Hazardous locations have stricter requirements for fixtures and luminaires than other industrial areas. Hazardous locations include those areas where flammable dusts, fumes, liquids and gases may be present, either in storage or during processing.

LEDs for Hazardous Locations and … Mesh Lighting Control

Steve Maurer, IME
Hazardous locations have stricter requirements for fixtures and luminaires than other industrial areas. Hazardous locations include those areas where flammable dusts, fumes, liquids and gases may be present, either in storage or during processing.

Lighting fixtures in these locations must be intrinsically safe to prevent fires and explosions. Oil and gas facilities, chemical processing plants, paint manufacturing plants, and sawmills are a few common locations where hazardous atmospheres are present.

Hazards also exist in the agricultural industry. For example, animal feed storage bins, grain elevators and fertilizer processing plants a have areas where the potential for fire and explosions exist.

Many facility managers are making the switch from filament style lamps and fixtures to LEDs to help alleviate some of the dangers.

Switching from fluorescent and HID fixtures to LEDs
In order to combat rising energy costs, many facilities are making the switch from the more traditional means of illumination to LEDs fixtures. Incandescent, fluorescent, and HID lighting, the longstanding means of illumination, are far less efficient than LED lighting.

The acquisition price of an LED fixture is often higher than its less efficient counterparts, making it a significant capital investment. However, the ROI in reduced energy consumption, lower utility costs, and reduced maintenance upkeep costs makes the switch to LEDs a compelling argument.

There are also some other advantages to LED fixtures that make using them more attractive. For example, while LEDs are more energy efficient than other forms of lighting, they also run cooler. This can translate into reduced cooling costs in refrigerated areas and fan-ventilated areas and A/C-cooled storage facilities.

LEDs get the light right where you want it

Other forms of lighting are more or less omnidirectional. To get light where  you want it, reflectors must be used to direct the beam. However, LEDs are directional and can be configured to focus the light to where you actually need brightness. Additionally, it’s easy to design the light optics from wide to narrow patterns within the same fixture design group. The look of the installation will be consistent, even though the light output can be varied.

Worker safety also gets a boost from LED lighting in both hazardous and nonhazardous locations. The longer lifespan of LEDs means that light won’t likely fail when your team needs it most. Not only that, but LEDs are practically instant-on so they return to service more quickly than other fixtures, particularly HID lighting, which may have an extended strike-to-full capacity timeframe.

The lumen maintenance, signified by a downward curve over time, is also long for LEDs than other light sources. Gradual dimming of other fixtures might not be noticeable, but can affect workers’ eyesight.
One further advantage during power outages is that the fixture can be fitted with a backup power supply to keep the necessary lights on for the required time during a power outage, allowing workers to exit safely.

Retrofitting versus fixture replacement in hazardous locations
Can fixtures, specifically HID, be retrofitted with LEDs instead of replaced with new luminaires?
Short answer is yes. The correct answer is … it’s complicated.

In nonhazardous areas, it’s not as big an issue as it is in hazardous locations. The 2010 UL standard (UL 1598C) allowed for retrofitting older tech fixtures with LED technologies. HOWEVER, the standard prohibits LED retrofitting in hazardous atmosphere areas UNLESS the retrofit kit has been tested for compliance for use in a specific luminaire per UL844.

So in order to retrofit an existing old technology fixture with an LED kit, you must make sure it’s designed specifically for that fixture. It’s the only way to ensure you stay in compliance.

Additionally, older fixtures aren’t designed to take full advantage of the increased lighting capabilities that LED lighting affords. A fixture replacement is often more compact and can bring with it all the benefits that LED lighting can offer. The heat sinks and other heat dissipating components of a fixture designed for LEDs won’t be part of the housing of the old luminaire and will need added or reworked.

There are other cost factors to include when deciding whether to replace or retrofit. When working with ceiling-mounted high and low bay fixtures, retrofitting the components in a luminaire normally takes more time and effort than removing the old fixture and hanging the new one.

And remember, the more time a worker is “in the air,” whether on a lift or ladder, the more chances there are for a fall-from-height accident.
So, all things considered, it’s usually better to replace than retrofit.

LED lighting control and mesh technology
This pertains to LED lighting in all areas, hazardous or not. Lighting control is easier to implement with LED technology. One example is the potential to turn the lights on and off individually with motion sensors built into the fixture, with virtually no delay.

Unlike HID or fluorescent lighting, dimming is also easily achieved.

Keep in mind that it’s people, not products, that need to see. So when the area isn’t occupied, there’s no need to keep the lights on. Motion sensors can be mounted directly on the fixture or in an area to enhance lighting control and energy efficiency. But when workers enter the location, the lights come up quickly to allow them to work safely.

A new innovation in LED lighting is wireless “mesh” control. While wireless control has been around a while, using mesh technology to create a self-healing wireless network between fixtures is relatively new. One product I’ve seen like this has been Appleton’s Mercmaster luminaires.

Their Mercmaster Connect luminaires form their own network based on proximity, the way I understand it. Should new construction or product placement block the direct “line of view” between fixtures, the fixtures will “seek” a new path and reconnect automatically.

Should a fixture fail or lose power, the others will reform the network to continue lighting control.
The luminaires “report back” to a software solution app that not only controls the lighting, but also monitors fixture health and energy consumption. This allows managers to keep tabs on their energy efficiency efforts.

If you want more granular control over your lighting scheme and energy control, this looks like a great possibility for keeping your energy costs down and your lighting … up.
Photo courtesy of Appleton/Emerson Electric
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