In terms of warehouse energy costs, lighting can account for up to 65% of total energy costs, cold stores excepted, yet the majority of UK warehouse operators have yet to make the transition to relatively new and ever-improving lighting developments like LED, which offer considerably more boons than just energy savings and CO2 reduction, typically yielding 1.5 to 2 year paybacks, especially when fitted with ‘intelligent’ controls. These include, for example, much lower maintenance costs than with traditional metal halide lamps because they typically last 10 years and some suppliers will guarantee that longevity.
LEDs also give a better quality and even distribution of light, which means improved security, especially as image clarity on CCTV is much better owing to the lack of shadows and enhanced colour definition. White light is also easier to work in, better for reading labels and more comfortable for the workforce, thus increasing pick rate and productivity. Safety, too, is better because LED lighting helps much older forklift drivers to discern objects more clearly and so reduce the risks of forklift accidents. All these benefits far outweigh the extra initial costs of LED compared with more traditional lighting.
It is important, however, to remember that LED products of different quality can vary sharply, with many poor quality LEDs having a colour rendition index (CRI) of less than 80. Under this kind of light only some colours will look natural, while the rest will be distorted. While CRI may not be an overriding concern for some warehouses, it is sensible to choose a product with a CRI of 80+ and a colour temperature of 3500-4000 Kelvin for where people are working long hours. To obtain advice on all the points to watch out for, good and bad, over LEDs and other lighting forms, potential buyers should contact some of the leading, long-established suppliers like Tamlite, Dialight and Ecolighting UK.
Even though advances in lighting technology like LED make an indisputably strong case for investment the biggest barrier to investment still remains the CAPEX issue, while some potential users still disbelieve the energy-saving claims of LED providers. Good, free advice on this issue can be had from UKWA and the Carbon Trust. The latter, in particular, can ease the investment case by offering SMEs unsecured, interest-free loans, along with the Government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, which provides 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in energy-saving equipment against taxable profits. Some lighting providers will even offer leasing schemes so that there are no upfront costs and the repayments are often offset by monthly energy savings.
Energy issues are moving centre stage in many companies’ thinking, with rising costs and more stringent environmental legislation likely to concentrate minds even more. While 74% of UK businesses in 2013 were aware of their obligations to report green house emissions in their Directors Reports, as of this year new EU regulations will compel energy surveys. Perhaps these will show just where their bills are racking up wanton wastage and how much can be saved by a switch to more energy-saving products, particularly in the lighting field.
Where a Greenfield warehouse site is being planned the opportunities to make significant energy savings are at their highest. Space costs money in so many ways and one of them is energy. It therefore makes sense to plan the storage cube to be no bigger than it need be. The use of conventional, counterbalance forklifts is space-wasting and therefore adds to many costs like rent, rates heating and lighting. The implications for energy savings by switching from these and reach trucks to articulated forklifts able to work in VNA aisles only 1.6 mt wide should not be ignored.