. Spotlights direct light to shine on a smaller area, while flood lights illuminate wider areas. 

High Output HID & LED HID-Replacement – These long-lasting bulbs and lamps are most often used for lighting large, open areas like stadiums, warehouses and other places with high ceilings, as well as parking lots. 

Plug-in CFL & LEDs – These are often used in commercial and multifamily residential settings for general applications, task and security lighting. These lamps have a pin base that fits matching sockets on compatible fixtures.

U-Bend – These lamps work the same way as linear lamps but are bent into a U-shape to fit fixtures in tighter spaces. 

Circular Light Bulbs & Lamps — Circular lamps, also known as circline, are designed for specific fixtures and are bent into a circular shape to provide more even light distribution. 

Miniature – Sometimes called indicator lights, these lamps are used in automotive applications and can be found in equipment such as flashlights and projectors. 

There are many factors to consider when choosing lighting for new or existing environments. One of the most important is making sure you have matched the correct lighting color value to the space. Safety is also critical if you’re lighting any kind of work environment or public spaces such as in the hospitality industry. If you’re lighting a large space such as a warehouse or distribution center, it’s important to consider energy efficiency, devices that can help reduce energy consumption and extend lamp life, and how often lighting may need to be replaced. 


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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.