Interest in LED lighting in the warehouse is soaring but just as when buying forklifts and comparing model costs a mistake made by potential buyers of LEDs is to obsess over the initial investment costs compared with more traditional lighting forms like incandescent or fluorescents. It is the life cycle costs that really matter and this is where LED comes into its own, because they consume far less energy and last far longer, meaning much less maintenance costs and paybacks of between one to three years.
To some extent it is understandable why many facilities managers have taken a cautious view over LEDs, and part of that is a legacy issue. One concern, for example, was that LEDs were not bright enough for warehouse spaces. That may have been true in the early days when there was only a limited range of output. Today, however, buyers can choose the most appropriate system for their use.Another legacy issue is that there are many “horror stories” of early failures, which undermine LED technology in general. Now it is true that some LED quality still varies among suppliers, so to protect themselves buyers should grill their suppliers over warranty issues, because confusion continues to exist around the predicted lifetime of the technology, which is perceived as relatively new and, according to some, “untested” in terms of product longevity.
While this attitude can be challenged by LED lighting installations which are over five years old and have not been subject to any warranty claims, buyers should protect themselves by asking two critically important questions. When looking at the warranties are 1) the claims supported with full test certification? and 2) are there real life examples of installations that have met those lifetime claims? LED manufacturers should be asked to provide complete documented evidence and certification. This should include independent TEMPO (Thermal, Electrical, Mechanical, Photometric and Optical) test reports as well as basic CE and IP test certificates.
Looking to the future, buyers should consider how emerging technologies can be harnessed by LEDs that all alternative lighting methods cannot remotely challenge. We are not talking her of just sensors for adjusting lighting levels in discrete areas but rather the harnessing of Power over Ethernet (PoE) to create a connected lighting solution. As luminaires receive power and data over a single Ethernet connection there is no need for costly electrical wiring, cutting installation costs by at least 25% and reducing installation times by 50%. A big plus for occupiers is that each luminaire has four sensors for detecting light levels, temperature, occupancy and one infrared sensor to serve as an emergency control. Thus, the lighting can provide managers with an integrated view of a building’s occupancy patterns and energy usage. This would show how people use a building and how intensively so that, for example, managers can focus on cleaning rooms that really need it. Staff can set lighting and temperature to suit their personal preferences via an app on their smartphones. The potential savings on a building’s operational costs could be significant, as heating, cooling and lighting typically account for 70% of a building’s energy use. In the case of warehouses, lighting alone can absorb 65-70% of total energy costs.
Given the Government’s incentives, there is no reason for SMEs to baulk at the initial costs of LED investments. The Carbon Trust, in addition to offering free advice, will provide interest-free loans of up to £100,000, repayable over a 12-48 month period. Such loans can pay for themselves by offsetting repayments against monthly energy savings, and there is also the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme.