Back in Genesis, God was in creation mode, and is quoted, saying “let there be light.”
Without light, we as humans would cease to exist, as so much of our ecosystem requires various forms of energy that is given off by the sun. Think about the photosynthesis of plants and trees, and the life-giving oxygen and food that results. Or the heat that comes in the form of infrared energy. Or the purifying ultraviolet light, as UV is used to kill some types of bacteria and is used to purify water.
So you ask, what is RF, and why should I care?
What does all this mean to us, and how should I plan to light up my church’s sanctuary?
Today, the rage is all about updating to LED lighting, as it is seen as energy efficient, having a long life and generally solves all the world’s problems. (OK, so I jest a little… but follow me…)
While there are many benefits that come from changing to LED lighting, there are also several potential issues that could cause big problems, if you are unaware of the cause/effect that can occur from such a change. In this article, I’ll first talk about the potential pitfalls, after which I will look into how to properly design and integrate the lighting system.
Probably the number one issue that is seen in the changeout of lights, is some well-meaning building engineer who heads to the local home improvement store, to find a deal on LED bulbs that will screw into your existing fixtures. While these are sold and used by many consumers, they are not designed to function in the manner that many churches need.
If we compare the dimming curve of an incandescent light, to that of a newly purchased LED bulb – you will find them different. The incandescent bulb has the ability to dim down to just a faint glow, while many LED bulbs will stop at about 10-20 percent brightness, only to abruptly shut off. This means that your candle lit services will no longer be able to have the house lights running at that soft orange glow any longer.
One thing I probably need to mention is that there is a huge difference in an LED bulb and an LED light fixture. The LED bulb is something you can buy at a home improvement store and screw into a lamp, where an LED light fixture is something purchased from an AV integrator or professional electrician, and can be controlled by DMX commands or 0-10V analog dimming. The LED light fixture is something that is often designed to have a nearly identical dimming curve as that of an incandescent light, and will not abruptly turn off when dimmed to its lowest levels.
Back to the LED bulbs, there is another common issue when they are dimmed with a standard wall switch dimmer, or a theatrical dimming system. That kind of power delivery is actually very hard on the electronics of an LED bulb. As it ages, it will have a tendency to begin flickering when dimmed, and this is an early sign of failure. I have seen many LED bulbs that only last one to three years under commercial use, when paired with a dimmer. This is not going to be a cost-efficient bulb in terms of replacement or lifespan, but at least it will still save you on the power bill.
An additional issue that comes up with LED bulbs, is the issue of RF interference. There is a video test I did last year of several different bulbs showing that they are not all created equal.
So you ask, what is RF, and why should I care?
If you use a cellphone, wireless mic, garage door opener remote or anything that uses wireless technology, something as simple as an LED bulb can put off enough RF noise to keep any of those devices from reliably working.
LED light fixtures are purpose-designed and are something that requires a power source, and then the control of them is via another data connection. As mentioned earlier – the DMX, 0-10V or something similar, is how you would dim them.
When new construction projects are being built, or a retrofit of an existing building – it is best practice to have a lighting design done, to ensure that you have enough fixtures that will provide good light coverage, and enough brightness.
There are many different types of LED light fixtures, and the choice of what fixture you want will be important to pay attention to. There are both white and full-color options – one of the more popular is The Light Source-brand fixture, which offers both a white only or a full-color fixture.
The most valuable tool in deciding on a particular light fixture, along with how many are required, is software that will allow you to build the room in virtual space, and then model the lights to see how the coverage will perform.
Here are a couple of examples:
The big things to watch out for, relates to the proper fixture and placement, to have even light coverage.
So “let there be light.”