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LIGHTING – Shedding light on warehouse energy costs

Identifying energy savings in warehouses might appear to require much research but the answer is often just above one’s head – lighting, which typically accounts for at least 60% of all warehouse energy consumed. And nor is the cost of implementing an energy management system too expensive to consider, even for small companies. Fees may be charged for energy surveys but sometimes they can be free like those from the Carbon Trust, which also helps with interest-free loans. More importantly, a new energy management system can deliver a short payback of under two years and it should ensure compliance with legal requirements on lighting levels and minimise the risks to staff, whose vision capabilities can vary widely depending on age. Improved lighting systems will also help users meet their carbon emissions targets and keep them in good regard by their main customers who will want their suppliers to act responsibly on green issues.

An effective energy management will ensure that unnecessary lighting is eliminated by sensors and light dimmers. Only now, says Steve Gardner, director of Lutterworth Ecolighting, is it gradually dawning on UK businesses that significant savings can be had through a change of lighting and controls. Before certain technical advances, the ability to adjust lighting according to workers’ presence was not practical with some lights like high intensity discharge (HID) lamps which can take up to 15 minutes to reach full light output. Today, however, high efficiency fluorescent lamps (T5) can achieve comparable light outputs of HID lights, using much less energy and giving a higher level of control flexibility.

Businesses are taking to LED lights more for many applications, says Ian Hambly, of Somar, and their ability to perform well at very low temperatures makes them attractive to cold store operators. Standard T5 fluorescent lamps will perform poorly at 0 Centigrade and very poorly at minus 25 C. However, Somar claims that LEDs do not present a cost effective solution to high bays. In recent tests it found that by taking LED lights and comparing their performance with T5 it was found that at heights of about 9 mt two LEDs were required for 1 T5 unit and at 12 mt the ratio was 3:1. In addition, they say the dimming controls associated with LEDs are well behind in functionality and intelligence. Compared with HPS or MH fittings LEDs should deliver 50% energy savings at lower heights but above 10 mt the savings diminish as one needs to increase the number of fittings to achieve the light output.

It is still the case that many warehouses treat lighting as the poor relation and most rely on internal maintenance regimes. Flickering tubes and popped bulbs are often ignored for too long, leading, in some cases, to serious accidents. Warehouse operators, therefore, might usefully consider outsourcing their lighting maintenance to their lighting suppliers. This is not costly and Lutterworth would typically charge about £15 per fitting every four or five years.

Users contemplating a new energy management system should also not be overly concerned about disruption to the building and day-to-day operations. NCS, an energy management company providing advice to warehouse owners, has worked with retailers to ensure that there was no disruption during installations.

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