It used to be that lighting maintenance consisted principally of regularly scheduled cleaning and relamping. No more. As continually more lighting systems incorporate “high-tech” design and components, the personnel needed to maintain, repair, and even operate these systems are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Labor unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and trade associations like the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO) are responding to the situation by establishing a variety of training programs; some are engaging in recruitment as well. Manufacturers are responding by developing systems that are more intuitive and easier to operate, and by providing a variety of training resources, including personnel.
Three experts comprised a panel that discussed these issues at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum. The Bureau has just released a video recording of the discussion, titled “Not Your Father’s Lighting Maintenance,” now available for free viewing or download. EdisonReport Editor and Publisher Randy Reid moderated the panel. The experts were:
-Norma J. Frank, CLMC, LC, president of Colorado Lighting, Inc.,
-Terry C. Coleman, with the Electrical Training Alliance; and
-James M. Yorgey, P.E., LC, technical-applications manager, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.
Ms. Frank, who also chairs the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES’) Maintenance Committee, began the discussion by noting that many buildings still rely on fluorescent lighting, with an emphasis on the more-efficient, smaller-diameter lamps; i.e., T-8s and T-5s. Some system owners would just as soon keep the fluorescents in place as opposed to investing in replacement systems based on light-emitting diodes (LEDs). She added that the availability of T-8 / T-5 lamps and system components is diminishing, causing their cost to increase.
Mr. Coleman noted that the Electrical Training Alliance has developed a variety of programs to attract more people, including veterans, and to reach out to “influencers,” like school guidance counselors. He said that all too many young people decide on a costly, four-year college program without considering the technical challenges, pay, and benefits associated with the crafts in general and lighting maintenance in particular.
Investing in new systems and upgrades to older systems is becoming an attractive proposition, Ms. Frank noted, thanks to rebates offered by utilities throughout the United States. Mr. Yorgey emphasized that controls should be updated when other aspects of a system are modernized. This provides improved system performance and results in significant savings compared to the cost of a controls upgrade performed at a later time. He noted, too, that continual training – including cross-training – is essential in buildings that have installed lighting-control systems. Controls can go underutilized when the building personnel, who once operated them, are no longer available.
Watch and listen to the panel discussion here.
The National Lighting Bureau is an independent, IRS-recognized, not-for-profit, educational foundation that has served as a trusted lighting-information source since 1976. The Bureau provides its services to the public free of charge, thanks to the generous funding of the organization’s sponsors: professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, manufacturers, and agencies of the U.S. government. Learn more about the Bureau by visiting its website (https://www.nlb.org/) or by contacting its staff at [email protected] or 304.870.4249.