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Overhead Lighting!

Office lighting is not the most exciting topic to write about, but I did find out some interesting facts when researching for this month’s Property Guide. First of all, I learned that overhead lighting, which most people think is energy efficient because of its prevalence, is actually a huge drain of electricity. “Overhead lighting,” according to the July 2009 issue of Inc. magazine, “is the biggest electricity hog in the typical commercial building.” It is such a drain because it does not light specific areas; therefore, much of the square footage that it’s illuminating does not even need to be lit. 

In my office, three overhead fluorescent panels light the middle of the room, where no one sits.
Through a combination of natural light and individually lighted areas, overhead lighting and its draining costs, can be reduced or eliminated. “Exterior offices with daylighting/windows are usually the best application for task lights. Occupants can typically turn off overhead lights if natural lighting provides the low level backgrounds needed,” according to the North Carolina Energy Department. In addition, the heat from fluorescent bulbs can also make the office warmer thus causing an increase in cooling costs.

Not only does it drain electricity, but poor lighting has also been linked to employee dissatisfaction. The lighting panels in our office only provide one light source, one that’s quite a distance from my work area. I prefer to use my desk lamp to brighten my corner on the perimeter. The American Society of Interior Designers found that 68% of employees complain about lighting in their offices. A Cornell University study claimed that “[good lighting] also aids in recruitment, since recruiters can point the lighting out as a job benefit.” Lighting as a benefit seems a little farfetched, but I believe that office desk lamps, individually controlled by each employee, make the office feel more personal and less sterile. “Introducing individual lighting control improved ratings of mood, satisfaction and discomfort” in the workplace, according to The National Research Council of Canada.

One last reason to avoid overhead lighting is the fact that it’s not aesthetically pleasing. Compare the glare from a panel of fluorescent light bulbs in a ceiling panel to the lambent glow from a desk lamp. In addition, fluorescent lighting is the least flattering lighting for people, so it makes you and those around you less attractive. A 2004 Cincinnati Magazine article quotes interior designer Dawn Dutcher Schwartzman: “’Overhead lighting makes nothing and no one look good. All the wrong things are in shadows, it emphasizes wrinkles…’” But that could be an advantage of overhead lighting because it discourages office romance by making everyone look unattractive. Though I'd frankly rather  see my co-workers at their best, and I’d like them to see me properly lit.


Arawak Interiors offers a selection of aesthetically pleasing, modern tabletop lamps that are suitable for office or home. The lamps come in different shapes in sizes and are made from materials ranging from stone to leather to glass to metal. By simply replacing the overhead lighting with Arawak’s striking desk lamps, an office can save money on electricity bills, improve morale, and provide a more attractive place to work.

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