Foot Candles Recommended for Different Types of Environments

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Truth be told, lighting systems are not equal. What may be ideal for one location may be unsuitable for another. For instance, a big box store does not need the same amount of light as a packaging warehouse. Even if these two facilities have the same square feet, the activities carried out inside them are very different.

The work performed in a building usually dictates the luminaries to be used as well as the fixtures needed for sufficient illumination. This is why a "one size fits all" approach is never recommended when choosing lighting for different environments. 

While most people do not associate the lighting requirements of their spaces with numerical measurements, it's the best way to determine the amount of light required.
OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) requires that workplace lighting be measured in foot candles. 

A foot candle measures how bright the light is a foot away from a light source.In this article, we will give foot candle recommendations for different types of environments.


Warehouses usually need different types of lights because a variety of activities are carried out inside them. In storage rooms, only 5-10 foot candles are needed because these are spaces with very little activity. Areas with a lot of activity, like inspection rooms and loading bays, require very bright lights (about 30-50 foot candles of light).

The size of the products being handled also determines the amount of light needed. In an area where small items with small labels are frequently handled, 20-50 foot candles are needed. In a space where bulky items with large labels are handled, 10-20 foot candles are required.

Because foot candle measurements are only useful to lighting professionals who have a lot of knowledge on lighting, the specifications may be a little confusing to those who don't have this knowledge.

Ask yourself these four questions (and coming up with the appropriate answers) can help you to determine whether a warehouse has adequate lighting.
1.       Are all the signs in the warehouse visible from every angle? 
2.       Can people easily read labels without squinting or experiencing visual stress? 
3.       Do machines and objects cause shadows which lead to visual strain? 
4.       Do nearby machines, objects, and walls reflect a little or a lot of light? 

One common activity that's carried out in almost every warehouse is identification. Warehouse employees have to read labels and documents connected to products or materials at various points in a warehouse. For this reason, a warehouse lighting expert must consider contrast levels when evaluating the adequacy of light levels. 

For instance, it is very easy to see black lettering on a white paper even when the lighting conditions are poor. 

However, it is very hard to see gray words on a black paper even when the light is very bright. Lighting professionals should carefully consider the reflective nature of objects and materials handled in the warehouse to determine whether more foot candles or less are needed. 

Indoor Spaces and Offices

Good lighting in offices is critically important because it ensures that people can carry out tasks efficiently and safely. 

It prevents eye strain and allows people to work comfortably for long periods of time. It can also prevent accidents. Since office employees don't have a way of measuring the light intensity in their spaces, business owners can ask these 

Five questions to find out whether the lighting in their premises is adequate. 

1.       Does the lighting allow for tasks to be carried out properly? 
2.       Do people complain of eye strain when performing work in their offices? 
3.       Do any objects cause glare in the room? 
4.       Do the lights flicker and decrease productivity? 
5.       Do objects or components in the room cast shadows? 

The lighting requirements for indoor spaces and offices depend on the tasks carried out. 20 foot candles are enough for general office spaces. However, areas where detailed tasks are carried out require much more light – like 50 foot candles. Offices in medical establishments where complicated and detailed procedures are conducted (like dental procedures) require 100-200 foot candles. 

In conference rooms where presentations and other visually challenging tasks are performed, 30 foot candles are recommended. Areas that don't see a lot of activity like rest rooms and lunch rooms do not need a lot of illumination. A rest room only needs 18 foot candles while a lunch room needs 15 foot candles. Department stores support 40 foot candles while car showrooms and service areas need 50 foot candles. 50 foot candles are also recommended for general retail stores to ensure customers can clearly see products. 

Lighting professionals must also consider reflection levels from objects and components in offices. Floors reflect up to 40% light, walls reflect up to 50%, furniture reflects up to 50%, and machines up to 50%. When installing lights in an office, it is important to ensure that the fixtures are not widely spaced as this may promote the formation of shadows. Items that sit between widely spaced lights may cause shadows. 

It is also worth noting that primary sources of light can generate shadows if they are directly above or behind people in an office. This is why lighting experts must test the lighting conditions in the area (or recreate the office layout) where work is performed to ensure there are no shadows. 

If light is poorly or unevenly distributed, it causes dark spots in an indoor space. Inconsistent lighting conditions force people's eyes to frequently readjust to the light – leading to eye strain. To improve lighting conditions, walls should be painted white (to boost their reflective properties), poorly functioning luminaries should be replaced, and tinted or dirty panels found on fixtures should be removed. 

Outdoor Spaces

The foot candles needed in outdoor spaces greatly differ from those needed in indoor spaces. This is because outdoor locations are affected by constantly changing factors that make it difficult to manage the lighting conditions. At daytime, the sun may supply enough light to an area (sometimes more than is needed). But at nighttime, artificial lights may be needed to illuminate the location. 20-50 foot candles are recommended for dark, public areas. 

To find out whether the lighting is sufficient in an outdoor area, here are three questions to ask yourself. 
1.       Can people see signs and objects in the area from a distance?
2.       Do the lighting fixtures cause visual strain?
3.       Do the lights make the place appear dark or unsafe?

The foot candles required in an outdoor area are determined by the type of activities conducted. Enclosed parking lots using area lighting need 5 foot candles while open parking lots require 2 foot candles. Building entrances usually support 5 foot candles and exteriors support 1 foot candle. However, where safety is an issue, 3 foot candles are recommended. 

Gas station canopies need 13 foot candles while the pump island areas need about 20 foot candles. 20 foot candles are also required in active storage yards, piers, and gardens. For ATMs, where security is of utmost importance, 20 foot candles are recommended. The exteriors of car sales lots need bright light so cars can be clearly seen. These spaces require approximately 15-20 foot candles. 

Manufacturing / Factory Facilities

In areas where work is carried out by machines, the lighting must be bright enough to guarantee the safety of the employees. The only areas that don't need many foot candles are storage areas where machines and machine in-feeds are kept (5-10 foot candles are enough). However, areas with machines for printing and machines that process sheet metal need between 50-100 foot candles. 

In industrial and manufacturing plants where large items are produced or assembled, 30 foot candles are sufficient. But in areas where fine products and materials are manufactured, 100 foot candles are needed. 

These four questions can help you to assess whether the lighting in a machining facility is adequate. 
1.       Are there shadows cast on the machines that may endanger the safety of the employees?
2.       Do employees experience visual strain when the lights are on?
3.       Are all machine parts visible to the workers?
4.       Can the lights operate for long periods without losing their brightness?

Two common problems related to machine lighting include contrast levels and odd angles. Big machines have different shapes and some of their features – like deep indentations and large levers – can hinder light beams from fully lighting up some areas. 

Electrical professionals must install light fixtures that discharge light horizontally or powerful luminaries near the areas that cannot be illuminated by overhead fixtures. To ensure high contrast levels, industrial machines that print labels must have different types of lights: overhead lights (for general illumination), diffused light (to create an even background for reading codes) and infrared light (to neutralize components that contrast). 

Painting and Color Matching Facilities

These facilities have high lighting requirements because of the intricate nature of work carried out in them. But as with other locations, the activities performed in the spaces will dictate the foot candles required. Painting facilities support 100-150 foot candles and the lighting fixtures must be placed at a height of three feet. In areas where regular hand painting and simple spraying are done, 20-50 foot candles are enough. But in areas where fine hand painting and finishing are performed, between 50-500 foot candles are needed, depending on how complex the tasks are. 

These six questions can help you to figure out whether the lighting in a facility is sufficient. 

1.       Can workers read documents and labels without straining their eyes?
2.       Are colors easy to identify?
3.       Does the room have inconsistent lighting?
4.       Can machines and other equipment be operated safely in the space?
5.       Are workers affected by glare as they perform different tasks?
6.       Do the lighting conditions cause shadows or dark spots?

CRI (Color Rendering Index) and color temperature (which is measured in Kelvin) play a big role in painting and color matching facilities. These facilities should also have white walls, floors, and ceilings to enhance light reflection. 

Lighting specialists should use the industrial lighting guidelines for companies that specialize in this work to ensure there is sufficient illumination for tasks to be performed effortlessly.
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