The Future of Explosion Proof Lighting|
Two of the biggest factors in the development and implementation of explosion proof lighting technology are economics and regulations. The standards and requirements regulating the design of explosion proof lighting as outlined by OSHA, the International Electrical Code and others dictate a high level of design strength and ignition resistance, and these in turn increase the costs associated with such equipment. Industries involved with the use of explosion proof equipment have for many years had to balance the costs of such equipment with the safety of their operations. As international energy policies continues to change and efficiency and conservation take a larger role in determining the state of lighting technology, regulations and costs promise to continue playing a pivotal role in development and use.
For many industries explosion proof lighting represents an unavoidable and necessary expense. The safety and efficiency of their operations are dependent upon effective explosion proof technology, and maintaining regulatory compliance as standards evolve and change ensures the need for constant vigilance. While developmentally the focus has normally been on maintaining the effectiveness of explosion proof rated lighting while reducing its costs, new energy standards are in the works that promise to add a further level of consideration. The rising costs of energy and the problems of pollution and waste that accompany energy production are giving rise to legislation intended to address these factors. Nowhere are the changes this legislation represents more apparent than in the lighting industry.
New federal energy efficiency lighting standards were announced last year by the U.S. government and go into effect in 2012. These standards require manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of fluorescent and incandescent reflector lamp lighting fixtures and are intended to help improve the efficiency of these types of lamps by fifteen to twenty five percent. These are only a small part of the focus that is being put on improving the energy efficiency of common lighting equipment. In 2011, new guidelines for packaging descriptions will go into effect that detail the efficiency of lamps consumers are considering purchasing. Future legislation is expected to eventually phase out and ban the traditional incandescent bulb altogether, with high efficiency technology like LEDs and CFL’s expected to replace them and lead to significant energy savings across the board.
While these changes are necessary and will do a great deal to reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency with which electricity is used, they will also significantly affect how explosion proof lighting is manufactured and its cost. Already a shift in explosion proof lighting technology is taking place from traditional incandescent lamps to higher efficiency forms of illumination. LEDs, HID, and fluorescent lamps are being quickly embraced by the explosion proof lighting industry due not so much to their energy efficient natures, but rather their greater durability, dependability, and cooler operating temperatures. However, the higher cost of these types of fixtures as compared to traditional incandescent lamps has led to the incandescent bulb remaining a popular choice in industry. This cheaper appearance however is misleading.
Traditional incandescent lighting is extremely inefficient. Up to ninety percent of the energy used by an incandescent lamp is wasted as heat. Its dominance since its inception has been due to the cheapness with which it can be produced. At the time of its introduction electrical energy was cheap, and conservation and efficiency held little concern for both industry and the public. Over the last thirty years this has begun to change as the cost for energy has risen. Electrical power is no longer cheap and represents a significant portion of the total energy costs associated with manufacturing and commercial activities. Lighting represents a large portion of these costs with some industries seeing up to a quarter of their energy consumption coming from producing illumination. This has led to an increased focus on not only the initial costs of purchasing and installing lighting, but the long term costs associated with operating it. As well as initial purchase and installation costs, the cost to operate lighting equipment over the course of its useful life, the costs of re-lamping, and the costs associated with servicing and maintenance are now becoming primary factors in the consideration of which lighting equipment to use. This is where the new technology shines.
Lighting equipment like LED and HID equipped fixtures are many times more efficient than the incandescent bulb. They produce more lumens per watt than the incandescent and can thusly produce more light with less energy consumption. Explosion proof fixtures like Larson Electronics’s Class 1 Division 1 LED Light produce over five times as many lumens per watt as an incandescent, which means they can illuminate a larger area with less energy. The savings don’t stop with energy efficiency however, with LEDs having a lifespan ten times longer than an incandescent as well. This means that not only will this lamp use less energy; the LEDs used to produce its light will likely last for the life of the unit as compared to an incandescent which would need ten or more re-lampings to equal its lifetime performance. Further adding to the cost effectiveness of this new technology, the longevity and durability of these units means lower maintenance costs as well. With no filament to break or burnout there will be less unexpected replacement costs associated with lights being dropped or burning out prematurely. Similarly, HID units with Metal Halide lamps for large scale illumination applications also use far less energy than incandescent bulbs while having a lifespan up to three times longer. Fluorescent fixtures also surpass the incandescent in efficiency and longevity, all of which demonstrates just why the incandescent bulb has reached the end of its useful design life. While the initial outlay for LED, HID, or fluorescent fixtures may be higher, the savings in energy, maintenance, and bulb replacement costs represent a net savings over the life of the equipment. As regulations continue to change and encourage a shift towards more energy efficient lighting standards, the incandescent bulb is destined to be phased out of production. Fortunately for commercial industry, manufacturers of explosion proof lighting equipment are ahead of this regulation and already producing equipment that will produce the desired savings, while still meeting the demands of commercial operations.