If there is one outstanding trend in warehouse lighting it is concerns over energy costs, where typically lighting is the largest single energy use, accounting for up to three quarters of the total operational carbon emissions. Some of this concern will undoubtedly be driven by legislation, particularly the Energy Act of 2011, enforceable from 2018, which is likely to make it unlawful to let buildings with F or G rated energy performance certificates. Fortunately, the lighting industry has responded well to such concerns through many innovations and nowhere is this more obvious than in the fast-changing LED sector. There is also help from the Carbon Trust through interest-free loans and enhanced capital allowances, and advice and guidance documents from British Standards like the Society of Light and Lighting Code for Lighting. However, there is a problem with LED because such products differ widely, while not all offering the same light quality, performance and glare control.

chazAccording to Colin Lawson, head of sales, marketing and product development at Tamlite Lighting, there is rife misinformation owing to outdated notions or overzealous selling, a situation worsened by a market flooded with newly-formed ‘lighting’ companies promoting LEDs based on misleading data or underplaying issues of poor light quality. In such a climate it is hardly surprising that only 51% of respondents to a Carbon Trust survey said that they were confident about manufacturers’ energy efficiency claims. To guide potential lighting buyers through the maze, therefore, the Carbon Trust has launched its Green Business Directory accessible through the Trust’s website.

It is important to remember that as with other warehousing issues, like forklifts, it is the life cycle costs that should dominate the buying decision, not the initial installation costs. In this respect LED solutions lead the pack of competing lighting modes, and technical improvements are changing so quickly that they will enhance the case even more. One such improvement soon will be wireless communication of lighting control because existing trunking runs inside warehouses are not always ideally oriented. When combined with daylight and presence detection, LEDs can yield typical energy savings of 70%, giving a ROI of just over one year. But it is not only about energy costs. Maintenance costs can be high with other lighting systems, like high pressure sodium  lamps, but LEDs like Thorlux Lighting’s Solow LED, with a rated life of 100,000 hours, can be maintenance free for over 11 years when operating 24/7.

Safety is another issue that should be factored in to any buying decision. A dangerous part of many warehouse operations is where forklifts interact with high bay racking. Lighting must not only be adequate, especially for older drivers who need more light to discern objects clearly, it must also be glare free when looking up at laser-like lighting to avoid dazzle that could cause momentary loss of forklift control. Good quality lighting delivers the right light in the right place at the right time. With LEDs, colour rendition is important – which is the ability of a light source to render colours correctly. A CRI of 100 is equivalent to daylight. The British Standards recommend a CRI of 160 for storage and racking areas but 180 for control stations, inspection areas, and the like.

The future looks bright for LEDs. Prices can be expected to fall significantly as they become even more powerful and use 30-40 % less energy. But buyers must be careful when choosing from a growing band of suppliers where there is no uniformity over quality of advice. To respond to this problem, Tamlite has launched Infinity, a new mark of assured performance for LED products. The mark helps customers to differentiate the ‘performance’ products from lower spec LED products so that they can be assured the product has achieved natural colour rendering, comfortable colour temperature, and appropriate glare control.

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