The old Boy Scout saying is “Be Prepared”? What does it mean to “be prepared” and what exactly are you preparing for?
It really depends on where you are going, who you are, and what you are doing. But to the lighting auditor, it often means making sure you have the right tools with you to gather the most accurate facility and fixture information in the shortest amount of time.
This sense of preparedness comes with experience and knowledge about the business, the technical elements of lighting (e.g., lumen and color requirements, mounting hardware, etc.) and the environmental aspects of getting a labor crew in and out with minimal disruption – all of which requires having the proper materials, tools and equipment.
I had the opportunity a few weeks back to meet Walter Kondon (a SNAP-A Certification holder) with IGA Services, and we discussed audit tools and equipment in detail. Walter has been in the lighting auditor role for many years, and his gear recommendations can be invaluable to lighting retrofit newbies and veterans alike.
Walter believes that great audit tools start with a good backpack. He recommends a smaller backpack, such as this one available on Amazon, since they are a little less cumbersome than traditional-sized backpacks. The backpack should be big enough for a tablet and/or small laptop, as well as the other gear. Side pockets are incredibly helpful to organize and quickly grab the things you’ll need on a regular basis, such as a light meter and a water bottle.
In this “Audit Go Bag”, as Walter refers to it, you should have a variety of tools you would need while out in the field. I’ve added a few suggestions as well.
Here’s a list of audit tools every retrofitter should have in their go bag:
Mobile digital tablet
Make sure the SnapCount 2 Mobile App is loaded onto the tablet, of course! There are a lot of tablet choices out there, so make sure you don’t go cheap. You need something of good quality with a fast processor to ensure your device is quickly and accurately keeping up with all the detail you’re adding into your audit.
The SnapCount Team recommends an iPad (Air or Pro), Samsung Galaxy, or Windows Surface. We also recommend your tablet be housed in a sturdy protective case in the event the unthinkable happens (like dropping it from an eight-foot ladder). A hand grip on the case can make it easier to hold the tablet while walking, talking, and gathering data all at the same time (chewing gum optional).
Get a good quality one. And as convenient as apps on the device may be, the accuracy of the device camera may be sketchy for readings. There are many brands of light meters on the market that can be purchased online, but Walter and his team buy theirs through Grainger. The trick is to get a light meter that is not only accurate but also easy to use with one hand.
As a reminder, foot candle readings should be at tabletop height, which is 30 inches. But out in the field you can't use a tabletop for a guide, so an average height person can use readings from hip level.
This is used to identify lamps in indirect fixtures or any otherwise obscured lamp. The good news is that they barely take up any room in their retracted state and weigh not much more than a quarter (or two). This device could also double as a back scratcher for those hard to reach places that may sneak up on you during a long day of counting lights.
Laser distance measurer
This enables you to easily and near instantly measure fixture and ceiling heights as well as square feet. Feel free to leave that old metal tape measure at home. What did we do before measuring distances at the speed of light, literally?
Use this to distinguish ceramic ballasts from electronic ballasts. It’s not used often, but it’s good practice to keep one in your kit just in case. Acuity and Philips brands are two brands that can be purchased online.
Portable power supply
It’s critical to have something to charge your tablet on the go if your battery starts to run low. Auditing all day with the screen active drains the battery quickly, and you want to be able to keep working. Portable power banks can be found at your local office supply or electronics store, or for quick shipment at your favorite e-tailer.
In the right circumstances with multiple elements, pitch counters can provide speed and accuracy.
This will keep your building layouts organized and handy and gives you a platform for taking notes if needed.
While this is not something you want to carry with you to every room (it definitely won’t fit in the “go bag”), having ready access to a step stool or ladder will give you the boost you need (especially those of us who may be vertically challenged) to assess the needed details and ensure your audit is as accurate as possible.
Optional safety equipment as needed or required by client:
- Protective eyewear
- Ear plugs
- Safety vest
- Steel toe shoes (not part of the go bag but part of a safety package)
My personal addition would be comfortable shoes and a Fit Bit to track those steps! Ok, the Fit Bit may be optional, but comfortable shoes are a must.
While SnapCount continues to innovate to digitize and improve all elements of the retrofit project life cycle, these basic audit tools will help ensure you are prepared to capture all of the needed data required for you or your project development team to design a project that will not only give you the sales win, but be delivered on time and on budget and render a happy client that refers new business your way.
Happy auditing! If you have any additions to the “audit go bag,” we would love to hear about it.