LEDs on the rise into high ceilings

LEDs will soon literally climb up in the lighting world as they move into high ceiling installations where they'll take over from fluorescents to illuminate warehouses, gymnasiums, cavernous retail stores and the like, all because prices are tumbling.

That's according to a forecast from Boulder, Colo.-based Navigant Reasearch.

'The market for high-bay lighting in commercial buildings is undergoing a rapid shift from traditional, fluorescent luminaires and lamps to light-emitting diodes (LEDs),' says Navigant. 'While fluorescent lights are expected to remain the best-selling technology for high-bay applications over the next seven years, falling prices and rising efficacy of LEDs will create a tipping point for the large-scale adoption of LEDs in this segment.'

'High bay' is generally any lighting mounted more than 20 feet above the floor. It faces unique challenges in providing adequate, longer distance brightness not only to horizontal areas like floors and workspaces, but also vertically to shelves (shoppers at Costco and other “big box retailers,” for instance, want to easily read the label telling them whether their salsa sauce is hot or mild).

It must also minimize contrast and glare, all while conforming to safety regulations in some cases in hazardous materials environments.

'Until very recently, light-emitting diode (LED) technology was not able to meet these requirements, at least not at a reasonable price,' Navigant says in its report, High Bay Lighting – Energy efficient lighting and lighting controls for warehouse, industrial, sporting, retail and transportation facilities.

Following the introduction of several new high-bay LED products last year, and with prices coming down, 'the market is set for a rapid shift in lighting technology, similar to the shift toward LED lighting that has already begun in commercial buildings,' Navigant notes.

Navigant forecasts that global revenue from high-bay LED luminaires and lamps will surge from $2.6 billion this year to $7 billion in 2021, which will be nearly half of the overall market of $15.9 billion.

'The energy and cost savings of LEDs will make them the dominant technology for high-bay applications within the next 10 years,' the company states.

While LEDs are known for their tremendous energy efficiency compared to some conventional light sources, they do not always provide significant energy improvements over fluorescents. But they last longer and save on replacement and maintenance costs. Even though the high-bay LED prices remain above those for fluorescents, they are declining enough to induce users into long term savings, Navigant points out.

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Photo: The new 'high bay' LEDs at Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre in England serve brighter light and lower costs compared to the old metal halide installation. Image from Holophane.