Is a Greener Lighting System Enough If It's Still Artificial?
By Torrin Greathouse | April 30, 2015
When installing greener, more sustainable lighting into a home, office, or other facility, it is often our instinct to stick to what we know. This can mean that when looking for more efficient lighting options, one switches from outdated incandescent bulbs to more efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. While these newer electric bulbs are familiar and easy to use, there are several distinct disadvantages to sticking with artificial lighting as opposed to switching to natural green lighting methods such as daylighting. Here are a few reasons why natural daylighting is better than artificial methods.
Negative Health Effects
Many people do not realize the effect light quality can have on an individual’s health. The color spectrum and light consistency of the lighting system you install in your facility can have major and unseen effects on the occupants. A 2012 study by Harvard Medical School found that long-term exposure to bulbs which emit light in the blue-white spectrum can actually cause insomnia. This is because the blue light is perceived by the brain as the color of the sky, tricking it into believing it is daytime. Prolonged exposure drastically lowers levels of melatonin, a neurotransmitter essential to sleep, and can cause or worsen both insomnia and seasonal affective disorder. Not only that, but the intermittent flickering present in fluorescent bulbs and some LEDs has been shown to cause repetitive eye strain, and in some cases migraine headaches.
Daylighting on the other hand illuminates buildings with healthy full spectrum sunlight. The benefits of sunlight have been well-documented. It has been linked to the prevention of rickets, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and some autoimmune diseases. Plus, it has been shown to reduce stress and promote healing among hospital patients.
Nearly 2 billion light bulbs are sold around the world every year. Modern bulbs last far longer than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. For example, compact fluorescent bulbs last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and LEDs last 50 times longer. Still, between replacements and new installations, they make up a substantial portion of the waste our cities generate.
In contrast, daylighting systems produce no waste. Because the leading manufacturers ensure that their system’s stationary lenses are tested forfall and impact resistance, these systems rarely require repairs or replacement parts. Daylighting not only reduces waste generation, but also reduces the auxiliary costs associated with maintaining the lighting system in a building.
Inefficient Energy Use
While daylighting uses the sun to light your facility, the artificial methods we have been discussing use electricity, often inefficiently, in order to provide light. Fluorescent bulbs, which have long been touted as hyper-efficient in comparison to incandescent bulbs, still waste 60% of the energy they consume by generating heat. While LEDs, which are set to slowly replace fluorescents, are far more efficient, they still consume electricity.
Despite the fact that daylighting systems require a larger initial down payment than most artificial light systems, their potential for future savings is far greater because they operate entirely off the electrical grid. This is important, because it not only reduces your energy costs, but also the carbon footprint of your building. When 67% of the world’s electricity is created by burning fossil fuels and over one-fifth of this electricity is consumed by electrical lighting products world-wide, then reducing the use of electrical lighting by switching over to natural green daylighting can drastically decrease your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ciralight SunTracker™ is a cutting edge solar-tracking skylight. It uses a combination of solar power and GPS technology to provide natural sunlight for up to 10+ hours per day, completely free and off-the-grid. SunTrackers™ save energy, lower utility bills, and illuminate rooms with healthy, diffuse, and abundant natural light.