Sept. 18 2020 06:00 AM

It’s critical to get the job right because it’s your reputation on the line.

The right light creates the desired mood or ambiance. But what happens if you don’t get it right? Does the color turn out muddy or too blown out? Is it the right item for the application? Is it working as expected? Depending on the circumstances, the consequences of getting lighting wrong can lead to frustration. The good news is that you can correct lighting mistakes to make sure you get it right.

I have learned some lessons secondhand through hearing about other peoples’ mistakes. Others I have learned over the years as a lighting specialist. These are some examples where a mistake turned into insight for future projects.

Focusing on one thing too much

In my days as a field representative, there was a sales challenge to see who could sell 500 of the latest fixture design. They offered an extra commission to the first sales rep to reach 500, and I wholeheartedly accepted this challenge.

The next day, one of my distributors ordered the 500 pieces I needed to win the challenge. Now it was my job to get these specified in projects. I began showing the fixture to as many contractors as I could.

Later that week, I walked a job with the contractor. The only thing I could think about was where I could use this new fixture. The specifications required 50 fixtures. I was hot to sell and thought I’d done my job.

Unfortunately, I did not check the ambient light level of the property. The new lighting was washed out from the existing bright coach lights and unshielded wall sconces. I didn’t have my head on straight, and I paid the price. It took all my commission and then some to replace the new fixtures with another model that would complement the ambient light. It was a tough lesson, but from that point on, ambient light levels were one of the first things I considered on new projects.

Considering the right location for controls

A good friend and colleague shared the following job error. During the late ’90s, he was assisting a contractor on a high-end job. Everything went perfectly and the homeowners were very pleased with the design and effect.

A couple of weeks later, the contractor called my associate and expressed concern that the lights were going off every Wednesday night for two hours. The lights would then resume and shut off in the morning as scheduled.

He scheduled a meeting with the contractor to troubleshoot the issue. They checked all the cable connections and the transformers and found them to be in top condition. They performed tests on the photocells and found all of them to be working perfectly.

The next Wednesday, the light went off for two hours in the evening and then came back on in the morning. After investigating a few weeks, they discovered what was happening. The transformer was mounted on a wall just outside the laundry room and the photocell was facing straight up. On Wednesday evenings, the house staff would do the laundry. The light coming out of the laundry room window was enough to allow the photocell to shut down the entire system.

They relocated the transformer and the problem was solved. After this, my friend learned to double check the photocell placement so as to never repeat the laundry room incident.

These examples provide a few ways to always double check your own work. Think about how you need to design around other light sources, and consider the best placement to avoid any kind of potential interference. What lighting lessons have stuck with you over the years?

It’s critical to get the job right because it’s your reputation on the line. I encourage everyone to learn from their lighting missteps and course-correct. That way, you get it right the first time going forward.

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at