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How to Choose Lights for Warehouses

Warehouse lighting should be able to accomplish two things: enhance safety and increase productivity. When choosing lights for your warehouse, these two should be your top priorities. The top general industry accidents, according to the Department of Labor, are trips, falls, and slips. Having good lighting is the best way to reduce the risk of accidents. If you're thinking of upgrading the lighting in your warehouse, our valuable tips should help you make the right decision.

Use the Right Light Source

When it comes to warehouse lighting, you have 3 options: HID lights, fluorescent lights, and LED lights. For the longest time, HID lights were the only lights used in warehouses. In fact, they are still used in some warehouses as they haven't become obsolete. Let’s have a look at each of these lights.

HID Lights

Metal Halide and HID bulbs

Once, the biggest selling point of HID lights is their low initial cost. However, they have five major draw backs:

  • their lumen depreciation rate is the highest
  • they have very few color temperature options
  • and they take a while to achieve full brightness
  • they consume a lot of energy
  • they don't work with motion sensors or dimming controls

High pressure sodium lights emit very yellow light as their color temperatures fall between 2200K and 2400K. Metal halide lights have color temperatures between 4000K to 4500K. Their light is much whiter and brighter than that of HPS lamps.

But as we said earlier, HID lights need to warm up before attaining full illumination and also need to cool down before being switched on again. They do not work with motion sensors and cannot be dimmed. Their lifespan is relatively short as well, when compared with options like LED. And they tend to consume a lot more energy than the new technologies.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent Tubes

One advantage fluorescent lights have over HID lighting systems is that they consume less electricity. Their color temperature range is also much wider – 2700K to 6500K – and makes them ideal for different spaces. They also come in different shapes and sizes.

Warehouse owners on a tight budget who want lights that are more efficient than HID lights usually go for fluorescent lights.

However, these lights are not without flaws. They function very poorly in very cold and very hot areas. If used in hot or cold warehouses, their lifespans can significantly decrease. Their lifetimes may also be affected if they are frequently switched on and off.

Issues with these lights include

  • costly disposal of bulbs because of the mercury content contained with the bulbs themselves
  • they don't work well with dimmer controls.
  • they flicker and hum

LED Lights


LED lights are the perfect solution for a warehouse because they are energy-efficient and versatile. They use the least energy of all light sources and discharge better light. When upgrading your warehouse lighting, you can retrofit your existing fixtures with LED or completely replace your fixtures with new (LED) Warehouse Light fixtures.

One of the greatest things about LEDs is that they can last up to 100,000 hours. This means you will spend less money on replacement lights and won't have to change out bulbs every now and then. The lights don't take time to warm up or cool down (like HIDs) and their lifespans are not affected by frequent on and off cycles. However, some LEDs can be negatively affected by very high temperatures (130° Fahrenheit and above), although they work well in very low temperatures. However, even high heat is no longer an issue with the availability of our LED High Heat High Bay.

Determine the Brightness Your Warehouse Needs

You may not be aware of it, but your warehouse's ceiling and walls can have an impact on the illumination. Walls and ceilings with light colors like white and cream reflect light, decreasing the amount of lumens a space needs. If you buy LED lights that use very few watts to produce many lumens, you can significantly reduce your warehouse's energy consumption.

You can replace the skylights in your warehouse with LEDs that don't produce a lot of lumens (because of the light-colored walls). On very sunny days, you won't have to turn on all the lights as natural light will help illuminate the interior.

Pick the Right Color Temperature

Color temperature is usually measured in Kelvins and describes the color characteristics of a light source (warm, cool, bright, natural, daylight, etc.). The color temperature dictates how people see objects and also affects mood and productivity. The best LED lights for a warehouse are those whose color temperatures fall between 4000K and 5000K. These lights produce cool white light with a blue tint that boosts productivity and decreases eye strain. 
Color Temperature

Choose the Best Light Distribution Type

Many options exist for a warehouse, and choosing the right optic can mean the difference between good and great lighting. Sometimes choosing no optic is the best choice.

So how can you find out before you purchase? That's easy, run a photometric. But reading a photometric report is much more than looking at the average foot candles measurement. Its understanding how well the light is distributed, on average, over the entire area.

You want to avoid bright spots and dark shadows. Making the light as even as possible across the entire range is the ultimate goal, unless you are in need of specific task lighting.

Typically, you add optics to narrow down the beam angles for 2 main reasons: high ceiling heights and warehouse rack rows. In the former, narrowing the beam may mean less light on the walls and more light on the floors. In the latter, finding the optimal optic to light up the product on the face of the shelves and the floor below is most optimal.

We can assist you in running a photometric report for your space. It takes the guess work and worry out of the purchase.

LED Optics

Ensure the Fixtures are Well Spaced

The way light fixtures are spaced in a warehouse is of utmost importance. If they are placed too close to each other, they will cause glare and hot spots because the light produced by different fixtures will overlap at some point.

On the other hand, if the fixtures are too far apart, the warehouse will have some dark areas that are devoid of light. A lighting expert can recommend the best position for the lights to ensure your warehouse isn't too bright or too dim. 

Photometric Study

Occupancy and Vacancy Sensors

Nowhere are these sensors needed as in a warehouse. They do away with the need to switch lights on and off every time you come and go. Since motion sensors switch off lights when no one is in the warehouse, they can help you to save energy by up to 30%, as the lights will only function when it is necessary.

However, these two sensors work in different ways so it’s important to choose the most ideal ones for your space. Occupancy sensors automatically turn the lights on and off whenever people enter or leave the warehouse. Vacancy sensors are perfect for warehouses that have skylights, as the lights don’t have to go on every time someone enters the building.

Our useful tips on choosing warehouse lighting should help you to make the right decision when upgrading or buying warehouse lights. 

LED Controls

Special Lights for Warehouse Spaces - Aisles Lighting

Lighting up aisles of warehouse racks is not trivial. Making the light distribute to only where its needed is the challenge, so light engineers spend a lot of time designing the proper optics to achieve this distribution. Ideally, you want light on the floor and on the face of the product, but it does not make sense to light up the top of the racks.

Thankfully, these lights are available. Not surprisingly, they are linear LED Light fixtures that have the necessary optic packages to achieve the proper lighting distribution. Doing a proper photometric prior to purchase will confirm the light levels between the shelves. 

Top 4 Reasons to Convert your Warehouse Lights over to LED

Here is our list of the top reasons to consider converting to LED lighting in warehouses:

1. Significant Energy Saving

Warehouses typically have one thing in common. They are large and typically have hundreds of lighting fixtures. Traditional lighting like metal halide on this scale can be extremely cost inefficient, particularly for facilities running two or even three shifts. This is where the energy savings of LED comes into play. After conversion, you can expect up to a 75% reduction in energy expenditure with your new warehouse lights. This is a huge op-ex savings that can be reinvested back into the business elsewhere.

2. Easy Maintenance

No facility manager or electrician enjoys going up to resolve a burned-out light. This is particularly true in a warehouse with a high ceiling. Traditional lighting is just not built for longevity with HID or metal halide fixtures typically lasting around 10,000 hours. LED lighting significantly reduces this burden with fixtures that can last between 50,000 hours and 100,000 hours before needing replacement. An LED conversion allows the facilities manager to focus on more important projects instead of worrying about changing light bulbs every few years.

3. Extensive Control Options

Lighting is not one size fits all. As a result, facility managers must take care to ensure the appropriate fixture is used to meet or improve the existing lighting experience. The decision-making process does not stop here. Controls can be a real benefit in a warehouse setting, allowing the lighting to be manipulated based on the situation. Daylight sensors, motion sensors, dimmers, and wireless technology are just some of the options available. LED controls will improve working conditions, further reduce energy costs and extend the life of your fixtures. Consider them for your next conversion project for up to an additional 20% energy savings.

A motion sensor was almost designed for warehouse aisle lighting. Depending on the warehouse, there may be aisles that do not get regular traffic. If this is the case, then adding a motion sensor to these lights makes complete sense. LED Lights can be turned off and on quickly, or dimmed. When motion is detected, they can go to full power and then after a period of inactivity, turn down or turn off. This saves you even more money, as a light that is dim or off saves you more than a light that is 100% on. And since converting to LED is all about saving money, then then small incremental cost of adding a motion sensor will see immediate savings. And as an added bonus, extend the life of the light.

4. Rebates to Reduce Purchase Price

Throughout the United States and elsewhere, utility companies are face with an enormous issue. They do not have the capacity to sustain the growing energy needs of their customers. Thus, rebates were born to incentivize a switch from inefficient traditional lighting to high efficiency LED lighting. Rebates present a great opportunity to reduce the purchase price of LED lighting, sometimes by up to 50%. In a large warehouse, a $150 per fixture rebate adds up fast when you have say 800 fixtures.

This represents a $120,000 total rebate against your upgrade cost. Significant dollars that can allow you to also upgrade the outdoor lighting to LED or to focus on other important projects. Do not miss out on this “free money” opportunity.

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