Blog Post

LEDs? Incandescents? Who's Using What for Jobsite Lighting

What electricians have to say about LEDs and other technology for lighting the job.

I called Pete Samaras, Senior Electrical Estimator at DPR Construction, to ask him about job-site lighting practices for our product review on LED jobsite lighting  (see LED Systems Provide Huge Energy Savings for Jobsite Lighting, EBN Aug. 2011 and our GreenSpec listing of the Flex SLS system). To make sure he had the latest information, he surveyed four electrical subcontractors via email. Their responses offer a good window into the shifting technologies used to illuminate jobsites--at least those on the scale of the commercial and institutional projects that DPR builds.

Everyone Pete asked responded quickly and gave us permission to share their responses (thank you!) They were: James Goetz, Vice President of Morrow- Meadows Corp., Albert Rutten, Project Executive for Schetter Electric Inc., Richard deButts, Preconstruction Manager for Redwood City Electric, and Robert Valderrama, electrician for Sprig Electric.

1. Has DPR furnished the temp lights for you on the past couple of projects, or did you provide your own temp lighting?

The electrical subs provide temporary lighting, except on some small jobs, for which DPR provides it.

2. Are the lights typically the hung HIDs (high-intensity discharge), or string lights, or tripod mounted floodlights? Where do you typically use each type and why?

The subs consistently use 175- or 400-watt HID floods in large, open areas with high ceilings. They use 277-volt circuits whenever possible so that they can put more fixtures on each circuit.

They generally use string lights in corridors and stairwells, but with reservations. Robert Valderrama summed it up well: "We hate string lights. They require constant attention to repair broken bulbs, get trapped in the t-bar and seem to get unplugged too often."


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And for task lighting, especially in small spaces, they use halogens on tripods or metal halide or fluorescent "wobble lights." Wobble lights are increasingly popular, because--you guessed it--they wobble, but don't fall down and break. Sprig uses the metal halides, according to Valderrama, because "they are durable, and very easy to install." However, he added: "We have restrictions on where we use them due to the risk of fire. We are currently looking for a suitable replacement."

3. Do your string lights and/or floodlights have incandescent or CFLs?  Why?

All the electricians either use CFLs already or are switching over to them. They don't burn out as quickly, which saves on maintenance, and they draw less power than incandescents, which "allows more stringers to be used on a temporary 20-amp circuit," James Goetz explained.

4. Have you considered using more energy-efficient LED lighting or fluorescents on your projects?  If not why?  If so, where?

All have looked into LEDs, but none have used them yet. Goetz summed it up: "Eventually we will use LED temp lighting. Currently they are very expensive and the technology for temporary powered LEDs is still in its infancy."

And Richard deButts noted that it would be up to the owner to decide to make the investment: "There is no advantage for us to invest in the high front-end cost. The benefit is to the person paying the power bill. This would apply to longer-lasting large projects, not a typical TI [tenant improvement project]."

Electricians providing temporary jobsite lighting are motivated to reduce maintenance costs and increase reliability. LEDs can provide those benefits, but that's not (yet) enough of an advantage to overcome their high first cost. The disconnect between the electricians, who choose and install the lighting, and the building owner, who pays the electric bill, is something that needs to be addressed for LED technology to take hold.

General contractors and designers will have to lead the way here, because they are the link between the owners and the electricians. DPR is looking into investing in LED fixtures that can be moved from job to job, according to Samaras, but the extra work involved in storing and maintaining those fixtures between jobs is a challenge. However, the savings that DPR would be able to offer building owners through the use of LEDs could make their bids more competitive and may offset the additional cost.

What lighting systems are you using on jobsites? How are you saving electricity during construction? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Charlotte Matthews, Related Companies

Many construction sites are illuminated 24/7 with strings of incandescent lamps. On this New York City job, compact fluorescents were used instead, saving energy and labor.

Published August 8, 2011

(2011, August 8). LEDs? Incandescents? Who's Using What for Jobsite Lighting. Retrieved from

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