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Lighting 101

Information on lighting terminology used in the solar lighting industry


Standard Lighting Terminology

Watt A quantifiable measure of power consumed

Lumen – A quantifiable measurement of total power of light emitted 
Foot Candle (FC) – A unit of illumination of one square foot which is one foot away from a uniform light source
  • 1 FC = 1 Lumen / Square Foot
Kelvin Kº (colors of light) – measured in degrees, is a quantifiable measure of color temperature 
Min – Minimum amount of light 
Max – Maximum measurement of light 
Uniform – Lighting that has even illumination across an area with a low min to max lighting ratio 
Spacing – measurement of space usually in feet from one light pole to the next 
Color Rendition Index (CRI) – a way to assess how light sources make objects appear. Any CRI greater than 80 has good color properties 
Average Rated Life – referred to in lamp life is actually the median 
Mounting Height – the measurement from the ground to the light source 
Distribution (I-V) – Determines how far light is emitted to each side of a fixture and to the front (street side) and back (house side)
  • Type I – long linear pattern, long distance to the sides with a short pattern out to the front and back
  • Type II – Progressively growing distance to the front and back and shortening of the linear sides
  • Type III – most commonly available in most fixture types has a perfect oval shape
  • Type IV – has a more circular pattern with linear sides that extend farther on the sides
  • Type V – Round circular pattern same distance from front to back and side to side
Optics for Streetlights – control of light distribution
    • Non-cutoff – light is emitted in all directions
    • Semi-cutoff – most of the light is emitted below 90 degrees 
    • Cutoff – controlled lighting where less than 2.5% of the light is allowed to escape the fixture above 90 degrees 
    • Full-cutoff – used in dark sky friendly locations, optics put the light on the ground below the fixture not allowing light to emit above 90 degrees


Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Eye

Light enters the eye through the pupil and the retina focuses and transmits the information we see to our brain through a nerve which allows our brain to process the visual information. It is hard to describe lighting and illumination as each person’s sight and what they see is subjective.
The actual measurement of light must take into account the way that the eye is programmed to see, and for our purpose, programmed to see light at night.
The retina is made up of cones and rods. The cones create a synapse which allows humans to see detailed central vision (color), to read, and to see objects for security. The rods are highly sensitive to light, allowing them to respond in dim light and dark conditions; however, they cannot detect color.
When referring to human sight under light at night, we must keep the color of the light close to a natural color and provide just enough light so that the cones are still activated to see objects. If the light is too bright, the retina will naturally close up and the cone cells will not be activated, not allowing the human eye to see objects clearly. In addition, if the light is yellow the human eye will not be able to perceive the correct color of the objects.
SEPCO solar lighting systems takes these factors into consideration. SEPCO’s system uses the best lamp color to allow the perceived color to be to the truest color. We also provide uniform illumination at a level that is comfortable and allows the eye to naturally focus and not squint. We use the perfect illumination levels and a low min to max ratio which creates a nice even illumination.
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