In the art of magic, the magician attempts to make certain things happen without letting the audience in on just how he does it.

Designers of mall lighting applications also attempt to achieve the same sleight of hand by illuminating landscaping, alcoves, and other nooks and crannies of mall common areas without revealing how they do it.

In malls, the most attractive lighting sources often are those that can't be seen. The lighting fixtures, no matter how attractive, can spoil the look the architect was trying to achieve. More light may be desirable but not more fixtures.

Solving this problem is the latest "rabbit out of the hat" at Fairfield, N.J.-based Amerlux Lighting Systems. The company's new Stylus III and Pendalite III lighting fixtures are 100-watt, metal-halide light sources with special fixtures that can place a circle of light on an area from up to 50 feet away.

"It really punches the light out, creating a kind of theatrical lighting," says Carol Boyle, vice president of sales for Amerlux.

"This allows the fixture to be placed far from its target and out of the sightline of shoppers," she says. "Keeping light sources from blocking signage or other decorative items in retail stores and malls is one of the main problems in retail applications."

The new fixture's ability to project light over a great distance is an important advantage over other light sources.

"Incandescent fixtures are cheaper, but their sources have to be close to what they are lighting," Boyle says. "Often, incandescent fixtures have to be created that literally fit into the signage. These and other compromises have to be made so that sometimes the answer is to use another source."

At shorter but still significant distances, the Stylus III and Pendalite III fixtures can be very prolific light sources. From 18 feet away they can provide more than 100 foot-candles of illumination in a 7.5-foot circle.

"Customers come to us for help, and we take their comments to the research department, which goes about meeting those needs," Boyle explains.

Maintenance made easy In addition to the advantage of projecting light over greater distances, the Stylus III and Pendalite III fixtures are more energy efficient, have longer lamp lives and provide better light quality.

The ED 17 metal-halide lamps, used in the Stylus III and Pendalite III products, fit into the light reflectors, whereas Par lamps are part of the reflector. Thus, the owner must replace only the lamp when it burns out and not the reflector as well. This results in greater cost savings, says Boyle.

Also, the ED 17 lamps have a life of 12,000 hours compared with only 7,500 hours for Par lamps. "In an application where the lighting would be on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that would be 8,760 hours," says Boyle. "So mall management could go more than a year between relamping, as opposed to less than a year with par lamps."

Boyle says Amerlux usually recommends group relamping at 75% of the lamp's rated life.

The metal-halide light source also provides better color rendering, which means shoppers get a more realistic idea of how their merchandise will look in natural light. Another advantage to metal halide is that it produces very little heat, which results in lower HVAC costs.

On the right track Another low-wattage metal halide light source is HID lighting. Amerlux produces these systems in both downlight and track lighting applications. The HID sources have a higher lumen output than incandescent sources. For example, one 70-watt HID track lighting fixture produces light equivalent to that produced by three 90-watt incandescent fixtures - the same light for roughly one-fourth of the energy cost.

HID also uses less energy than quartz lighting systems. Amerlux's RD8V Vertical Lamp HID Downlights replaced some of the quartz downlights at Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Va., last fall - and the difference has been noticeable.

"The bulbs cost more, but they only use 70 watts compared to the 100-watt and 120-watt quartz bulbs we were using," says Dave Trinkle, chief engineer at Coliseum Mall. "The HID bulbs also produce a higher-quality light, and the bulbs last longer than the quartz bulbs."

The track-mounted HID lighting systems are used in a number of ways, including lighting around skylights. "Skylights need light around them at night to warm them up," says Boyle.

Aesthetics also come into play for these light fixtures. To hide the lighting source, Amerlux can place the track systems inside extruded aluminum carriers, which can be hung from the ceiling.

The carriers are available in 180 standard colors and can be shaped to fit as an additional theme element for the mall. "They can be designed to match the decor, so they make a decoration statement as well as the more practical use as lighting," explains Boyle.

While metal-halide lighting often has a higher upfront cost, its lower wattage requirements yield cost savings in the long run, Boyle says.

Most of Amerlux's current retail applications are within stores, but its business in mall common areas is growing. The company also works on a considerable amount of supermarket projects, which are in great demand because of the number of neighborhood centers being developed.

The metal-halide lighting systems may be more of an investment on the front end, but users are finding that the savings they experience down the road is not something that disappears.