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ATEX and IEC Ex Flame-proof Explosion Proof Lighting & Equipment
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01/23/17 Fluorescents vs LEDs in Paint Booths

Article - January 23, 2016 By

Explosion Proof Low Profile Linear LED light - Surface Mount

Fluorescents vs LEDs in Paint Booths

Paint booth businesses rely on high quality lights inside the facility for accurate paint jobs. The most common fixtures used by the industry are fluorescent lamps. But now, some operators are switching to LEDs for their energy efficient and robust lighting properties.

Below compares fluorescent and LED lights for paint booth applications, and factors that contribute to optimal lighting conditions in the sector.

Factors to Consider

There are several factors to consider when selecting lights for commercial paint booths. Light quality is prioritized greatly for paint booth fixtures, which is measured using the Color Rendering Index (CRI). Rated on a scale of 0 to 100, the higher the rating, the better the color rendering ability. Additionally, the fixtures must provide intense lighting inside the booth. This is typically measured in foot candles. The general industry standard is 100 to 150-foot candles at a height of three feet. To ensure clarity, the lens, or cover of the lights, must be transparent. Tempered glass is typically used for paint booth lighting, because it is clearer than glass that is reinforced with wires, and is up to five times stronger than regular glass.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of paint booth lighting is safety code compliance. Industrial paint facilities are known to house flammable and combustible liquids (paints and solvents) from spraying. Because of this, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth recommendations in OSHA CFR 1910.107- Spray finishing using flammable and combustible materials, for electrical wiring, equipment, ventilation and booth design guidelines. Paint booth lights must carry Class 1 Division 1 National Electric Code (NEC) approval ratings to prevent the ignition of combustible compounds in the hazardous location.

According to the NEC, Class 1 Division 1 is defined as:

• (1) In which ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, flammable liquid–produced vapors, or combustible liquid–produced vapors can exist under normal operating conditions, or

• (2) In which ignitable concentrations of such flammable gases, flammable liquid–produced vapors, or combustible liquids above their flash points may exist frequently because of repair or maintenance operations or because of leakage, or

• (3) In which breakdown or faulty operation of equipment or processes might release ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, flammable liquid–produced vapors, or combustible liquid–produced vapors and might also cause simultaneous failure of electrical equipment in such a way as to directly cause the electrical equipment to become a source of ignition.

Fluorescent Lamp Applications

Traditionally, four-foot fluorescent lamps with an arrangement of two or four bulbs per group are widely used in paint booth facilities. The lights are preferred by industry professionals due to their wide and consistent spread during illumination. Furthermore, the color temperature range that the units produce, between 5,500 and 6,000 Kelvin, allows workers to view paint applications accurately. By comparison, incandescent lamps are resilient in reproducing red, orange and yellow, but fail considerably when rendering blue, green and white. When taking CRI into consideration, it is common practice to choose a fluorescent light with an 80 CRI rating.

“Positioning of lamps within the paint booth also plays a critical role in how effectively the work space will be illuminated. Since fluorescent lamps are typical long and thin, arranging them around the booth vertically can make it difficult to illuminate the work space effectively. With the lamps arranged vertically, it is easy for the paint booth operators’ body to block most of the output of a lamp when he moves in front of it,” said Larson Electronics.

Benefits of LED Lighting in Paint Booths

LEDs provide a plethora of advantages when used in paint booths. The fixtures require up to 50 percent less power, and offer up to 30 percent more direct lighting, compared to fluorescent lamps. With an average lifespan of 50,000+ hours, the units are suitable for long-term operations. Conventional T8 tubes would need to be replaced roughly four times during the same period to match the lifespan of LEDs. When it comes to safety, the lights do not emit a great deal of heat, which translates to lower fire risks. This is highly relevant in paint spray booths, due to the possibility of igniting explosive particles in the hazardous location.

As mentioned earlier, light quality is the salient benchmark for paint booth lights. Most LEDs are come with a CRI rating in the 80s range, with high-quality variants reaching as high as 92 (fluorescent lamps support a CRI rating in the 60-80 range). LEDs also emit light in one direction, allowing for greater light manipulation. Fixtures that emit light in all angles must use reflectors or simply waste the light by not reaching the target area.

During light production, LEDs do not use harmful chemicals (such as mercury), making them environmentally-friendly. There are no loose parts inside the fixture, and with a solid state design made up of tight circuitry, LEDs can withstand rough treatment during operation. The units also boast an efficacy rating (term used for measuring the efficiency of lighting, measured in lumens per watt- the higher the efficacy the more light is generated for the same amount of power) of 60 with some manufacturers pushing for 80. By comparison, fluorescents have an average efficacy rating of 40. Lastly, when it comes to performance, LEDs can be toggled instantly without flickering, as well as sustain light and color uniformity over long periods of time.

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Category/Product (click on link below for more information)
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