The importance of warehouse lighting issues will grow as concerns for the environment, backed by legislation, begin to impact the storage scene, especially after 2018. This is when the 2011 Energy Act must be obeyed if warehouse operators are to avoid F and or G energy performance certificates, which would outlaw their premises. The amount of energy consumed by warehouse lighting is astonishing, typically 50-60% of total electrical energy costs for storage businesses. If only for that reason, warehouse operators should re-examine their lighting operations if they have remained unchanged for some years. The significant savings available through a change of lighting and controls “is gradually dawning on UK businesses,” says Steve Gardner, Director, Lutterworth Ecolighting.

The cheapest way, perhaps, to begin a re-examination of lighting is to call in the Carbon Trust, who provide site audits, guidance documents and interest-free loans of up to £200,000 to support investment in energy- efficient opportunities. There is also the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme designed to encourage businesses to invest in energy-saving equipment. This provides 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in energy-saving equipment against taxable profits of the period of investment. A particularly useful guide is the report from the United Kingdom Warehouse Association, supported by the Carbon Trust, entitled “Save Energy, Cut Costs.” This examines the effectiveness of various lighting equipment, key energy reduction opportunities and gives case studies showing remarkable paybacks.

Alternatively, warehouse operators could approach the lighting manufacturers, but preferably those with a wide range of product technologies because some forms of lighting are unsuitable or too costly in certain circumstances. LED lights, for example, are becoming more popular as the preferred lighting solution for many applications but they do not present a cost-effective solution for high bay warehouses, claims Somar. In recent tests it found that at heights of 9 mt two LEDs were required for one Somar T5 unit and at 12 mt the ratio was three to one. Somar also says that the dimming controls associated with LEDs are well behind in functionality and intelligence.

There can also be problems with high pressure sodium lamps over time because they degrade and so create a safety issue. A 60-year old forklift driver needs six times as much light level as a 20-year old to see properly and so avoid collisions, and poor lighting is often cited as a prime cause of forklift accidents inside warehouses. HPS and fluorescent lights generate much heat which may need to be offset by air-conditioning. In cold stores they can result in dangerous icicles which need to be removed regularly from the ceiling.

These traditional lights contain hazardous materials, leading to additional disposal costs. They are also fragile and need regular replacement. Lifespan for HPS lights may be only around 15,000 hours whereas LEDs can last 10 years if not in use 24/7.

If warehouses have not seriously taken on board the threats from wasteful energy practices then now is a good time to start. As already indicated, lighting is a primary factor in warehouse energy costs. Proper attention and appropriate action where needed will ensure compliance with legislation like the Energy Act 2011 and the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which will require many organizations to trade carbon and appear in a published league table with their peers.

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