The use of mercury vapor lighting in store interiors

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Super S
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The use of mercury vapor lighting in store interiors

Post by Super S » 25 Apr 2017 00:57

It seems like there were two periods of time where many larger stores decided to experiment with mercury vapor lighting of various types.

It seems like the advantage here was a relatively long life of the bulbs, however, they were known to gradually dim as they aged and tended to shift colors. A bulb replacement would take care of that, but often the fixtures would be replaced instead.

There were a number of stores which used 2' X 2' square mercury recessed fixtures in suspended ceilings that were built during the late 1970s-early 1980s. A few I do remember were JCPenney and Montgomery Ward stores at Clackamas Town Center. Some Pay 'N Save stores also used a simpler round recessed version, but were replaced by fluorescent strip lighting while leaving the original fixtures intact. Some independent stores also used them, but they faded out of use in new stores by around the late 1980s. Some stores retained the fixtures until later, but most were ultimately replaced by conventional fluorescent lighting, or more recently, LED fixtures.

The second period came during the early to mid-90s when many stores adapted a "warehouse" style open ceiling. Examples include Fred Meyer, Costco, Home Depot, TOP Foods, and a variety of other stores. Much like the fixtures already mentioned, most of these were replaced by more efficient lighting, some have LED replacement bulbs in existing fixtures.

Was there any chain, grocery or otherwise, that ever used the mercury vapor lighting and actually stuck with it for long periods of time (10+ years), particularly the recessed version from the 1970s? With the possible exception of the warehouse ceilings, it never (at least from what I have seen) really gained widespread, consistent use for more than maybe a 5-10 year period, and it doesn't seem to be an overly great choice for indoor lighting especially as the bulbs age, or for lower ceilings.

A lot of people don't pay attention to things like lighting, but it is one of those things that can make a big difference in overall appearance of a store.

wnetmacman
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Re: The use of mercury vapor lighting in store interiors

Post by wnetmacman » 25 Apr 2017 16:59

The mercury vapor lighting had two major advantages over traditional fluorescent lighting.

First, fluorescent lights require two components: bulb and ballast. In this system, the ballast boosts the power to the bulb to create light. Often, the ballast goes out before the bulb, thus requiring an electrician to replace it, thus raising costs. Mercury vapor was just the bulb, and thus more simple.

Second, traditional fluorescent lighting cannot (or could not at the time) be dimmed. Especially in this day and age of earth-conscious thinking, that meant that having the ability to let in natural light via the roof was useless, because the lights were always going to go full blast.

Newer generation fluorescent and LED lighting have cancelled the need for mercury vapor, which, while long lasting, can go out in rather dramatic fashion. Also, store control systems can manage electricity to those lights and dim or shut down much more efficiently than before.
Scott Greer

Super S
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Re: The use of mercury vapor lighting in store interiors

Post by Super S » 25 Apr 2017 22:41

wnetmacman wrote:The mercury vapor lighting had two major advantages over traditional fluorescent lighting.

First, fluorescent lights require two components: bulb and ballast. In this system, the ballast boosts the power to the bulb to create light. Often, the ballast goes out before the bulb, thus requiring an electrician to replace it, thus raising costs. Mercury vapor was just the bulb, and thus more simple.

Second, traditional fluorescent lighting cannot (or could not at the time) be dimmed. Especially in this day and age of earth-conscious thinking, that meant that having the ability to let in natural light via the roof was useless, because the lights were always going to go full blast.

Newer generation fluorescent and LED lighting have cancelled the need for mercury vapor, which, while long lasting, can go out in rather dramatic fashion. Also, store control systems can manage electricity to those lights and dim or shut down much more efficiently than before.
Actually, most mercury vapor lighting as used in retail/commercial establishments DOES use a ballast, despite the appearance of a traditional bulb. I have worked in several establishments with such lighting and remember the fixtures having ballasts in them, not to mention the loud "hum" at times the ballasts made. Mercury vapor also, if shut off, required several minutes to come back on, plus took several minutes to warm up to full brightness.

Self-ballasted mercury vapor lamps do exist, but were usually lower wattage, where the lamps I am talking about had a typical range of 175-400 watts, with 1000 watt versions sometimes used as parking lot lighting among other things.

Super S
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Re: The use of mercury vapor lighting in store interiors

Post by Super S » 10 Jun 2017 21:26

On a similar note, did any store ever use the orangeish colored sodium vapor lights as interior lighting? Seems like a terrible choice as far as color of light, but offered somewhat better efficiency than mercury vapor. i have never personally seen sodium vapor in use inside a store.

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