Effectively warehouse lighting is generally not considered a top priority given the perception that warehouses are a cost centre, a way point before a product can make a profit - a logic which applies especially to the exterior. Most guides to warehouse lighting only cover the inside of the space, where the focus is on order picking, storage and other logistics tasks. Given that wall lights, typically used on warehouse exteriors, are in fact the most common type of exterior lights used on commercial and industrial buildings, it’s a wonder that not more attention is given to this category of lighting.
Wall lights are relatively easy to install and maintain, as well as being cost effective and with great potential for energy savings. Aside from the technology there are a number of specifics to consider when planning and installing wall lights for a warehouse. These factors include light quality, colour, intensity, ease of maintenance, fixture placement and other issues which affect the safety and security of the facility and its users.
When looking at replacing or retrofitting exterior lighting for the exterior of a warehouse, the following points may serve as a step by step guideline to the process.
- Conduct an inventory
As a first step it’s worth taking an inventory and figuring out what needs to be replaced and why. All the existing fixtures and their specifications should be detailed. It might be obvious, but we have seen cases where the wattage and light output of the existing fixtures are not taken into consideration. It’s important to take pictures of the existing fixtures and identify whether they are high performance or not. Lights near the entrance might have different specifications to lights in the rear of the facility. Similarly lights of different heights may have different specs.
- Consult with current employees
Again, maybe an obvious step, but it’s worth taking the time to consult with current employees and users of the facility. Are they happy with the current light levels? Do they see any issues that need to be corrected? Are they aware of any problem areas that might have come up in the past?
- Evaluate whether to retrofit of replace
The decision to retrofit or replace is one that a lot of older facilities have to go through. This decision is based on a number of requirements, including budget, energy savings, environmental criteria, existing technology and project goals. In most cases a payback assessment might be undertaken to determine how long it will take for the fixtures to pay for themselves in terms of energy savings if the fixtures are replaced.
- Determine light quality
It’s important to understand performance consideration, how might light is required and at what times of day. What types of tasks must the light support? Are the wall lights mainly for security or is aesthetics equally important? If they have a 175 watt fixture with a segmented reflector, will a 26 watt replacement do the job? In a case like this, it might be necessary to use a higher wattage fixture to get the light to go out at the same level.
- Consider safety and security
If well placed, wall packs create a perimeter of light around a building, providing a safe and secure building perimeter. Beam uniformity is an important factor to consider in security, meaning the entire beam of light has the same intensity, ensuring there are no dark areas. Beam uniformity is also helpful for security cameras, which perform much better with the right light. Color temperature also factors into safety, with a 5000k or higher color temperature suggested for greater security. Older fixtures using Metal Halide do not have the instant on capability of fluorescent or LED. In a power outage this can be a big issue as the facility could be in the dark for an extended period.
- Determine Specifications
Once the technology and project scope and details are clarified, it’s important to gather the correct specifications. This will help in the fixture selection phase and ensure the right light levels, cost and energy saving requirements, efficacy and quantities are suitable.
- Select the right fixture
While LED products are now becoming almost a standard for new facilities and for retrofits in many cases, there are a wide range of exterior wall light options to consider. Wall lights come in a variety of wattages, beam spreads, intensities, physical sizes, light sources and styles. It’s important to consult with a lighting design specialist to select the right fixture for the project both from a functional and an aesthetic point of view. Building managers sometimes hesitate to add the additional cost of a lighting designer, but the cost of buying the wrong fixtures can be a lot more expensive.
- Consult local codes
Different locations may have specific requirements for lighting, such as mounting height or light pollution guidelines. This makes it important to create a photometric plan and get specialized advice to ensure the right fixtures are selected. It’s important to be current on building code and other municipal requirements that might impact lighting selection.
- Determine Mounting Surface and Height
The type of surface where the fixture will be mounted can also inform the fixture selection. A rough uneven surface such as stucco might require a goof tray to even it out. Typically wall mounted exterior fixtures are designed to be spaced in a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio. So for example, if the fixture is 15 feet high, the next fixture should be 45 feet apart.
- Consider Controls
Lighting controls can save considerable energy and add value to a warehouse project. This might include both photocells and sensors. Certain locations might require more light at different times. Some wall lights include a photocell and sensor, while others might require an accessory. Controls are a significant factor in providing light where and when it is needed and saving energy when they are not. Today a number of smart control options allow for sophisticated on/off/dimming lighting plans.
- Evaluate Rebate/Incentive Programs
A number of rebate and incentive programs might be available to justify a retrofit or complete replacement. These vary by region and can significantly offset the cost of a project. A good lighting consultant, rep and manufacturer will support the customer in identifying and applying for rebate and incentive programs.
Are you in the process of evaluating a wall pack re-lamp, retrofit or replacement? No matter where you are in the process, RAB Design can help. If you have not received it already, download our eBook covering the various types of wall lights and how to select the right one for your project. Click on the button below to get the eBook.