Fluorescent lights are everywhere. They fill our offices, retail buildings, hospital, and schools. Almost every large commercial building is lit with fluorescent lights. Even many residential buildings have fluorescent lights. But as nearly everyone knows, fluorescent lights don’t look that great. In fact, in many applications, fluorescent lighting is downright unpleasant. So why is it everywhere? And how can we make fluorescent light look better? The unfortunate reality is that in many situations, replacing fluorescent lights with something different would be impractical. So let’s talk about how to make fluorescent light look better. At Octo Lights, we’re all about taking your boring, unpleasant fluorescent light and making it look beautiful.
Fluorescent Tube Light Covers
The heart of almost every large fluorescent light fixture is the fluorescent tube. If you want to know how to make fluorescent light look better, you have to start with this most basic component.
Fluorescent tubes were some of the first fluorescent lights to make it into mainstream use. A fluorescent light tube produces light through a phenomenon called fluorescence that gives the bulbs their name. Fluorescence is the radiation, either visible or invisible, that is given off by a substance when it is exposed to radiation of a shorter wavelength, such as x-rays or ultraviolet light.
The first fluorescent bulbs were developed in the 1930s. A modern fluorescent tube has worked the same way for decades. The glass tube is filled with an inert gas and a tiny amount of mercury. When the mercury is heated by an electrical arc, it vaporizes. As the electricity passes through the vaporized mercury, the mercury gives off photons of ultraviolet light. The inside of the glass tube is coated with a phosphor, a material that glows, or fluoresces, when it absorbs UV light. The phosphor takes in the UV light and gives off visible light, which we see as fluorescent light.
To avoid glare from bright fluorescent lights, most fixtures have some kind of fluorescent tube light covers. These covers make the light less unpleasant to look at. However, fluorescent light is still not the best light to see by. It often gives off too much light in the short-wave blue end of the spectrum. It can also have a super-fast flicker that some people find unpleasant. Many fluorescent lights also have poor color rendering capabilities, so everything looks a little off under fluorescent light. How to make fluorescent light look better has a lot to do with solving those inherent problems.
Plastic Covers for Fluorescent Light Fixtures
Today, the most common way to hide the harsh glow of fluorescent light is with plastic covers for fluorescent light fixtures. Almost every fixture has them. Typical plastic covers for fluorescent light fixtures come in a few styles. The most common are prismatic and frosted light covers. These covers are also commonly called diffusers.
Prismatic fluorescent light diffusers are textured, and you’ve probably seen them before. Typically the texture is sort of like small raised squares. These have the advantage of really obscuring the fluorescent light tubes and spreading out the light.
Frosted light covers are smooth or very subtly textured. Instead of using a texture to obscure the tubes, they are frosted so that you can’t see behind them. Depending on the setting, frosted lights may be a little more elegant than prismatic covers.
Another type of plastic cover you often see on fluorescent lights is the parabolic cover. This is less of a cover than an effective way of reflecting the fluorescent light to make it less glaring. In place of a plastic light cover, the tubes are hidden behind a grid of reflective metal or plastic. The grid is often a few inches deep, so the tubes are not directly visible from any angle. However, the light reflects off the grid and shines out into the room, often providing more light than a traditional plastic cover.
Negative Effects of Fluorescent Lighting
One of the biggest problems with fluorescent lights is the type of light they give off. Due to the nature of the phosphor coating inside the tubes, the light that is created is not even across the visible spectrum. Instead, more light is produced in the short-wavelength end of the spectrum. Typically the shorter wavelengths look blue, so we call it blue light, but it may not actually appear blue.
The problem with blue light is that it sends the wrong signal to the brain. Humans function on a physiological cycle of approximately 24 hours. Although the cycle is internally produced, it takes many cues from the ambient light. For most of human history, the ambient light was sunlight, so the changing patterns of sunlight throughout the day became triggers for many biological processes. One of the most important biological effects of changing light is the human sleep cycle. The dimming light of the evening hours signals the body to produce sleep-inducing hormones, whereas the bright light of midday sends the opposite signal. That’s why sitting in a dim or dark room can make you tired at any time of day.
The midday light that tells the body to wake up and release wakefulness hormones is the result of the sun being at its highest point of the day. At that point, the sunlight passes through the atmosphere to create a slightly blue tint. Like the blue of fluorescent lights, it is not visibly blue. But the light is skewed toward the short-wavelength end of the spectrum. That kind of light is great for midday, but fluorescent light bulbs give off that kind of light at all hours. That sends wakefulness signals at the wrong times, disrupting sleep and other vital functions.
Colored Film to Cover Lights
One way to make fluorescent light look better is to use colored film to cover lights, changing the spectrum that reaches your eyes. However, if you want to know how to make fluorescent light look better, you could do better than colored film. While it is true that colored film may, in some cases, solve the blue light problem, it does little for aesthetics.
Fluorescent light is terrible for two reasons. First, its effects on health are annoying at best and often harmful. But the second issue is just the appearance. The light that comes from fluorescent lamps looks almost as bad as it feels. If you’ve ever wondered why some offices or schools look so bland, look up. The fluorescent light fixtures do little to help the situation.
That’s why Octo Lights makes decorative light covers. We sell a film that you can put over your current diffuser to help filter the harmful light. But was also know that you can do a lot better than a boring flat color. Our decorative fluorescent light covers are printed with beautiful images in vivid color. The right image can transform a room and bring a whole new feeling to your school, office, or business.
Some of our most popular images are our cloud and sky designs . These decorative light covers feature a bright blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds. Installing one of these in your office is like an instant skylight, without all the cost and construction! You can take that old, dingy looking fluorescent fixture and turn it into a light that makes your space feel more open and sunny. Our other fixtures include scenes of natural landscapes , underwater creatures , and even distant galaxies . Take a look at our full selection and place your order today!