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LED Data Center Lighting

The Definitive Guide

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Data centers are repositories that house computing technology like routers, servers, firewalls, switches, and their supporting features. These data hives also have air conditioning, lighting, and fire suppression components in them. The facilities may be simple in-house centers or complex enough to require their own dedicated buildings.

LED Indoor Fixtures for Data Center

By their nature, data centers are very dependent on electricity. These technology havens require kilowatts that may run into billions of hours. It is actually predicted that by the year 2020, data centers will utilize 140 billion kWh in a year. This will, by estimation, siphon over $13 billion from the pockets of American business owners who will foot this colossal electricity bill. In metric tons, this is about 150 million worth of carbon emissions discharged into the atmosphere. 

While this is a considerable amount, lighting by itself consumes 5% of the electricity utilized by a data center. And while it is a small quantity, efficiency in lighting can help data center owners to save more on energy costs. Boosting energy efficiency through energy-efficient light sources also helps reduce other expenses associated with lighting. Maintenance of light sources with short life spans, for example, may cost a data center a lot of cash.

LED data center lighting, on the other hand, lasts longer and helps create a more efficient and satisfying work environment for your staff. These efficient light sources also benefit the technology housed in the center, because they are safer and friendly to electrical components.

How to Make a Data Center Lighting System Efficient

Install a Lighting System That Allows for Precise Light Usage When It Is Required

In many a data center, the lighting system is usually turned on via a switch once the first technician gets in. These spaces are often expansive areas, but all the technician may require is an item in a smaller part of the room. When the technician turns to leave the room, they may leave the lights on because they think that there is another person in another section of the room.

To give a data center fantastic Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) levels, The Telecommunication Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers recommends the use of LED data center lights. Changing out the older light bulbs may make the center more energy-efficient, but in this situation, innovative light control features can be introduced. This will ensure that the large spaces in the facility utilize the least light yet supply the highest quality lighting efficiency.

Two excellent examples of data centers with high PUE are the North Carolina and Oregon Facebook data centers. These data centers have intelligent and networked LED light systems that cut down light usage by up to 70% compared to traditional fluorescent light systems.

The LEDs are not only better at light usage efficiency, they are paired with intelligent lighting controls and can monitor the occupancy of a room and its temperature as well. Known as ‘follow me' lighting, the system optimizes the lights for efficiency, dimming them when necessary.

‘Follow me’ lighting is more like a spotlight, lighting spots where a technician is, thanks to motion sensors placed in each fixture. The system's central application turns the lights on and determines their intensity as well. ‘Follow me’ lighting is, therefore, a perfect example of efficient, economic lighting.

Use Energy-Efficient Light Fixtures

Data centers, like many other commercial spaces, have for a long time relied on fluorescent lighting technology. But fluorescent bulbs are not only inefficient, they also waste resources and time compared to newer LED data center lighting. Compared to fluorescent bulbs, LEDs use 40% to 80% less electricity.

Telehouse America, a leading infrastructure solution giver for data centers, adopted LED data center lighting – through a retrofitting project – and cut down its energy usage by up to 65% yearly. 6,000 LED tubes were installed at two of its data centers in New York, replacing the older T12 fluorescent tubes.

Telehouse America's new lighting system provides lighting efficiency, better light output, and longevity. The LED lights will last at least three times longer than the fluorescent bulbs, cutting down maintenance costs.

Use Light Fixtures with Longevity

While today's fluorescent tubes have special features like dimmable ballasts, they still have inherent drawbacks that make them less preferable than LED lights. For starters, no matter what technological advancements fluorescent tubes undergo, their lifetime will still diminish due to a high switching frequency.

Looking at the Facebook 'follow me' lighting design, the lamps in operation have to withstand at least double the switching frequency the bulbs in a conventional lighting system have to. The older lights are typically switched on when technicians get into the data center and off when everyone leaves.  

The diminished life problem brings about another issue that costs data centers vast amounts of money: maintenance costs. A fluorescent tube generally lasts approximately 6000-7000 hours, which are adversely affected by multiple starts. Data centers with fluorescent tubes probably have hundreds of them, so once they start to fail, maintenance becomes a costly, continuous procedure.

Also, once these tubes have been replaced, they can’t just be binned. They have toxic mercury in them, so their disposal process is complex to prevent environmental degradation from mercury contamination. If, perchance, the maintenance crew accidentally breaks a tube or two, the toxic substance could leak out of the center and affect the workers.

LEDs, on the other hand, do not experience burnout or decreased light output, unlike fluorescent bulbs whose light levels decrease rapidly due to wear and tear. To ensure that a data center with fluorescents stays fully operational and is a safe environment to work in, the center's maintenance staff are often forced to abandon other duties and tend to relamping needs.

LED lights, however, are built to last. Their construction is robust, and the materials used to make them preserve not only their lamp life but their light quality as well.

LEDs do not have fragile, delicate parts like fluorescent or HID bulbs do. They are made with strong and durable components that don’t break. What’s more, these materials are 100% recyclable. The lights do not contain hazardous mercury, so they do not need a specialized disposal process at the end of their lives. 

LED data center lighting will last for at least a decade, providing high-quality light without burning out. The lights have a life expectancy of up to 100,000 hours, which beats that of fluorescent tubes and HID lamps by at least five times.

Fluorescent tubes begin to lose their light quality quarter-way into their lifespan. They eventually lose most of their useful light as they age. LEDs have a high lumen maintenance percentage (70%), meaning that your data center will have fewer maintenance costs as far as relamping activities are concerned.

Use Lighting Technology with the Least Heat Output

The Telecommunication Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers has recommended the use of LED lights in these environments because they are 100% dimmable, use less electricity, and emit less heat than older, outdated bulbs. 

While lighting utilizes just a small fraction of the energy in a data center, it does significantly impact cooling costs. In data centers, HVAC systems use 25-40% of the energy. The consumption of electricity by cooling systems in a data center is only rivaled by that consumed by the data center core equipment.

The high amount of electricity used by HVAC systems presents a fantastic energy-saving opportunity. Fluorescent bulbs emit 90% more BTUs of heat per hour compared to LEDs. A data center will require a HVAC system – whether the lights are on or off – to get rid of the heat generated by the computing machines. Their other role is to counteract heat emitted by light bulbs which are often left on for safety purposes.

LED lights might initially cost more to install, but they have design advantages that help reduce a center's HVAC heat load. For one, they are 100% dimmable. The amount of energy they use can therefore be reduced or varied depending on need. This works out fantastically for HVAC loads. For instance, if your light fixtures cut down energy use by three watts, they will cut down one watt off the HVAC load.

Energy-Saving Lighting Solutions for Data Centers

LED Data Center Lights

Light Dimming

A multitude of data centers typically have lighting systems that ensure even if there are no technicians around, the light is accessible on demand. Another thing that requires continuous light is the center's video surveillance system.

Most surveillance systems reliant on video require enough light to work optimally. In fact, the better the light quality, the better their activity. These cameras, however, do not require massive amounts of light to operate optimally.

It is, therefore, possible to dim light to 20% of its capacity and still provide enough light to surveillance systems. The light can then be adjusted to full intensity when there is human activity in the data center. LEDs boast a wide dimming range and their lighting mechanism is not affected by dimming.

MyLEDLightingGuide Pro Tip

Dimming with LED in Data Centers

Make sure your fixture is equipped to dim. Not all LED fixtures are dimmable, and require a 0-10V dimmable driver. Smaller bulbs, like LED Pars, use a triac dimming system that work with compatible wall mounted dimmer switches.

Use White on Surfaces

The typical data center has endless rows of black equipment, black cabinets, and a lot of cabling. For years, data center equipment makers and designers have utilized black for equipment and racks, but it’s now emerging that the use of white paint on the surfaces in a data center can help save energy.

In a data center where turning off unused light fixtures or dimming them has been employed as a measure to cut down energy, black surfaces can be a visual challenge. When the lights have a low intensity, the dark equipment placed on dark racks becomes hard to view without the help of special lighting. To prevent this, most centers place auxiliary lights in the cabinets. Others install angled light fixtures in the equipment rooms to eliminate this problem.

There are instances where special lighting might not make everything as visible as it needs to be, forcing the technicians to utilize headlamps or flashlights when tending to machines. The white data center design is on the rise as it helps organizations to save a little more energy.

If, for example, a data center has 5500 square feet of space and utilizes ~475kW of electricity for its IT equipment, how can it reduce its load by 30%? A load reduction of this magnitude would signal a 5% total reduction in light usage in the data center.

To do this without adversely impacting the technicians at work in the center, white equipment in combination with white cables – that reflect light rather than absorb it as black does – can make a huge difference. White cabinets will also make the room look spacious, brighter, and more visible, meaning that you will require less light than you would in a black room to see.

Dark walls absorb higher quantities of light; therefore it is more meaningful to give the walls a lighter color. The ceiling should also have a bright color for better reflectance. When purchasing wall paint, a knowledgeable paint manufacturer will highlight the Light Reflectance Values of any can of paint.

White paints, of course, have the highest LRV, as high as 80%, while black paints have the lowest, at 5%. Paint colors with high LRVs ensure less light is needed in the space from artificial light sources.  The Light Reflectance Values of 80% in white color can help save up to 30% in lighting costs.

APC by Schneider Electric, for instance, has designed white cabinetry for its data center line of equipment. These white cabinets absorb less light, make rooms appear brighter, and create contrast for the black colored technology housed in them. This assists the technicians to see better without the need for flashlights or headlamps that may hamper accessibility. Human errors are reduced, making the technicians more efficient.

Advantages of White Surfaces in a Data Center

  • Energy efficiency thanks to white surfaces’ capability at reflecting 80% of light. This will help save up to 30% of the energy spent on lighting in a data center.
  • Neutral colored surfaces increase visibility and when light is dimmed, the technicians do not have visibility problems. Since white makes other colors more visible, the staff will be in a better position to detect dark colored technical apparatus inside the white racks or cabinets.
  • Technicians will have an easier time during equipment installation. The maintenance crew will also have an easier time working on panels, fans, servers, and switches in light colors that are more visible – increasing their efficiency.
  • The data center will have a fresh look that will make it unique in a sea of data centers utilizing dark equipment.
Creation of Light Zones

It is crucial to implement a lighting design that takes into consideration the light usage requirements of every part of the data center. For instance, technicians working with machines require more light levels than surveillance cameras. Light fixtures in a data center should also be placed between cabinets and above the aisles.

There are three general lighting levels for data centers:


  • Level 1: Unoccupied Zones
    These are areas where surveillance cameras are placed. While they do not require intense, bright lights, dimmable LED data center lights can be installed to ensure that the cameras work optimally.


  • Level 2: Entry Zones into the Data Center

    The light levels in these areas should be adequate to make sure the data center technicians move in and out of the space safely. Entry points require motion sensors that activate the light fixtures closest to the person entering the area, illuminating passageways and aisles.  Zone 2 lighting should not only enable safe movement through the center but also enhance identification through surveillance cameras.


  • Level 3:  Occupied zones

    These zones should have enough light to ensure that actions that involve interaction with electrical equipment and their maintenance is carried out smoothly. The horizontal plane's light levels should be 500 lux, while those of the vertical plane should be 200 lux. These levels should apply for data centers measuring 1 meter above a finished floor.

Visual Appeal

A study conducted by The American Society of Interior Designers revealed that over 68% of all employees dislike the lighting in their workplaces. The dislike, the society found out, was not a matter of personal taste but ergonomics. Light is actually the cornerstone of ergonomics, and it is often overlooked, especially in data centers which are machine hubs.

In the past, some data centers used green or blue fluorescent lights in dark-colored rooms with black walls, cabinets, and ceilings. But these lights affected the morale of the staff, forcing frustrated workers to bring their own task lights – such as headlamps, torches, or desk lamps – to enhance visual accuracy and the ambiance as well.

Where glare is a problem and computer screens are in use, people may cluster shipping boxes together to minimize screen glare caused by overhead fluorescent light fixtures or loft windows.

Insufficient light is also a big problem. It strains the eyes of the technicians, causing health problems such as headaches, which in turn aggravate fatigue, leading to low levels of productivity in the workplace. Dim lights also cause a lack of focus and drowsiness.

On the other hand, bright, intense light, the standard in most workplaces, causes eye strain, triggering terrible migraines. It is usually caused by fluorescent tubes installed in large numbers to eliminate shadows and dark spots. The body's cortisol levels tend to drop in poorly lit or over-illuminated spaces, resulting in more stress and an inability to balance and stabilize energy levels.

Natural light is the best deterrent for these harmful effects brought on by imbalanced artificial light. It can boost technicians’ mood, hormonal balance, and energy levels. This means that there will be fewer illnesses and absenteeism will significantly reduce. Many data centers, by design, do not have enough natural light, so there is a burden on the light designers to create lighting systems which will not harm the technicians’ sight and health.

The light fixtures in a data center must provide light that doesn’t cause glare and can be controlled via dimmer switches. Dimmer switches, combined with LED data center lighting fixtures that produce daylight-quality light, are perfect for data centers.

Task lights can be used on desks when overhead lights are dimmed, increasing energy savings. The beauty of task lights is that they combine minimalist looks, sustainability, and energy efficiency all in one package.



Functions of Light in a Data Center

Ambient Light
This type of light offers uniform illumination in an area and is useful for visual acuity and orientation. Examples of light fixtures that provide ambient light include cove lights, recessed downlights, and pendant hung light sources.

Task Lights
Task lighting is meant to highlight specific room areas and works in conjunction with ambient lighting. These lights are useful for intricate technical work and for maintenance and troubleshooting in data centers.

Accent Lights
Not as common in data centers since accent lights are mostly used for décor. They can, however, be installed near architectural features or plants to create contrast. They include track lights, recessed lights, and surface mount lights that are adjustable.

  • Decorative Lights
    These are meant to look pretty and come in form of wall sconces and chandeliers. They can be used as part of a layered lighting design to create an appealing, balanced, and comfortable working environment for data center workers.
Color Temperature

Color temperature is not only an aesthetic choice, it also creates a healthy and comfortable work environment for data center technicians. The color temperature of a light fixture will impact not only the mood but the space’s emotional nature. It is an indication of the light's appearance to the human eye.

CCT is measured in Kelvin (K), and low color temperatures of around 2700K are yellowish. The yellow light decreases as the color temperature rises towards the 3500K mark. A high color temperature, 5000K and above, has a blue-white appearance, and higher Kelvin color temperatures are labeled cool while lower CCTs are labeled warm. The color of the light is usually a telltale sign of its temperature.

Color Temperatures for Different Applications

2300K - 2700K (very warm white light)

Light with a yellow hue that’s often used in residential, hospitality, and restaurant applications. It helps create a warm, cozy atmosphere.

3000K - 4000K (warm to neutral white light)

This color temperature range is mostly used in libraries, office spaces, data centers, or retail stores because it has a productive and business aspect to it. The color temperatures are also perfect for areas where detailed tasks are carried out.

5000K (cool white light)

This color temperature may come off as intense and is used in warehouses, manufacturing, and industrial applications. It helps the employees in these areas to focus on intricate details. Cool white light has a clean aesthetic and is best for tasks that require visual correctness.

Color Temperatures for Data Center Functions

Ambient light color temperatures

Warm color temperatures are preferable for setting a cozy atmosphere. These are color temperatures between 2700K and 3000K. Where different types of ambient light fixtures have been installed – for example, cove lights and downlights – ensure that both have the same color temperature for a harmonious feel. For data centers with white reflective surfaces, color temperatures of 3500K to 4000K are better suited because they accentuate light surfaces. The neutral white color temperatures also have an energizing and mood-lifting effect on workers in offices.

Task light color temperatures

Task lighting adds additional light to enable the carrying out of visual tasks effectively. This light color temperature should help create better contrast and should be between 3500K and 5000k. Task lighting fixtures should also have a high color rendering index value of at least 90. LED data center lighting has high CRI values and is perfect for this purpose.

MyLEDLightingGuide Pro Tip

Choosing the proper color temperature for your data center

Choose either 4000K or 5000K for interior spaces. 4000K is a slightly warmer, less white light and good for indoor spaces.

Types of LED Data Center Lighting Fixtures for the Indoors

LED tube-lights perfectly replace older fluorescent tubes and are divided into two main groups:

  • 1.  Plug and play linear tubes
  • 2.  LED ballast bypass tubes

LED plug and play tubes are very easy to install and do not require any rewiring of the older light fixtures. All a data center technician needs to do is put them in place, and voila, they start working! Plug and play LED tube-lights cost a little bit more than ballast bypass tube lights that require the rewiring of the older light fixtures to function.


With ballast bypass tube lights, the ballast that powers the fluorescent tubes has to be removed or bypassed so that the LED tube-lights can be powered directly from the line voltage. These tubes are definitely harder to install and will require an electrician for the ballast removal and rewiring process. But all in all, both types of tubes are more affordable than replacing the entire light fixtures.

Plug and play tubes have a bi-pin socket identical to that of a T8 fluorescent tube that snaps in place just like that of a T8 fluorescent tube. LED tube-lights have better CRI values of up to 98 and a wider variety of color temperatures as well.


LED data center lights have improved light output and better beam angles that provide uniform light distribution. While a T8 fluorescent tube will utilize 32W to produce 1600 lumens, its LED counterpart only needs 15W to produce 2100 lumens.

With plug and play LED tubes, your data center operations will not be disrupted during installation as they are quick to install. LED tube-lights outlast their fluorescent counterparts by years, and due to their energy efficiency, you will get your money back in less than 2 years. LED tubes also come in frosted, striped, or clear finishes to suit every environment.

The beauty of plug and play tube lights is that if the business moves locations, the data center owner can take the LED tubes along. If possible, older inefficient ballasts can be swapped with newer ones that consume less power.

On the contrary, fluorescent to LED Retrofit Kits tubes with external or internal drivers may be harder to install, but they have their own unique advantages as well. Tube lights with external drivers easily integrate with 0-10v dimming control features and have longer life spans and warranties. They also utilize less energy than plug and play tubes.

When purchasing LED linear tube lights, ensure that they meet the required ANSI/UL and OSHA standards as they will be safe from electric shock, fire, and mechanical hazards.

LED troffer lighting can illuminate larger spaces in the data center. They only use a small percentage of the energy older fluorescent tubes use, and you can switch them on and off on demand and their life spans will not be adversely affected. These LED data center lights also have a wide variety of color temperatures.

Panel lights have shatterproof lenses and boast a high lumen output. They are also dimmable and integrate well with light controls such as motion sensors, perfect for 'follow me' type of lighting.

LED panels can be wafer thin, the perfect design for data centers with low ceilings. They are also very light in weight and allow for a single person installation. This not only cuts down labor costs, it reduces maintenance costs as well. If required, panel lights can also be suspended for increased versatility using mounting hardware.

LED panel-lights provide well-diffused light that helps prevent eye strain in the data center. They have very low glare values and eliminate dark spots, meaning that a data center may need less LED panel-lights than the fluorescent lights it needed.

The other advantages LED panel-lights have over fluorescent tube lights are color tunability and the lack of buzzing and flickering, a common thing with fluorescent tubes as they age.

Types of Outdoor LED Data Center Lighting

Cobra Head-Lights
These LED data center lights are perfect for security and perimeter lighting. They can be used in parking areas, loading platforms, or public entrances. They have a distinct design that resembles a cobra just about to strike, hence their unique name. LED cobra heads are superior to their HID alternatives in lifespan, light quality, energy efficiency, and flexibility as well.


Your data center's parking area requires adequate light to help employees access and leave the facility safely. The outdoor lights should also enhance security and work well with surveillance cameras. LED shoebox-lights are perfect for this function. Shaped like a shoebox, they illuminate outdoor spaces with bright, powerful light.


Wall-Pack Lights

Mounted on the exterior walls of properties, they usually provide ample lighting for pedestrians and cars. These lights also add a security layer to data centers and the grounds surrounding them. LED wall-pack lights have different finishes and lens types to fit different lighting demands. LED wall pack retrofits can directly replace your older HID wall pack for increased energy efficiency and light quality.

Advantages of Exterior LED Data Center Lighting
  • LED lights produce intensely bright light with a daylight-quality to it. To prevent light pollution, use cutoff fixtures that direct the light downwards or to the area it is needed the most.
  • LED lights have a wide range of CCTs which can be manipulated to provide light that does not strain the human eye at night. The right CCT can also be used during late night to ensure that the light doesn’t affect the neighboring residents’ circadian rhythm negatively.
  • Since LED lights have a high CRI, they are perfect for pedestrian and vehicle traffic, increasing clarity because they display objects in their actual colors. This feature also makes them ideal for surveillance lighting and other security features.
  • Data center managers can use light control tools to dim LED data center lighting up to 100%. Using daylight sensors, the light output of the fixtures can be adjusted depending on the time of day. The light output can also be reduced from midnight up to dawn to further cut back energy usage.

Benefits of LED Data Center Lighting

Lighting data centers can be costly in various ways, but with our LED data center lighting products, data centers are able to reduce their overhead tremendously as a direct result of converting to LED systems. MyLEDLightingGuide has the solutions and expertise to provide the proper lighting for converting data centers over to energy efficient LED.

The benefits a building will gain with data center LED lighting include energy savings up to 75%, increased lifespans up to 2 to 3 times longer, decreased maintenance costs, improved quality of light, and better security for your visitors and property. Here are the top benefits.

Reduced Costs

Reducing data center costs becomes practical and sustainable with LED. With energy savings up to 75%, you can reduce a tremendous amount of energy consumption. Also, major saving comes along with longer lifespans, reduced maintenance costs, and rebates.

Less Heat Output

Data centers play a big battle with heat from all of the servers that generate massive amounts of BTUs. With LED, they are more efficient in turning their energy input to light over heat, unlike other traditional lighting technologies. Thus, with LEDs in a data center, cooling costs are reduced and this is one of the major cost savers that LED offers to data centers.

Better Safety & Security

Safety and security are paramount to a successful data center operation. LED lights offer better lighting and higher contrast; all of which lead to higher security and safety within the data center. We will work directly with you to optimize your data centers lighting system design, inside and out. 

MyLEDLightingGuide Pro Tip

LED Efficiency - not all LED fixtures are the same

Higher efficient LED products may cost a bit more at time of purchase, but will pay itself back and continue to repay itself with savings over the life of the product.

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