The Value of Visual Comfort

The Value of Visual Comfort

When designing your lighting system, it is best to follow the path of least resistance.  That is, the path of least resistance for the eyes of the occupants utilizing the light.  The eye is a marvelous organ and can adapt to a wide variety of conditions.  However, like any other organ or muscle, when overexerted it can become exhausted; and exhausted eyes makes for an exhausted occupant.

Hence, you should keep in mind three factors to maximize visual comfort for occupants when you are designing new or upgraded lighting systems:

1) Color Balance

The human eye has three types of color receptor cells, or cones.  Though the human eye can perceive light with wavelengths in the range of 400-700 nm, often called the spectrum of visual light.  Each of the three cones has a specific wavelength of light in that range where they are most sensitive.  To achieve the maximum visual comfort, light should be balanced between the wavelength sensitivities of these three cones.

2) Glare

Glare is caused when there is a significant difference between the luminance of what someone is focusing on and another light source.  Instinctively, humans shy away from significant variations in luminous intensity (as someone shies away from a flashlight pointed at their face).  Intense pockets of luminance inhibit visual perception through the constriction of the pupils, reducing brightness, and the scattering of bright light with the eye, reducing contrast.  Depending on its severity, glare can create either visual discomfort or visual impairment (imagine driving towards the sun at sunrise or sunset).  Lighting systems should be designed to eliminate or significantly reduce glare as much as possible.

3) Uniformity

Depending on the task, the definition of light uniformity may vary.  In general, a fixture or lamp is considered to have light uniformity when luminous intensity and color are balanced across the range over which that fixture or lamp diffuses light.  When light lacks uniformity, the eye wastes its energy adapting to various light levels and reconciling color discrepancies.  Uniform light enables the eye to conserve its energy and focus on what it does best, seeing.

The best lighting systems do their job without you even knowing they’re there.  And that’s because they take into account the three factors outlined above.  Careful planning in the design process is the key.

For tips on how to save money while designing your new lighting systems, visit the enLIGHTen America website,

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