LED High Bay Lights: An Evolution that Makes Darwin Jealous

The right LED high bay light makes all the difference.

In fact, businesses waste billions of dollars a year in both energy and maintenance costs, simply by choosing a sub-par high bay with an equally sub-par performance.

That’s not just bad for the budget; it’s bad for time.

Think about it:

In 24/7 operations like warehouses, critical time spent replacing failed high bays affects productivity.

Not to mention, having high bay replacements on hand takes up important space that could otherwise be used for more productive things. Like actual inventory.

Installing the right fixture can eliminate lighting costs by up to 65%. Which is especially important, given the fact that lighting takes up a quarter of a commercial building’s electricity use. That number grows even higher for 24/7 facilities.

And you’re not just taking away lighting costs; you’re taking away maintenance, relamping, and disposal costs and concerns.

high bay lights

Here’s the thing about LED high bay lighting, though:

Getting to the point where they’re even available at affordable prices has been quite a journey. When LEDs became available, they cost several times more than their metal halide or fluorescent counterparts. And even though LED high bay lights had a lower total cost of ownership, the payback would take 3-5 years. Needless to say, not many people were biting.

Thankfully, over the last decade, not only have these fixtures reached price parity with their traditional counterparts, but LED versions have become even more efficient, making them an even easier sell to the masses.

Here’s the breakdown:

Convert a 400-watt metal halide to a 324-watt fluorescent, and you’ve got an energy savings of about 19%.

Convert that same metal halide to an LED high bay, and that number leaps to a 65% savings, with three times the life expectancy.

But in order to fully appreciate the LED high bay, let’s revisit how prior options, well…weren’t the best.

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The Metal Halide High Bay: It Was Replaced For A Reason (Or 10)

Metal halide lamps are a type of high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting that uses electricity to vaporize a strip of metal inside a sealed bulb, which gives off light.

And while they do produce a bright, white light with decent color rendering, light output, color rendering, and efficacy all plummet over time.

Which doesn’t quite make it the economical option it was once thought to be.

In fact...

Here's a mind-bending infographic with more reasons why you shouldn't use them.

Always use an LED high bay over metal halide. Metal halide high bays: 1) take up too much energy; 2) generate too much heat; 3) waste too much light; 4) their effective lamination drops off too quickly; 5) have too many heavy metals; 5) attract too much dirt; 6) are too high maintenance; 7) have a low CRI; 8) take too long to turn on; 10) aren’t compatible with controls.

Enough about metal halides. They were outclassed for a reason.

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Next up: Linear Fluorescents – The Next Best Alternative. But Still Bad.

Many facilities managers were so done with metal halides that they were ready to welcome literally anything as an alternative. That’s where linear fluorescents came in. It started with the T12s, then later evolved to more energy-efficient T8 and T5 fixtures.

5 Reasons Why They Still Don’t Quite Make the Cut

  • They’re more efficient than metal halide, but still not nearly as efficient as LED. (Pssst – LED save you 65% over metal halides; fluorescents only save you 15%.)

  • They perform. As long as you keep the ambient temperature around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter or colder than that and efficiency plummets.

  • Since they contain mercury, you must dispose them according to strict regulations.

  • They attract dirt, which can reduce light output by 10%. Not to mention, cleaning these guys takes time and money your client doesn’t have.

  • They require constant relamping and re-ballasting, which is both annoying and expensive. Much like metal halide, your client will need special lift equipment, added labor costs, and places to store and manage replacements. That’s valuable time and space being wasted. And, of course, in 24/7 facilities, all operations must stop while fixtures are replaced.

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Enter LED High Bays: Praise the Lighting Gods

LED high bay lighting in a warehouse

Let’s get simple.

Why They’re Great:

  • They offer a 50% energy savings over fluorescents and 65% over metal halides. And, when you add lighting controls, you can tack on an additional 50% energy savings.

  • Highly directional light that casts only where you need it, eliminating the need to buy extra fixtures to meet minimum lighting requirements.

  • They turn on and off instantly – no need for a warm up or cool down period. This makes them a great candidate for controls, like occupancy sensors.

  • They last over 100,000 hours, which is five to ten times the life of a typical metal halide or T5 lamp.

  • They’re low maintenance. As in, no bulbs or ballasts to replace, no mercury requiring regulated disposal, and no gas lamps or tubes to shatter.

  • They can have an 80+ CRI, which makes sure products underneath them look their best. Think about the produce section of the grocery store. The produce manager’s got to turn those strawberries fast before they spoil. What better way to do that than with a high CRI that brings out their true and natural color?

  • They come in both round and linear form factors, making retrofits a breeze.

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Well, there you have it.

You’ve come a long way, and so have LED high bay lights. Next time you’re in the market for a UL/ETL listed one that’ll last you over 100,000 hours of maintenance-free operation, check out ours.

We’ve got everything from NICOR® to premium to standard, in both round and linear options.They’re perfect for warehouses, gyms, retail operations, or any kind of industrial facility.

If you have any questions, give our lighting experts a ring at 1-888-243-9445; they can help with lighting layout, installation troubleshooting, and even mental health issues. Just kidding.

But when it comes to LEDs, they’ve got you covered.

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Article Written by Clint Y.

Clint is a Product Marketing Specialist at Cree Lighting. He aims to bring innovative, high-quality lighting to the market that provides a solution to customers’ needs. By keeping the consumer front of mind, he focuses on providing superior customer service and competitive pricing and delivering the best overall experience and value straight to the consumer.