Paint Spray Booth Illumination: Why Upgrade to LEDs?|
Of all the important features that must be designed into an effective paint booth, lighting is without any doubt the most important of them all. Preparation, application and quality control are all reliant on a high quality source of illumination. Well placed and properly chosen lighting will reveal imperfections and problem areas well before the first application of paint is applied. During application it is the quality of the illumination that will play a huge role in maintaining color uniformity as well as reveal any trouble areas like low spots or surface imperfections. Lighting with the proper color rendering index will also assist in producing the correct color matches and provide a truer representation of the finished products final appearance.
Because of its importance the lighting used in the spray paint booth must be chosen with just as much care and consideration as is given to the preparation and treatment of the products being coated. Lights must be powerful enough to illuminate every surface in high detail yet not produce so much glare as to interfere with inspections. The lights’ color rendering index must be as high as is practical in order to produce a truer representation of the colors and surfaces being worked with. Placement of the lighting fixture also plays a large role in how well a project is illuminated and how easily work can be performed without operators having to deal with their movements obstructing the light source.
Safety is also a major concern with spray booth lighting. The vapors and chemicals that are routinely present in spray booth operations present a serious fire and explosion hazard due to their volatile natures. Because of this, any lighting equipment to be used in spray booth operations must be of the explosion proof variety and properly rated. Some spray booth configurations allow for installation of lighting outside the actual confines of the booth itself. These lighting fixture set ups are usually mounted to the exterior of the booth and separated from the interior workspace by plexi-glass. Although this arrangement is useful for avoiding the normal explosion proof requirements for internally installed spray booth illumination, it presents problems with light distribution and intensity. Many operations, particularly on a larger scale also require lighting that can be repositioned as needed, which makes interior lighting a must.
Lights used in the spray booth are most commonly of the fluorescent variety for a number of reasons. Fluorescent tube illumination tends to produce a color rendering index that far surpasses that of normal incandescent lamps. The light is more evenly distributed as well due to how the light is spread out over the length of the tube and radiated equally in all directions. Fluorescent fixtures also tend to run much cooler than incandescent lamps, which provides the benefits of helping to reduce temperatures in the enclosed environment of the booth as well as reducing the potential for fires and explosion from inadvertent ignitions. Fluorescent fixtures also require much less electricity to operate and thus provide a significant reduction in operating costs. Because of these reasons fluorescent tubes have held a fairly stable position as the dominant form of spray booth illumination for decades.
Recent changes in how illumination is being produced, however, are providing the opportunity for operators of paint booths to improve on all these beneficial aspects of fluorescent illumination without any need for major retrofitting. LEDs represent a major shift in lighting technology and are gradually gathering a larger share of the fluorescent tube market as industrial and commercial operators realize the improvements in light quality and cost efficiency the offer. Explosion proof LED lighting like Larson Electronics's EPL-48-2L-LED with 4 foot LED bulbs offers improvements in efficiency, longevity and durability that regular fluorescents cannot match.
LEDs are a natural fit for the paint spray booth. They have no filament in their design and instead produce light by passing electrical energy through a semi-conducting material. This process is not only more efficient than simply heating a filament to produce light as is the case with incandescent bulbs, but is more efficient than fluorescence as well. Further benefit comes from the LEDs’ naturally cooler operation. A great deal less heat is created by LEDs; less than either the incandescent or fluorescent lamp. LEDs also require no ballast and instead rely on solid state electronics which reduces the size and weight of the fixtures which must be used as well as adds to the energy efficiency of the LED fixture as a whole. Unlike fluorescent lamps, LEDs have no initial startup or warm up period as well. LEDs are an instant on lighting technology and reach peak operating capacity immediately after being switched on.
Another area where LEDs outperform other types of illumination is found in their longevity. LEDs of good quality and design can be expected to perform for 50,000 or more hours. This lifespan is on par with the highest quality fluorescents and in fact surpasses the actual useful life those lamps typically offer. This longevity offers benefits not only in reducing the costs associated with periodically needing to relamp fixtures as they reach the end of their useful life, but reduces the inconvenience as well. One of the bigger problems with explosion proof lighting is the inability of many less experienced operators to properly perform relamping of worn out tubes. Gaskets and seals are often difficult to replace and must be properly reapplied and affixed or the safety of the fixture can be compromised. This leads to an added burden on operators who often must perform relamping themselves rather than allow employees to perform this important yet time consuming task.
LEDs offer an improvement in durability that is unmatched in any other type of lighting. They contain no filaments, no gases under a vacuum and no brittle glass in their construction. Accidental bumping, dropping, impacts and other unintentional contacts that would normally shatter or destroy a typical lamp will have no effect at all on an LED equipped fixture. LEDs offer very good color rendering indexes, can be configured to fit into any application once served by fluorescents, and offer longevity and durability that will allow operators who utilize them in their practices to realize an eventual overall savings in both maintenance and operational costs. The next time you are in the middle of replacing yet another fluorescent fixture, imagine what it would be like to not have to change another lamp for years while paying less on your electrical bill, then go have a look at a few LED fixtures. You might be surprised at what you’ve been missing.