Luis Ramirez, Chief Operations Officer, Dialight
Warehouse design and workflow are critical factors in maximizing productivity at any facility. The ability to move product and materials efficiently through a storage area is a primary concern both for speed and efficiency, as well as keeping workers safe in the process.
Clear visibility is crucial, but it’s also quite often a major challenge when companies rely on conventional lighting sources. The most common fixtures, high-pressure sodium (HPS), cast an unnatural orange glow and create harsh shadows which result in overall poor visibility. In addition, these fixtures require virtually ongoing maintenance with frequent bulb changes that not only drive up time and material costs, but also block pathways and interrupt production thanks to the scissor lifts needed to reach high-mounted fixtures.
Industrial LED lighting technology has gained substantial traction in the market as a more efficient, longer-lasting and lower-maintenance solution to conventional HID fixtures in warehouse facilities. However, despite proven energy and maintenance savings that result in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), many companies remain hesitant to convert to LEDs, discouraged by the relatively high initial investment.
While it’s true that high-performance industrial LED fixtures may carry a higher per-fixture price tag, the long-term benefits and cost savings deliver a substantial return on investment. In fact, LED lighting upgrades often pay for themselves in less than 24 months. With some of the best fixtures on the market rated and guaranteed to last 10 years or more, that means eight years of energy and maintenance savings that goes straight to the bottom line. Not to mention, the added benefits of better visibility, increased sustainability and improved safety, which directly impact productivity and efficiency.
Aside from the direct energy and maintenance cost savings, industrial LED fixtures also deliver several lesser-known but equally valuable benefits that should play a major role in the decision. For any facility that’s on the fence about retrofitting, or considering lighting options for a new build, here are five more reasons that LEDs should be the top choice.
1) More light where you need it most. Conventional HPS fixtures lack directional lighting capability, and instead, simply blanket the entire area in their orange glow, including racks/shelving and the ceiling. That means a lot of wasted light and energy just to get satisfactory lighting where it’s needed most—on the floor and workflow areas. Even with reflectors in place, there’s still a lot of light that bleeds into wasted space.
Industrial LED fixtures, on the other hand, can be precisely placed within the fixture to direct the light exactly where it’s needed. Rather than a circular bulb that emits light in all directions, the solid-state design of an LED allows them to be positioned on the board to throw the light in the optimal location. With the addition of precision optic lenses, LED fixtures can be dialed in even more, creating customizable, precise light patterns that serve the specific needs of the site. As a result, less light and energy are wasted, and you get clear, crisp visibility where it’s needed most.
2) Improved light efficacy lowers fixture count.Because of the poor quality of light emitted by HPS fixtures, many facilities must “over light” an area, placing fixtures close together in order to reduce shadows and dark spots. This is especially true for high ceiling environments, where fixtures are mounted at 40-50 feet or more above the warehouse floor. Not only do these high-wattage fixtures consume an exorbitant amount of power, they’re also hard to maintain, and more fixtures means more maintenance headaches.
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Figure 2. Dialight LED High Bays illuminate OZ Trail warehouse shelving
LEDs solve this problem and reduce fixture count in most applications. Because of their higher light output at the source, their precision directional control and clearer, white light, many facilities find that they can replace two HPS fixtures with just one high-performance industrial-grade LED fixture. This 2-for-1 upgrade not only slashes energy consumption, but it also means there are fewer fixtures to buy, less wiring and infrastructure to maintain, and fewer overhead obstructions to work around.
3) Smart controls integration. Because HPS and other HID fixtures typically require an extended warm-up period to come up to full output, most facilities avoid this by leaving the lights on 24/7, whether they’re needed or not. This burns an exorbitant amount of unnecessary electricity and shortens the life of the fixture.
Industrial LED fixtures feature instant-on capability, delivering full light output as soon as the switch is flipped. And, that doesn’t necessarily mean a physical switch—smart controls can enable LED fixtures to be controlled and adjusted automatically. For example, occupancy sensors allow the lights to stay off when they’re not needed and turn them on instantly as soon as workers move into the area. Daylight harvesting sensors leverage ambient light to automatically dim LED fixtures, reducing light output (and energy consumption) to maintain prescribed light levels without burning continuously at full power. As more and more companies modernize to move toward facility automation, only industrial LEDs with smart controls enable this capability. HPS simply cannot.
4) Reduces environmental footprint. Sustainability is becoming a primary concern for a vast majority of companies. But, conventional HPS fixtures are one of the most environmentally unfriendly lighting sources on the market. Not only are they extremely inefficient, they also produce a huge amount of waste—some of it hazardous. With millions of HPS bulbs changed out every year, the discards must be disposed of. And, because each HPS fixture contains as much as 50 milligrams of hazardous mercury—enough to poison an entire classroom of children—they must be treated as hazardous waste, which not only adds to the cost but also the environmental impact.
Industrial LED fixtures have proven to be a more sustainable lighting choice on multiple fronts. Not only are they much more energy efficient, which reduces carbon output by millions of metric tons, as well as other noxious gas emissions, they also substantially reduce lighting waste and contain no hazardous materials. By eliminating bulb changes for up to 10 years or more and reducing hazardous waste output, industrial LED fixtures allow companies to meet sustainability goals with a simple lighting retrofit that’s much faster, cheaper and efficient than making radical production adjustments.
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Figure 3. Dialight LED High Bays deliver clear visibility throughout a OZTrail warehouse
5) Improve worker safety, comfort and alertness. Making sure workers stay alert and aware of their surroundings is a critical factor in facility safety. But, PSthe dull, dingy light emitted from most HPS fixtures not only makes for a darker, less vibrant environment, it also makes it extremely difficult to distinguish colors on warning and informational signage and wiring. This poses a significant safety risk that could put workers in jeopardy if they misinterpret a warning or accidentally cut a live wire.
By delivering crisp, clear illumination with an output that’s near daylight quality on the Color Rendering Index (CRI), industrial LEDs provide the ideal visual clarity to help workers clearly distinguish colors. LED lighting has also proven to improve trip hazard detection, reduce discomfort from glare, and enhance worker alertness and reduce fatigue by a factor of 5X compared to HPS lighting.
While the energy cost and maintenance savings tend to get the most attention when it comes to the advantages of industrial LED lighting, those certainly aren’t the only tangible and measurable benefits. When it comes to choosing the best light source for a warehouse facility, it’s important to consider not just the cost, but the longevity and environmental impact—both within your internal environment and to Planet Earth—as well as worker safety and comfort.
By bundling all of these advantages with the savings, while eliminating the nuisance of maintenance and poor light quality, industrial LED fixtures provide an undeniably better choice for warehouse facility lighting.