Illumination options for warehouses and light industrial facilities 

In the United States, the market for industrial-type lighting products used in new construction has been estimated at up to $1 billion for 2006, and future growth in warehouse construction is projected to be around 10 percent, according to Kurt Vogel, vice president of industrial lighting for Lithonia Lighting, Conyers, Ga. In total, the North American market for warehouse and light industrial facility lighting products could represent a quarter of the entire lighting market.

“New construction alone doesn’t nearly capture the potential of this market,” said Vogel.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) offers building owners tax deductions to replace and upgrade their existing lighting. According to Vogel, owners of a 225,000-square-foot warehouse who replace old 400W high intensity discharge (HID) high bay lights with new T5 high output (T5HO) fluorescent fixtures could see a potential $135,000 tax deduction, reduce monthly energy costs dramatically and nearly double lamp life.

New construction, though, is a major factor in the market’s growth, as evidenced by press reports of a recovering economy and the turnaround from the over-building situation the industrial segment found itself in 10 years ago.

“New building today is robust and is shifting from residential to commercial, industrial and institutional construction,” said Bob Roller, vice president of sales and marketing for Ruud Lighting, Inc., Racine, Wis.

In addition, the country is looking at renewed investment dollars being poured into industrial capacity as well as increased imports, which must be stored in warehouses and distribution centers.

However, some do not see the same growth potential for the high bay lighting market as others.

“Economic data indicates that more manufacturing is leaving U.S. soil and that these spaces are either vacant or being modified to handle warehousing and sub-assembly work, rather than full manufacturing capabilities,” said Nick Bleeker, manager of business development for Day-Brite, a Genlyte Thomas Group company, Tupelo, Miss.

In addition, many corporations are purchasing their products from overseas, reducing their industrial installations and limiting their use of light assembly, repackaging and warehousing facilities.

The technologies

Of the two major technologies used in warehouse and light industrial facility applications, the linear fluorescent fixture market is growing at a greater extent (around 10 percent) than the HID portion (between 1 to 4 percent).

“This may be because with new advances in fluorescent fixtures, they lend themselves better to controlling peak shedding than HID sources, making them optimal for applications such as warehouses, which are not as densely populated as office buildings,” said Ric Barton, senior specialist for applications at the GE Lighting and Electrical Institute.

Traditional metal halide HID high bay fixtures, however, still offer the lowest initial installed cost, particularly when modular wiring is used.

“Electrical contractors need to be aware, however, that old probe-start technology won’t meet the new demanding energy requirements mandated by states or by EPAct 2005,” said Vogel. HID systems also operate better in lower temperatures as compared to most fluorescent systems.

“But some of the fluorescent products now have a 20°C rating,” said Rick Chengery, commercial engineer at OSRAM Sylvania, Danvers, Mass.

In addition to maintaining light output in a wide range of ambient temperatures, improved HID fixtures and electronic ballasts have dramatically improved this light source’s lumen maintenance when compared to standard metal halide lamps. Also, the ability to seal and enclose the HID lamp allows it to be used in a wider range of environments, according to Mike Armstrong, product manager for indoor hazardous location fixtures and sport lighting for GE Consumer & Industrial Lighting, Cleveland. Plus, HID’s compact size and smaller footprint means fewer lamps per fixture are required.

HID lamps, however, have some limitations associated with them, depending on the application. Although restrike times have been reduced by pulse-start systems to about four minutes, the issue still exists. In addition, lumen maintenance of HID lamps is still not as good as fluorescent sources, HID lamps can only be dimmed to 50 percent of power, if one lamp in an HID fixture goes out, the entire fixture needs to be completely replaced, and they consume more wattage than fluorescent lamps.

T8 fluorescent products with electronic ballasts offer significant energy savings over HID sources and some additional advantages when used in air-conditioned spaces, but they may no be suited for warehouses and factories according to Vogel.

“It’s important to remember that T8 fluorescents are not optimized for typical un-air conditioned warehouse or factory environments because of the effect high-ambient temperatures have on ballast life and light output,” Vogel said.

T5HO fluorescent fixtures offer the best combination of light output and energy savings but are still limited by ambient temperatures. Other advantages of linear fluorescent fixtures include the ability to be dimmed completely, instant restrike capabilities, higher color rendition and lumen maintenance, flexible design with various choices in sizes and colors, long life, and multilevel switching.

Fluorescent technology has its limitations as well, depending on the application. For example, fluorescent fixtures don’t perform as well in dusty environments, the optimal temperature range for peak performance is narrower than it is for HID fixtures, they have higher associated maintenance costs in terms of labor spent on relamping and they have a fairly large footprint.

Opportunities for contractors

Building owners who may be focused on lowering their operating costs through energy conservation offer a great number of opportunities to electrical contractors in the warehouse and light industrial facility market.

“At first, school districts and office buildings were involved in reducing their costs through upgrading their lighting. Now, warehouse and light industrial facilities that are concerned about their energy consumption need electrical contractors to upgrade these systems,” Chengery said.

Furthermore, according to Barton, existing high-pressure sodium lamps in older facilities are an excellent opportunity for electrical contractors to reduce facilities’ energy consumption.

“If the lighting in the application has not been upgraded for several years and uses HID lamps, most likely there is a great opportunity for contractors to install an upgrade that saves energy,” Bleeker said.

Therefore, if the current lighting system in a facility is a 250W or 400W metal halide system, then changing it to a lower-wattage pulse-start system or to a four- to six-lamp fluorescent high bay, will result in major energy savings for the customer and a retrofit installation opportunity for the contractor.

Knowing that the opportunities exist, the question then becomes whether contractors are taking advantage of them or not.

“A lot of contractors are taking advantage of the market and are being successful,” Barton said. These contractors, he added, usually call themselves energy service companies (ESCOs), which typically audit a facility’s energy usage for the customer and make recommendations on how to improve it.

“But any electrical contractor can consider this market as an opportunity to grow its business,” he said.

Contractors that are missing the opportunity are usually those that still react to market changes, rather than creating them, Roller said. “Opportunities exist when a company is proactive in taking advantage of them.”

Contractors in the market, depending on the application, can also specify the products.

“Most of the larger light industrial customers are looking for guidance from the engineering community, but some are going to their contractors instead,” Chengery said. Electrical contractors are in an excellent position to specify products because they understand the differences in existing technologies and are aware of upcoming developments, according to Armstrong.

“The challenge for the electrical contractor not already taking advantage of the opportunities in this market is how to position itself in it,” he said.

Roller believes that electrical contractors control up to 85 percent of the product choice for the warehouse and light industrial facility retrofit lighting market.

“Owners are relying on contractors’ expertise to supply the most efficient and cost effective system for the application,” he said.

Looking ahead

“Today, T5HO high bays lamps with electronic ballasts are state of the art. In the immediate future, T5HO fluorescent lamps with amalgam technology should become the standard for high bay applications because of their much better maintained light output in higher ambient temperatures,” Vogel predicted.

According to Chengery, the market is poised for growth, and technologies that meet new and upcoming government legislation concerning energy consumption will be well received.

“The need for controls and more energy-efficient systems will always be in demand,” he said.

Already, new medium- and high-wattage electronic ballasts for HID lamps are entering the market and driving lumens per watt (LPW) as high as 113 LPW and new fluorescent systems are boasting more than 100 LPW.

“Power company programs and incentives and government legislation also grow the market and stimulate new, technologically advanced products,” Chengery added.

Armstrong predicts improvements in dimming, occupancy and daylight harvesting controls, as well as in lamps, ballasts and fixtures, as facilities and businesses continually try to drive down energy consumption and costs.

“The electrical contractor that wants to succeed in this market in the future needs to understand what is available in terms of technologies and how they interact and are integrated in the facility,” he said.

In addition, thermal management technologies are already emerging in the market and will solve the current performance limitations of fluorescent high bay lamps in extreme ambient operating temperatures. And electronic ballast systems are being developed for high-watt metal halide lamps.

“The hope is that, once perfected, lumen maintenance for HID lamp sources will increase to 85 percent,” Roller concluded.            EC

 

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or by e-mail at darbremer@comcast.net.