Thayer Lighting: A Bright Idea for Combatting Coronavirus

Staying true to its promise to help customers solve problems, this Loves Park, Ill., energy-efficiency expert is reaching into new product niches at just the right time.

In today’s cutthroat business world, the ability to evolve and adapt to change is a necessity companies can’t ignore.

Indeed, it’s led Thayer Lighting Inc., a family-oriented, Loves Park, Ill., staple for more than 30 years, to succeed despite the economic setbacks of the past year and a half.

“The lighting world went from where you bought the same lightbulb and replaced it, for about 80 years, to now, where products change every six months to a year,” says Karl Arvidson, vice president of operations. “LEDs are constantly becoming more efficient, more controllable and more advanced. Being able to constantly stay in tune with the industry, adapt and find what works has benefited us greatly. Some businesses, if they’re not willing to change, just die.”

Thayer Lighting has done the opposite of roll-over-and-die. Patti Thayer, president and owner of the company at 959 Industrial Court, in Loves Park, Ill., has made it her mission not only to be on the cutting edge of technology, but to find quality products for her customers.

“When LEDs came out years ago, my husband said, ‘Why are you spending so much time on those?’” Thayer recalls. “I’d prefer to be at the head than the tail. I knew in my gut that LEDs would change the future of lighting, and they have.”

Now, the company is looking toward the future again, offering a newer UV-C LED lighting and filtration product. Air Guardian has the capability of fighting the COVID-19 virus to get companies – and even schools – back to work safely.

“We’ve always been a lighting company,” Arvidson says. “This is a lighting product; we’re just using it to kill germs.”

Air Guardian is just one of many similar products that’s trying to break onto the scene during the global pandemic.

And just as it has for decades, Thayer Lighting stands behind the quality of its products.

“The advances in technology regarding air purification are extraordinary,” says Thayer. “And Air Guardian, I believe, is the top of the top. The problem is there are so many companies that have come out with their own answer, and people don’t fully vet those products; many don’t have the certification or the third-party testing. We’ve done our homework, and the company we’re working with has done its homework.”

In 1988, when Thayer’s late husband, Tom, first opened the business, he offered energy efficiency projects for commercial operations. In other words, he cut costs for businesses by finding better and more sustainable lighting solutions for their workspaces.

Back then, however, the focus was on reducing the number of lightbulbs in old fixtures. It’s come a long way since then, Arvidson says.

“As technology came more into play, we evolved into more efficient fluorescent products and then transitioned to LED products,” he says.

Today, Thayer Lighting continues its practice of providing a complimentary lighting audit and detailed cost savings analysis to potential customers. Once a company is on board with new lighting and energy solutions, it purchases products through Thayer Lighting, which, in turn, supports local electricians by subcontracting them for installation.

In the past decade alone, the company has completed more than 1,000 lighting projects, Arvidson says.
Yet, Thayer Lighting has taken lighting and energy efficiency a step further.

“UV [ultraviolet] lighting has long been used to purify and clean surfaces and air,” Arvidson says. “With the COVID-19 challenges, that’s become an even hotter item – it’s a growing segment. Manufacturers are all starting to make more products that can kill germs and pathogens.”

Unfortunately, many of the new UV-C products that claim to kill coronavirus are not safe, Arvidson warns.
While UV-C light can effectively kill more than 99% of biological hazards – including coronavirus – it can have the same deadly effect on humans, experts say.

UV-C light causes enough damage to the DNA in cells that they can no longer function, leading to the cell’s death. Similarly, if a person’s skin or eyes are exposed to UV-C, cells in the affected areas die, and that person could have an increased risk of cancer.

Some companies are developing UV units that don’t have the necessary safety features to protect those in contact with the ultraviolet rays.

That’s why Thayer Lighting has partnered with IllumiPure, the Texas-based biotechnology company that created Air Guardian, an FDA-certified UV-C LED lighting and disinfection system that won’t harm individuals – even as the system is cleaning and purifying the air.

The Air Guardian pulls air into the device and through special filters using advanced technology. The air is exposed to UV-C LED lights that purify it before recirculating it.

“Since the light source runs up in the ceiling, you can safely run it with occupants in the space and keep it continually clean,” Arvidson says. “COVID-19 is spread through air more than surface touching, so if you clean a room with that device, you’re effectively killing those biohazards.”

Arvidson notes that UV-C technology is nothing new, even if Air Guardian itself is only in its early stages. The manufacturer has been in the industry for a number of years.

“A lot of HVAC companies have had this technology in their ductwork,” he says. “There’s a lightbulb in your ductwork near your air filter in your furnace that cleans the air before it becomes recirculated into your home. Air Guardian takes it up a few notches. It’s a really effective way to clean the space and keep the occupants safe from those harmful ultraviolet rays.”

School districts are starting to approve its use as well, Thayer says. One school system installed Air Guardian last August, and there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 in the school since.

“For me to hold my head up high, we do our due diligence,” says Thayer. “We do our research to make sure a product will do what it says it’s going to do.”

While Thayer Lighting has continued to thrive by staying on the cutting edge of technology, having the next “it” product won’t do any good if the company doesn’t have an outstanding reputation.

Fortunately, the company does, thanks in part to the Thayers’ conviction to “always do right by the customer,” Arvidson says.

“Don’t cut corners. Don’t leave a customer situation unresolved,” he says. “Always do right by the customer.” These lessons are taught to every employee.

“Most of our business comes from referrals and repeat customers,” he says. “If you do a good job, it leads to more. It’s something we pride ourselves on.”

Thayer agrees.

“My satisfaction comes from a happy customer,” she says. “My joy comes from a project well done and a customer who is truly satisfied, especially when that customer works with us again. We sell them a quality product, and they recognize that we’re helping them save energy.”