When money is tight the temptation to make do and mend is strong and warehouse lighting investment is particularly prone to this attitude. If it is not the cost then it is the perceived disruption of installation or doubts about the claims for the latest form of lighting – LEDs, where admittedly in the past reliability has been variable. None of the reservations holds water today, provided warehouse operators deal with wellestablished, reputable suppliers.

bill-new-greyIn the last few years there has been a seismic shift towards LED lighting, especially in the warehouse sector, driven by legislative needs to cut carbon emissions and the high cost of energy, in which lighting can account for up to 65% of total warehouse energy costs. LED’s attractions, however, stretch far beyond just cutting energy costs. In high bay warehouses, for example, lighting maintenance is a significant cost where older forms of lighting like metal halide are used. This is in part due to their relatively short lifespan compared with LEDs, which last up to five times longer.

Moreover, traditional light fittings like HiD and fluorescent do not turn on initially at full brightness and are therefore often left on when a facility is not in use. There is also the light quality issue which has safety (forklift drivers) and working conditions implications. Traditional light sources such as mercury vapour, high pressure sodium and low pressure sodium have poor spectral content and colour rendering. This leads to visual fatigue and confusion when working with coloured wires, safety plaques, liquids, objects or smoke. They also emit more heat, which could lead to icicle build-up and higher energy costs in cold stores.

OK, so admittedly LED luminaires are significantly more costly initially than other lighting forms and the capex issue is undoubtedly the highest barrier to their take-up but should this be the case given the Government financial help and private schemes that eliminate the financial strain?

LED specialist, Aura-light, doesn’t think so, thanks to its recentlylaunched ‘Rent your lighting scheme’, which eliminates investment in equipment and cuts energy costs immediately. The scheme aids cash flow by keeping costs off the balance sheet and takes advantage of the tax benefits.

Alternatively, there is help from the Carbon Trust for SMEs, comprising unsecured, interest-free loans for up to four years, and there is also the Government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme, which provides 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in energy-saving equipment against taxable profits. The Carbon Trust will also help with conducting site surveys, and useful initial advice can be had from the United Kingdom Warehouse Association.

Any lighting investment decision, however, should be based on a comprehensive look at nonenergy consuming issues that will cut overall energy costs. Could one, for example, make better use of natural daylight through more transparent roof panels and if using them already are they kept clean often enough? For new premises, could fast-acting roller doors on the loading bay have almost 100% clear PVC panels to let in as much natural light as possible? And why not consider renegotiating your electricity tariff with another supplier?

Any new lighting system today without any controls configured to the warehouse activity would be considered financially lax. Most warehouses have fluctuating activity levels, so it is important to identify when lighting is needed, for how long, and if there are any areas needing particular attention.

Thus fitted with intelligent sensors to detect motion and ambient daylight levels, these light fittings will automatically switch off or operate at only 10%. When LED lights are combined with intelligent sensors then remarkable paybacks can be had through energy savings alone and are typically quoted at 1-3 years. In one case, Lutterworth Ecolighting cut Paragon Carpets’ lighting costs by 92%.

Many warehouse operators today still rely on outdated energy-hungry lighting owing to a variety of fears, be they investment costs, installation disruption or doubts over cost-reduction claims. In reality their fears are groundless.

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