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Resilient Lighting

Hurricane Sandy and it's aftermath has me thinking about resilience in all aspects of design. From our cities to our buildings. But what about resilient lighting? Here are three things to thing about when designing a lighting system that can stand up to an emergency.

The vast majority of human made light requires electricity, but as this disaster has proven, extended power outages are a reality in a disaster. So what can you do when power is limited, as in a generator situation?

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Designate emergency lighting circuits

This is already common in office buildings, but it can translate to any building that might run from a generator. Designate bare essential lighting circuits and wire them to the emergency bypass. When the generators kick on they will only power absolutely essential lighting. In a home situation I'd think about wiring overhead lights in the kitchen and bathroom primarily if you're installing a backup generator.

Light sources and temperature tolerances

Remember that not all extreme conditions mean that the power goes out. Extreme cold and extreme heat are also situations where design tolerances are important. In general fluorescent sources are the most sensitive to the cold, some will not light others will but only with cold-weather start ballasts. Extreme heat will shorten the lives of almost all light sources, something to consider if air conditioning is lost.

Smart portable lighting

In residential applications, the most important thing is having a durable portable light source that can run either from batteries or a hand crank. Personally I recommend a three light combination, a hand cranked lantern for extended power outages that can also double as a cell phone charger. A headband mounted work light (they are goofy looking but incredibly useful) and a simple high-power flashlight for long throw applications.

Explosion Proof fixtures like this one might be a bit much, but do check operating tolerances in sensitive areas.

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 05/16/2015


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