When you ask lighting experts about using LEDs in industrial applications, you’re likely to hear a variety of responses, ranging from “yes” to “it depends.” Answers to this question often vary because of the complexity of manufacturing facilities. They house several types of spaces, from plant floors and storage areas to restrooms and corporate meeting rooms. Because different tasks occur in each of these spaces, lighting goals and requirements also vary.
Recent advances in LED technology make them an even more viable option for industrial facilities. What wasn’t possible five years ago may be achievable today — what you’ve heard about LED lighting in industrial environments may no longer be true.
Here are some examples of how LEDs have changed, and what that means for industrial facilities.
Although LEDs were once not recommended for use in high-bay applications, there are now several LED lighting fixtures designed specifically for high-bay installation. This means that they follow recommended technical specifications for light output, lumen density, luminaire efficacy, etc.
The fixtures options also allow you to choose specific lighting patterns to improve safety, productivity, and energy efficiency.
LED high-bay luminaires can now provide lighting levels recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America while also withstanding high ambient temperatures in industrial environments.
LEDs now perform at least equally as well as compared to fluorescent and HID lamps in high temperatures, as long as they are designed to manage heat dissipation.
LEDs also perform well in cold temperatures. Refrigerated plants or warehouses don’t impact LED performance, and don’t add to the thermal load. HID lighting, which is often used in these environments, can also handle the cold temperatures, but adds substantial thermal load. To maintain low temperatures, this thermal load has to be removed – which costs money and is inefficient.
The inherently compact design of LEDs allows them to be used in small, cramped, or tight spaces. This means that they can fit into narrow spaces without sacrificing performance.
LEDs initially offered a limited light output range; this sometimes made them not bright enough for high-intensity industrial applications. That no longer holds true today. Industrial facilities have a wide range of LEDs to choose from so they can select an appropriate lighting intensity level.
Despite the now-possible bright lighting levels, well-designed LEDs can also minimize glare and manage light placement. The lamps emit light directionally, meaning that the light is focused where you want it.
LEDs now have excellent color-temperature choices for industrial environments. Described using the Kelvin scale, the wide range of white color-temperature choices for LEDs make them ideal for industrial applications where quality control, detail, and inspection are important. Color temperature is often a personal preference as well, so industrial lighting can be chosen to match what workers in a particular area may need or want.
If the fixtures in your plant are newer or in good condition, and the design and layout of the lighting system meets your needs, then a completely new LED lighting system may no longer be necessary. Instead, LED retrofit kits are available for industrial environments; they can transform existing fixtures, allowing you to install LED lamps into the equipment you already have.
It is important to note, however, that, if an LED lamp is fully enclosed in an existing fixture (in a fluorescent fixture with a lens, for example), less effective heat dissipation may occur, which can negatively impact the performance of an LED. These lamps reach their full life expectancy when they are operated in open fixtures with appropriate ventilation.
A Reminder About the Benefits Of LEDs
LEDs can successfully replace metal halide, high-pressure sodium, HID, and outdated fluorescent lamps. Because LEDs don’t need ballasts, they can minimize fire hazards and the environmental impacts and disposal costs for industrial facilities.
It’s important to remember that initial lighting fixture costs are only part of the total lifecycle costs of a lighting system. Next to energy savings, reduced maintenance is one of the biggest benefits of installing LEDs – especially in manufacturing and warehouse spaces where there are high, hard-to-reach fixtures.
Maintenance and lamp replacement costs increase the total cost of your lighting system; longer-lasting, efficient LEDs reduce how often lamps have to be changed, reducing the amount of time that staff or contractors spend replacing lamps.
LEDs can also eliminate downtime due to equipment shutdowns when lights go out. LEDs don’t suddenly turn off; they degrade slowly over time, producing less light and shifting color characteristics over the years as they age. This provides ample warning about necessary change-outs.
LEDs are also naturally resistant to vibration and impact because they don’t use filaments or glass enclosures. This makes them a perfect lamp for rugged environments.
If you thought that LEDs weren’t ready for industrial facilities, think again. LED technology has improved, and is ready to help your plant reduce energy usage, lower operating costs, decrease maintenance expenses, and improve lighting quality.
Dwayne Kula is founder of MyLEDLightingGuide, a consultant that helps commercial and industrial building owners save energy and money by finding efficient LED lighting solutions that will work in their specific environments and according to their specifications.