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Advances in LED are changing the landscape of energy-saving lighting

Don’t think of LED as a static technology – it’s changing fast and warehouse managers need to stay on top of the latest technological advances, advises Colin Lawson.

LED is now practically synonymous with energy-efficient lighting. Managers wishing to slash energy consumption and maintenance burden on site are turning, in growing numbers, to LED technology as an energy-saving solution. Indeed, when it comes to LED, there’s never been so much choice available – and at increasingly competitive prices.
Yet the reality is that LED products differ widely – and they don’t all offer the same light quality, performance or glare control. What’s more, LED lighting is evolving so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep track of the latest facts. Customers should stay particularly wary, because LED lighting is a market filled with myths and half-truths.

Misinformation is rife
These myths generally arise as a result of either outdated notions or overzealous selling. With the technology changing almost overnight, much of what was true five years ago (or even one year ago) is no longer true today. Myths resulting from misinformed (or underhanded) salespeople are more insidious: this is a market flooded with newly-formed ‘lighting’ companies that are promoting LEDs using misleading data or underplaying issues of poor light quality.

With so much misinformation floating about, it can be easy to assume that all LEDs are basically the same (and that cheapest is therefore best). In fact, LED products of different quality can vary dramatically. Many poor-quality LEDs have a Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of less than 80. Under this kind of light, only some colours will look natural; the rest will look distorted. What’s more, an LED on the extreme blue end of the visible light spectrum (in scientific terms: 6000+ Kelvin) will feel Arctic.

Generally, LED products can be divided into ‘performance’ and ‘value’ products. Depending on the type of warehouse, CRI and colour temperature may not be the overriding concern. However, in any space where people are working for long periods of time, it’s prudent to select a product with a CRI of 80+ and a colour temperature of 3500–4000 Kelvin (warm-white).

The problem of glare
It’s also important to remember that LED lighting does not function in the same way as traditional lighting. LED, by its nature, is highly directional and prone to creating glare. Part of the reason LEDs have such potential for energy saving is that they are able to generate a huge amount of light from a source the diameter of a pencil lead.

Originally categorised under ‘lasers’, some poorly-designed LED products still resemble lasers. Low-quality LED lighting is often designed as an array of lots of small LEDs, with no glare control. Needless to say, working in a space where the light source consists of laser beams of bright light can be highly dangerous.

In, for example, a warehouse that uses forklifts to load and unload goods from high racking, lighting glare can be potentially hazardous. If a forklift driver glances up directly at the laser-like lighting, he’ll be dazzled. Even momentarily, this could cause him to lose control of his forklift, which could easily lead to serious injury.

New R&D advances
The good news, however, is that advances in LED are changing the landscape of energy-saving lighting. Lighting companies at the forefront of R&D are now developing solutions that improve output and increase energy savings without a compromise on light quality within warehouse spaces. Tamlite Lighting is pioneering LED solutions that offer these benefits, with the launch of HILUX-LED.

This is the 3rd generation system of the HILUX luminaire range – of which 200,000 HILUX luminaires have been sold in the past 5 years – which now comes with the option of high-quality Philips LEDs and drivers. Tamlite’s in-house design team has developed a high-performance portfolio of reflectors and optics to ensure that the HILUX-LED delivers energy savings.

Choosing the right product
Tamlite is also responding to the fast-moving LED landscape with the launch of a new mark of assured performance for LED products. Designed to cut through the confusion that surrounds LED products, Tamlite’s INFINITY mark now features on the products within Tamlite’s LED range that meet high performance standards for efficiency, life, colour rendering, colour temperature and testing.

The INFINITY mark has been specifically developed to help customers to differentiate these ‘performance’ products from lower-spec LED products. When Tamlite customers see the INFINITY mark, it’s possible to know, at a glance, that this LED product achieves natural colour rendering, comfortable colour temperature and appropriate glare control. This makes choosing the right product infinitely simpler.

LED is an undeniably exciting technology that opens up vast possibilities for saving on energy bills and driving down maintenance costs. The fact that LED technology is evolving so fast means that users can expect even greater choice at even lower prices. However, the flip side is that differentiating between high-performance and low-spec products is increasingly difficult. This means managers must arm themselves with the facts – and take advantage of industry initiatives like the INFINITY mark – in order to find the LED lighting that works for their needs.

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