Warehouses put money to sleep by virtue of inventory holding costs but they are also exceptionally energy-hungry and most of that derives from lighting costs, cold stores excepted. Yet despite the big technical advances in lighting, particularly the big shift to use LED lights to replace less efficient metal halide and other lighting forms, many warehouses are still reluctant to invest in the much more efficient lighting schemes, even though Government support is available, along with rental schemes, to ease the capex concerns.

Two major issues behind such reluctance to invest in the most appropriate lighting are distrust over payback claims and an unregulated industry where poor quality suppliers give the whole industry a bad name. A third issue is always the capex fears. Neither of these first two issues should be of concern today provided basic precautions are taken from the start. The first move is to choose a reliable supplier, preferably one with a wide repertoire of lighting types because, for example, in certain situations TL5s might be more appropriate than LEDs.

Help in this selection process can be had from the Carbon Trust whose “green” business directory lists independently-assessed and accredited energy efficiency and low carbon equipment suppliers. It also makes sense to choose a longestablished supplier because the “cheap and cheerful suppliers don’t offer refunds,” says Pulsar Light of Cambridge. These leading, well-established lighting suppliers will also be happy to conduct free site surveys to come up with the best mix of lighting types and projected returns on investments. Buyers should be aware that there are hidden costs in poorly made products. Replacing shortlived lights involves labour, access equipment hire, etc and while LED lights have a long life, typically 4-5 times as much as competing lighting forms, it’s important to examine the warranty to see if it covers the cost of labour as well as materials because not all do so.

LED luminaires are significantly more costly initially than other lighting forms which doubtless raises capex concerns, a significant barrier to their take-up. There are, however, ways to alleviate that concern. Help, for example, is available to SMEs through Government schemes and the Carbon Trust. The latter offers unsecured, interest-free loans for up to four years, plus help with conducting site surveys. The Government’s enhanced capital allowance scheme provides 100% first-year capital allowances on energy-saving equipment against taxable profits. If that is not enticing enough there are private schemes that eliminate the financial strain through rental options. This aids cash flow and takes advantages of the tax benefits.

Rarely should an investment in LED luminaires be undertaken without harnessing sensors to detect motion and monitor ambient daylight levels. These will allow lights to switch off automatically or dim down to around 10% when no movement is detected. Timers can be programmed so that when sensors detect movement the relevant lights can remain on for anytime between 10 seconds and 72 hours. When compared with a traditional 400w sodium or metal halide discharge fitting that typically consumes around 460 watts an LED fitting will consume only 160 watts at full power, and produce more light on the floor, meaning a 65% base load saving even before the sensors start working. When combined with sensor controls overall energy savings can reach over 92%. To this can be added generally better lighting levels and much lower maintenance costs owing to their far greater longevity.

Other measures to keep the hungry energy beast from gnawing at your cash include making better use of natural light through more windows and sky lights, transparent rapid roller doors, voltage optimisation units and attempts to renegotiate tariffs.