By Tristão Abro from Relight Energy
For many companies, warehouse lighting has always been a grudge cost. However, to keep a business running effectively and efficiently warehouse lighting must be both efficient and as cost effective as possible. Businesses that keep lighting expenditure to a minimum and buy cheaply can ultimately carry a far greater cost.
For example, poor lighting means that products contained in a warehouse could be mis-read and reading labels correctly in this environment is a fundamental requirement. Spending as little as possible on warehouse lighting is a lose-lose situation for everyone. Under-investing in suitable lighting or failing to maintain the lighting solution, will result in additional returns, damaged goods, staff turnover and general incompetence. That’s because warehouse staff would prefer to be able to see what they’re doing and at least be able to read the label on the box!
Lighting levels in a warehouse environment are dictated by the level of work detail that is expected and required from staff. It is much more efficient for them to be able to read accurately without squinting or resorting to additional light sources like torches. Imagine if on an item the reference number is read as a "3" instead of an "8". It could be a reputational and financial disaster for the company involved.
Fortunately there are lighting design guidelines available from OSHA and SANS 10400-O that can assist businesses to know what lighting is required. Even better, a reputable and professional industrial lighting supplier can determine the exact amount of lux levels required for each warehouse design.
Let’s have a closer look at the physical warehouse space. Most warehouses tend to have high vertical storage to maximise space. It stands to reason that the closer the storage space gets to the roof, the more lighting is required. The rule of thumb is that a dedicated aisle layout is more expensive than an installation that provides overall illumination, but the added cost is offset against the greater storage efficiency achieved by multiple storage tiers.
Similarly, creating harmony between warehouse staff and management or its accountants can be achieved through a number of solutions that companies can employ to both reduce the cost and efficiently light a warehouse. Lighting controls can be installed to reduce the load during times when no-one is present in the workspace.
Another way to reduce costs but not sacrifice lighting is to install high quality LED fittings. These are exceptionally efficient at converting electrical energy into illumination, making them up to 90% more efficient compared to traditional lighting while reducing maintenance costs to nothing.
To better understand the three main sources of warehouse lighting, it is useful to know the differences. Metal halide light sources were the success story of the 1990s, however everything that the metal halide lamp delivered on can now be provided by LED lighting. An important feature added to LED sources over the old metal halides is the ability for LEDs to be dimmed.
In the past, fluorescent tubes became mainstream in warehouse lighting as they demonstrated a much better lighting efficiency over the metal halide sources but modern LED technology has already proven to outperform and outlast fluorescent tubes. The LED has taken over in almost every lighting sector. It is a very efficient source, and its future continues to get ever brighter.
A good LED fixture will hold its own against any other type of lighting source even in extreme conditions. Besides the advantages already mentioned, they do not take time to warm up and provide instant "on" light. LED”s also have the ability to be switched on and off frequently without affecting their lifespan. LED fixtures come in a wide range of forms and optical properties to produce highly effective illumination while producing little infrared light, almost no UV light, and contain no toxic materials making them 100% recyclable.
Alternative light sources also need investigating. Industrial skylights for example can reduce energy consumption by up to 65% and studies have proven that natural light can increase productivity by as much as 40%.
If a warehouse has a soft roof, it would be advisable to really look into the benefits of 'free light'. A credible supplier will be able to advise on a skylight solution that is durable, able to adequately block out glare and heat gain, while ensuring energy savings as a result of lights being turned off.
In any commercial setting, energy audits are the first step towards reducing energy costs, and increasing operational savings. Good lighting should be at the heart of every warehouse and there are sound financial reasons why companies should see the investment in their warehouse environment as being very good for their bottom line.