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In control of energy savings

05 December 2016

The latest technology, in the form of energy-saving LED solutions and smart wireless controls, can drive down lighting bills while creating a safer and more sustainable working environment, explains Russell Fletcher, European sales and marketing director at Harvard

Poor lighting in factories and warehouses can lead to accidents as well as adding to workers’ stress levels and fatigue. When you consider that lighting costs can account for up to 80% of a building’s electricity use, it doesn’t come cheap, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

Remarkably, despite pressure to reduce energy consumption and to comply with stringent safety guidelines, lighting within industrial facilities often operates using outdated and ineffective technologies – with luminaires controlled with nothing more than a handful of on-off switches. This not only makes lighting inefficient to control but also costly to run.

Lighting within factories and depots can present a considerable challenge, with buildings often having very specific requirements in order to sufficiently light all areas of these facilities. Complex building layouts, comprising manufacturing areas with large expanses of machinery, spaces for shipping, docking areas for loading trailers and even high racking zones, can make effective lighting especially difficult. Whilst, the varied lighting demands of different areas of a facility only adds to the task.

For example, manufacturing areas need to be brightly illuminated and free of flickering light and shadows at all times to ensure employee safety. Loading areas, however, may only require the lights to be turned on when deliveries are made. Some areas may be in use 24/7; others, such as storage areas, may be largely unoccupied.

Taking control

Technology is revolutionising the way we light our industrial spaces – including factories and warehouses. Facilities managers, tasked with identifying financial savings while reducing energy use and carbon emissions, are looking to the latest LED and wireless control solutions as a way of reducing costs while improving sustainability and flexibility.

In the past, companies have been deterred by the drawbacks of bringing in more controllable options, with cost, down time and the complex layout of the warehouse itself all playing a part. The new generation of wireless lighting control technology, however, are transforming the way industrial facilities are lit. Facilities managers, swayed by their simple retrofit capabilities, advanced control options and ease of use, are increasingly adopting wireless lighting controls in their facilities.

Although significant savings can be achieved by making a switch to LED fixtures, by combining these with wireless lighting control technology, the benefits can be even greater.

New generation systems, such as Harvard Technology’s EyeNut solution, put energy control firmly in the palm of the controller’s hand. Using cloud-based wireless technology, lighting can be configured, controlled and monitored from one dashboard, or Graphic User Interface (GUI) – all through a laptop, tablet or even smartphone. 

The system offers greater control of an entire site or indeed multiple sites. Through the solutions GUI, usage patterns can be managed to enable the most effective energy saving strategy to be implemented. Luminaires can be switched or dimmed collectively, or individually, and scheduled to activate lighting when needed. Information on testing for audit tracking and energy hotspots can also be accessed.

Third-party sensors can be paired with the solution and used to pinpoint occupied areas and turn on the lights accordingly. Likewise, when areas are not in use, LED luminaries can be dimmed sufficiently to reduce energy costs incurred through over lighting.

Flickering light sources and dimly lit walkways have no place in 21st century warehousing. Not only can poor levels of light lead to mistakes, such as wrong items being packed, but flickering light can also have potentially serious health impacts. Low-frequency flicker, for instance, can induce seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. 

Keen to avoid unnecessary energy expense and workplace accidents, facilities managers are realising the benefits that wireless lighting controls can bring.