Commentary | Viewpoint

Shedding Light on Warehouse Savings

Tags: Warehousing, Green Logistics

Justin Moon is Director, Strategic Marketing, Industrial Solutions, Acuity Brands, 770-922-9000

“How can our operation save money?” When warehouse owners, operators, or facility managers ask that question, they often overlook their warehouse lighting.

They shouldn’t. With today’s LED solutions and other advanced lighting technologies, the cost of lighting a warehouse can be cut as much as 80 percent over traditional sources. Savvy warehouse owners are investing in these technologies so they have more capital to finance other parts of the business. And cutting lighting cost is just one of the advantages. They also save on maintenance and enjoy greater quality and operational efficiencies that allow them to better run their operations.

According to Georgia Power studies, lighting is the largest energy expense within a warehouse. Unfortunately, lighting upgrades typically happen “only when absolutely necessary” rather than as part of an overall cost-cutting strategy. In the past, the cost of retrofitting traditional lighting justified taking a conservative approach. But today, it’s an outdated and risky mindset that can actually lead to paying too much for lighting. Companies using this approach don’t realize energy savings along with significant maintenance savings that improve efficiencies throughout warehouse operations; from better clarity during picking to reallocating maintenance staff from fixing lights to fixing machines.

The Real Cost of Fluorescent

Fluorescent high bays using occupancy sensors generally have an automatic 15-minute time-out period (meaning it takes 15 minutes for the lights to turn off once the occupant has left the space). Changing the time-out period to less than 15 minutes increases the switching rate. High switching rates result in higher maintenance costs because lamps need to be replaced more frequently so many facilities maintain a high time-out period which keeps energy costs high.

LED solutions are not affected by frequent switching so settings on warehouse lighting can be reduced up to 30-second time-out periods in order to maximize the energy savings and not affect fixture life. 

In addition to specific time-out strategies, retrofitting warehouse lighting to LED solutions can provide four distinct benefits that enable companies to optimize the warehouse and maximize return.

  1. Savings. LED lighting saves energy and minimizes costly maintenance, reducing lamp and ballast change outs. When upgrading from fluorescent, warehouse facilities can realize savings of approximately 61 percent. These savings skyrocket to about 83 percent when adding occupancy sensors or wireless networked controls. Upgrading from HID delivers even more savings, up to 87 percent.
  2. Code compliance. The energy code landscape constantly changes. From ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC to Title 24 in California, there are multiple things to consider when completing a new construction or renovation project. LED solutions make it easier to navigate the ever-changing landscape. Advanced controls now available with LED lighting systems offer the flexibility to react to inevitable code changes.
  3. Employee satisfaction. Numerous research studies document the relationship between lighting conditions and human performance. Working for an extended period in insufficient lighting can lead to worker fatigue; conversely, exposure to appropriate levels of light can make employees more alert which can lead to happier, safer employees and fewer errors.
  4. Flexibility. Wireless networked controls not only accelerate savings, they also provide superior lighting management capabilities. A networked system allows individual fixtures or zones to be configured, scheduled, and task tuned while also reporting on alerts and energy.

Warehouse companies are continually seeking to maximize efficiencies that help meet financial goals and generate competitive advantage. By investing in a tailored LED lighting system that increases savings, complies with building energy codes, improves employee satisfaction, and adapts to ever-changing operations, owners, operators, and managers can transform warehouse lighting from a necessary expense to a strategic asset.