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New LED technologies enhance productivity at industrial facilities

indexHORIZONS
Jason Baright
One of the most common problems in building operations is the use of outdated technology. From automation to security, upgrades are currently available that can immensely improve productivity, enhance services, and save money.

This is especially true in the area of lighting. Many companies still primarily rely on high-intensity discharge (HID) fixtures, such as metal halides and/or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), to illuminate everything from warehouses and production floors to corporate headquarters. Metal halides are costly to operate, generate intense heat, and lose about half their light output midway through their life cycle. Ongoing maintenance is also a concern—metal halides generally require five or six bulb changes and one or two ballast changes over a decade.

Unfortunately, CFL bulbs also offer their own set of challenges. In addition to requiring ongoing maintenance due to their limited life cycles, they are known to falter in severe applications, especially cold temperatures. They also contain mercury, which can pose multiple health risks and even contaminate an entire line of goods when cracked or broken.

In contrast, light emitting diodes (LEDs) have been around for decades, with recent advances providing the ability to create bright, clearly visible environments while reducing potential hazards such as fire and shock risks. In comparison to metal halides and CFLs, LEDs are lightweight and virtually maintenance-free. Further, they require 60 to 70 percent less energy to produce bright light consistently, and emit up to 70 percent of their initial light output after more than a decade of operation.

However, reluctance to adopt LEDs is often based on the desire of facility operators to insert this type of lighting into existing fixture housings without realizing the older systems lack the proper compatibility and heat-sink characteristics. As a result, these retrofitted drop-ins seldom last as long or function as well as high-quality, properly constructed LEDs fixtures, making the process hardly worth the effort and perpetuating unwarranted misconceptions about the technology.

The truth is modern LED fixtures, when properly fitted and installed, improve visibility, safety, and working conditions while drastically lowering energy and cooling costs.

Aesthetically, LEDs produce a much higher quality of light than traditional sources; colors appear more vivid due to the high color rating index (CRI). Fixtures are available in a variety of color temperatures, such as ‘daylight white’ (5000k), which offers a crisp and clean white light as opposed to a bluish pallor. They also offer the ability to emit light in a specific direction, eliminating the need for reflectors that can trap and waste energy.

Other LED benefits are achieved through increased productivity and safety. People often do not consider the impact of workplace lighting on productivity, but poor lighting can lead to complaints such as fatigue, eyestrain, headaches, eye irritation, eye dryness, and blurred vision. Technologies that light a space well, without shadows or glare, allow workers to focus on tasks without squinting, using awkward postures, or searching for additional lighting sources.

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For cold-storage facilities, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can improve visibility, safety, and working conditions while drastically lowering energy and cooling costs.
Photo courtesy G&G LED

A recent study from Cornell University found a three to five percent gain in worker productivity can be achieved through proper industrial LED lighting. Poor lighting, on the other hand, is often the cause of accidents (both serious and minor), as well as ongoing picking, packing, and production errors. With LEDs that last up to 100,000 hours, lifts and ladders needed for traditional maintenance can be eliminated. Since LEDs can also be customized to emit a level of white light that mimics daylight, the human body reacts as it would to sunlight, helping keep night workers awake and alert.

Proper planning should never be dismissed when choosing the correct LED lighting solution. While many applications appear ‘cookie-cutter’ in design, most have intrinsic details requiring particular attention. It can be extremely beneficial to work with a supplier or manufacturer who understands industrial concerns and is willing to work with customers to specify the best solutions for their unique situations.

Qualified LED lighting companies will take the time and added effort to design a package that will not only best serve operational needs, but also achieve long-term energy and cost savings, while simultaneously driving profits and enhancing sales. The following is a brief list of steps a good lighting designer takes to help with projects:

  • specifications—gathers detailed information, including drawings, dimensions, future plans, and objectives;
  • scope—discusses and determines the needs of the customer and the areas to be lit (e.g. manufacturing, packaging, and storage areas, etc), while making safety, cost savings, and aesthetic recommendations;
  • expectations—determines a plan of action based on the scope of the project, focusing on a combination of desired brightness levels, energy savings, and budgeting;
  • preparation, review, and revision—develops a complete rendering package for presenting to the customer, and works closely with her or him to review the plan and revise as needed.

At price points that can pay for themselves within two years of installation, there has never been a better time to switch to LED lighting.

Jason Baright co-founded G&G LED in 2010 to fill industrial lighting needs for high-quality linear light-emitting diode (LED) products, especially those suitable for wet locations and harsh environments. Initially focusing on the car wash industry, he is also involved with lighting for the automotive, food/restaurant, transportation, industrial, and agriculture fields. Baright is available at jbaright@ggled.net.

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