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The New World of Lighting for Health Clubs

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

As you are aware, the club industry has been going through major changes in the past few years. What you might not be aware of is that the lighting industry has also been going through major changes, and if the right choices are made, this can have a powerful effect on achieving a motivating and energy saving environment for any type of club.

New lighting standards created by Congress and the Department of Energy have been phasing in since 2012. These require that any bulbs sold need to use a minimum of 25% less energy, and certain types of incandescents can no longer be sold in the United States.

Gone are the days when “any lighting will do,” and the goal now is to choose lighting that reduces electric bills while also creating different ambiances in different areas of the club from exciting to soft and soothing. Therefore, lighting choices have two major aspects. First is the energy efficient and longevity of the unit and bulbs, and the second, equally important, is the esthetic and functional value of the lighting.

The first important point to know is that lighting is now designated differently and can often lead to confusion. New choices on incandescents, CFLs, LEDs, lumens and color temperature have to be decided on.

The main types of lighting now are halogen incandescents, CFLs (compact fluorescents) and LEDs (light emitting diode). The lighting most often used, the standard incandescent light bulbs and typical T12 and T8 long fluorescent strips were energy inefficient, didn’t last long and produced heat when on. These are becoming outdated and eventually will not be available by law.

It should be noted, common lightbulbs now sold use about 25 – 80% less energy than traditional incandescents. For example, on average, an incandescent bulb may last around 1,000 hours, while a CFL bulb producing the same amount of light (in lumens) may last around 8,000 hours and an equivalent LED bulb may last around 25,000 hours.

In general, even though LEDs are more costly than other bulbs, the energy cost savings as well as not having to replace a bulb as often make LEDs the best choice for clubs. To replace your existing bulbs, look at the type you have then go online to determine what the LED replacement is.

Where in the past brightness of a bulb was determined by watts, it is now designated by lumens. Assume that, if you want a 100-watt bulb, you need a 1,600 lumens LED bulb. An 800 lumens bulb is only equivalent to a 50-watt bulb.

Next is the “color temperature” of the bulb, now measured in kelvins. Color temperature ranges from a soft yellowish light (2,700 – 3,000K) to a very bright daylight (5,000 – 6,500K). The range of 3,500 – 5,000K is best for exercise areas. Lobbies and locker rooms should be closer to the 3,000 – 3,500K range.

Why pay attention to these lighting numbers? Because some clubs end up with very bright white lighting, and since most people do not like how they look in exercise clothing, being in a space in front of mirrors with such bright lighting only amplifies their discomfort of being out of shape and “visible.”

Now for a discussion on the all-important esthetics of lighting. Clubs are now, more than ever, in the hospitality business, and when looking at that industry, they use a variety of lighting options for a more engaging environment.

Consider these options for a greater impact. All of them come in an LED format or can be ordered, and a LED bulb can be purchased separately for the unit.

The new trend with club lighting is to offer more than one lighting “experience” for the same space. Different lighting can create different atmospheres for the same space. For a single group room, Zumba might get one type of “energy” lighting while yoga gets a totally different lighting environment. This can be done cost effectively and adds so much more “value” to the exercise class.

  • Theatrical lighting (or stage type lighting) are LED units that can add “drama” and bring special attention to an area such as a group training space or spinning. These can change the color of environment of the space, such as creating blue accents, and the units are inexpensive and should be ordered with a remote control.
  • Cove lighting can accent a wall or the side of a desk, shining up or down on the surface. It is also inexpensive, yet very impactful. The key is to have the effects of the cove lighting seen but not be able to see the actual lighting strip. These come in white and different colors.
  • Up-down lighting units are becoming the standard for replacing the previous basic fluorescent (2′ x 4′) box lights in a dropped ceiling. These units have a concave lens where light shines up and reflects down. The same type of up-down lighting is available in 4′ and 8′ strips replacing the older style fluorescent tubes, shining down and also up, reflecting off the ceiling for a “fresher” atmosphere.
  • Drum lighting are cylindrical units that come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, and fabric units make the lights “glow.” These work great in lobbies and group exercise rooms and make a wonderful upscale statement.
  • Wall sconces add impact to entrances, hallways and locker rooms. Pendant lights above reception and trainer desks are impactful yet economical. Both types are available in a vast range of styles, shapes and colors.

The number of websites that offer lighting is substantial and has totally changed the availability of excellent lighting choices at lower prices. It is always best to install certain types of lighting with dimmers, enabling you to create the amount of lighting and “effect” you want to create for a space. This would include recessed can lighting, theatrical and drum lighting that may be used in group rooms and spinning.

One last point is that, before purchasing any lighting for a new or renovated space, check with your local utility company because many offer substantial dollar credits for making energy efficient choices.

Lighting can be one of the most impactful interior architectural statements you can make in a club. Choices can either add to your club’s average and plain atmosphere or create drama and excitement that make people remember the inspiring experience they have every time they visit a club. Lighting is so much more than helping people “see where they are.” When done properly, it can add one more powerful asset to your marketing and competitive strength with the added benefit of decreasing your utility expenses.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, March 2017.