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ATEX and IEC Ex Flame-proof Explosion Proof Lighting & Equipment
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Work Site Lighting

01/07/12 Metal Halide and T12 Fluorescent Lighting in Older Workplaces

Article- January 2012 By Larson

High Intensity Metal Halide Light

Larson Electronics 22 Inch High Intensity Metal Halide Light

Lighting in commercial and industrial settings, although comprised of a generally tougher grade than common equipment used in residential settings, still has a finite life cycle. Much of the warehouse and distribution space utilized by companies today is leased or rented, and as many as 15 years can go by before any serious evaluation and maintenance of lighting systems takes place. The result is that much of the business being conducted within commercial/industrial workspaces today is being negatively impacted by poor illumination.



Poorly illuminated workspaces negatively affect performance in several ways. By the time the average worker reaches the age of forty, they need roughly twice as much light to read the normal print in a book as they did at age twenty. Worker alertness and fatigue are also significantly affected by lighting, with studies having shown that light levels play a role in physiological-hormonal responses related to our natural biological clocks. In short, low light levels tend to cause the human body to prepare itself for sleep, while higher light levels produce a waking response and an increase in energy and alertness.



As well as physical effects, lighting also plays a substantial role in production and quality control. Lighting of poor quality can interfere with visual acuity, increasing the number of errors and mistakes, resulting in a higher number of kickbacks and rejects in finished products. Particularly in tasks requiring a high degree of detail oriented work, error rates can increase as much as 30% under lighting of insufficient intensity and quality. Colored wires, small orifices, tiny labeling and uniformity can become difficult to clearly view and identify under low lighting levels or light of a poor color quality.



Since much of the lighting in these locations is often comprised of outdated equipment and lamps nearing or at the end of their service life, substantial improvements can be realized with an upgrade to modern designs. Old metal halide fixtures containing simple ballasts can be improved with the addition of higher efficiency pulse start and electronically controlled ballasts that meet the new energy efficiency guidelines for metal halide lamps. Productivity, efficiency, and operational costs can all be greatly improved through the introduction of lamps with higher color rendering indexes and greater lumen per watt ratios, thus increasing the amount of light reaching task areas and its color quality and contrasting.



In situations where replacement costs are a critical problem, if ballasts are still serviceable, a simple upgrade to improved metal halide lamps can still produce the desired improvements in efficiency and production. As metal halide lamps age, they lose much of their efficiency as well as color quality. The older a metal halide lamp gets, the harder the ballast has to work to ignite it and maintain a steady current supply. The metal halide lamp ages, requires more power to operate, until it finally reaches a point where the ballast becomes overworked and fails. It is for this reason that many metal halide fixtures fail in the industrial space well before their rated life span is reached. Old metal halide lamps at the end of their service life simply draw more amperage than their ballast can safely provide, which causes the ballast to eventually fail completely.


Because of these concerns with ballast health in older metal halide fixtures, anyone considering upgrading to new metal halide lamps should expect to make a thorough evaluation of their metal halide fixtures before embarking on a straightforward plan of simple lamp replacement. Ballasts that are humming, take longer than normal to bring the lamp to full output, and or show obvious signs of overheating or leakage, should be considered no longer serviceable and replaced. It should also be noted that the new energy regulations being implemented within the United States require ballasts and lamps with a higher efficiency to be used, although older systems may still be purchased and installed until current stockpiles are depleted. Once this occurs, older units will no longer be available. For this reason, upgrading to newer more efficient models is probably the wisest course in order to avoid a large scale and more costly upgrade in the future, as well as begin reaping improved benefits in lowered lighting energy costs immediately.


Along with metal halide fixtures, T12 fluorescent lamps are also commonly encountered in the industrial workspace. Fluorescent fixtures are less susceptible to ballast and color quality issues than metal halide lamps, but still experience significant losses in efficiency and effectiveness as they near the end of their life cycle. T12 lamps and ballasts will soon no longer be available, with magnetic T12 ballasts and many T12 lamps already having been cut from production. By July 2012, many if not most T12 lamps will no longer be produced as well. As with metal halide lamps, some exceptions will apply and replacements will be available as long as stockpiles are available. Again however, it is probably wisest to simply upgrade to newer and more efficient T5 or T8 fixtures. According to the Energy Cost Savings Council, energy-efficient lighting projects can produce a 45% ROI, allowing them to pay for themselves in just 2.2 years. Other estimates show even higher returns, and with current incentives and tax breaks, much of the initial upgrade can be offset outright to produce an even faster realization in savings.


Another less commonly addressed problem with older fluorescent fixtures is reflector and housing condition. Over time and exposure to UV, the reflective properties of housings and reflector assemblies can diminish. Particularly with fluorescent fixtures where the 360 degree radiation of light over the length of the bulb results in a great deal of the light not reaching the task area, dirty and worn reflectors can greatly reduce the amount of light concentrated downwards. Anytime fixtures are serviced, it’s a good idea to inspect housings and reflector assemblies on any light and ensure they are clean and still retain an even glossy finish.



Older and rental industrial workplaces are prime candidates for lighting upgrades and retrofits, if not a major overhaul and religious maintenance program. By replacing old fixtures or upgrading to newer style lamps, companies can realize substantial increases in worker productivity, reduced error and mistake rates, and greatly reduce electrical costs. Any time a new structure is considered for expansion or move-in, take the time to have the lighting system evaluated. It could well be one of the easiest ways to save money while growing your business.

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