Ken Eddleston of Chalmit discusses the factors companies working in hazardous environments must consider when developing a lighting strategy
Before launching our new Protecta X LED, a luminaire designed for harsh and hazardous environments, we spoke to thousands of plant managers and engineers who are responsible for operations on sites such as oil and gas refineries, chemical processing plants, drilling and exploration rigs, and heavy industrial facilities.
We asked them what priorities were at the front of their minds when it comes to lighting and found that the most pressing factors include system lifetime, efficiency and quality, light performance, and health and safety. Interestingly, these are all critical factors when developing a lighting strategy.
Workplace safety is the most important lighting consideration for decision-makers managing hazardous environments. The temperature at which a light operates, its quality and performance, and its chemical composition, are all factors which affect the health and safety credentials of any lighting strategy.
Hazardous environments are potentially explosive atmospheres so the maximum surface temperature of a light must not be able to reach the temperature required to ignite combustible gases and dust. It is also critical that lighting is able to operate spark free.
High precision tasks in heavy industrial environments must be done with highly directional and uniform lighting, that has good colour rendering. Other locations where safety can be enhanced by utilising good quality lighting include process areas, compressor decks and stairwells.
Lighting strategies must also consider the importance of system lifetime. Long-life lighting reduces the downtime, costs and risks associated with maintenance work in hazardous environments. It is crucial that companies install durable lighting, able to withstand continuous vibrations, shocks and fire risks. Fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs often fail to reach their predicted lifespan when installed in difficult environments.
LED luminaires are far better suited to hazardous environments. As a practical example, the Protecta X has a system life of over 120,000 hours at 25°C, whereas a fluorescent luminaire will need relamping every 18,000-20,000 hours.
Decision-makers must invest in lights constructed with robust and durable heat sinks. Heat sinking increases the surface area and allows maximum air flow for heat to dissipate and transfer from the light to the ambient environment. Effective thermal management ensures longer life, lower lumen deprecation and minimal colour shift over the light’s lifetime.
In any lighting strategy, efficiency is important because it will impact on energy usage, infrastructure costs and even safety. Rising power prices have made the search for more efficient power options an economic, as well as environmental, priority.
LEDs use far less energy when compared to fluorescent alternatives. In fact, the Protecta X LED is 50% more energy efficient than the average fluorescent luminaire.
More efficient lighting systems enhance safety by reducing the load on the electrical system. They also result in lower infrastructure costs based on reduced requirements for circuit breakers, transformers and wire conductors.
Highly directional lighting with impressive colour rendering qualities reduces light pollution by delivering light with minimal loss or spill. It also minimises the number of luminaires required to illuminate a workplace effectively. Better performing systems provide more accurate lighting which eases precision tasks such as quality checks and reading gauge measurements. When comparing the performance of luminaires, the focus should be on the usable light on the work plane determined by the lux reading.
Ken Eddleston is lighting product manager at Chalmit