A brighter future

Online Editor

Stuart Head details the benefits of LED lighting for hazardous environments here.

In recent years, governments and organisations worldwide have made considerable efforts to phase out hazardous, mercury-containing lighting fixtures such as CFLs and fluorescent tubes, prioritising the adoption of eco-friendly alternatives. This transition has been driven by environmental and health concerns, with a legal deadline recently passed for the sale of mercury containing T8 lamps and tubes and another deadline fast approaching on February 24th, 2024, for T5 lamps. So what do businesses operating in hazardous environments need to do to prepare for the upcoming deadline? And what are the benefits of switching to LED lighting technology?

The mercury conundrum

One of the primary reasons to phase-out CFLs and fluorescent tubes is their mercury content. Mercury, a toxic heavy metal, poses substantial risks to both health and the environment. When these lighting devices break or are improperly disposed of, they release mercury, which can have severe consequences. To address these concerns, the RoHS directive was implemented in 2006, marking the lifespan and restricting the use of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps. Governments and organisations have since encouraged the adoption of more sustainable lighting technologies, particularly LED lighting.

Energy efficiency benefits

LED lamps and luminaires consume substantially less energy compared with traditional incandescent lamps and even CFLs, potentially leading to a 50% reduction in energy consumption on a larger scale. This contributes to a company’s Net Zero goals and helps support environmental sustainability policies.

Extended lifespan

Lasting much longer than traditional lighting technologies, a typical LED luminaire can have a lifespan of over 100,000 hours if designed and manufactured correctly. This reduces maintenance costs and lessens the environmental footprint associated with lighting fixture production and disposal.

Durability and reliability

Modern LEDs are solid-state devices without fragile components such as glass or filaments, making them highly resistant to shock, vibrations and impacts – ideal for rugged, hazardous conditions.

Instant on/off

For hazardous environments where quick responses are necessary, especially in emergencies, LED lights provide immediate illumination without warm-up time.

Lower heat emission

LEDs emit lower heat proportionally per circuit watt, reducing fire hazards and helping to maintain safe temperatures in hazardous environments. The lower heat output from LED luminaires can also significantly contribute to power savings in places where low temperatures need to be maintained, such as chillers and freezers.

Customisable light output

LED lighting allows precise control of light output, including dimming and colour temperature adjustments, particularly valuable in environments that may require specific lighting needs where insufficient lighting may pose a risk to people, equipment or the environment. These environments may also have the presence of flammable gases, vapours, dust or other potentially explosive or dangerous substances.

Because LEDs emit focused light, reducing light pollution and glare, they are also advantageous for task-based lighting in hazardous environments.

Cold tolerance & UV emissions

Unlike fluorescent lights, LEDs perform well in cold temperatures, making them suitable for extreme environmental fluctuations and perfect for cold storage warehousing.

Another benefit is that LEDs produce little to no ultraviolet (UV) radiation, making them suitable for UV-sensitive environments. This also avoids the common failure that occurs in fluorescent luminaires, where the UV output from the tube causes the diffusers to go yellow and brittle and, ultimately, break over time.

Remote Monitoring and Control

Many LED lighting systems support smart technology for remote monitoring and control, enhancing safety and efficiency.

Adaptability to hazardous ratings

LED fixtures can be designed to meet specific hazardous area classifications and certifications, ensuring compliance with safety regulations and local government legislation.

The phase-out of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and tubes marks a significant stride toward sustainability and public health protection. LED lighting offers a multitude of advantages, making it an ideal choice for hazardous environments. Its durability, energy efficiency, low heat emissions and compliance with safety regulations position it as a reliable and safe lighting solution in critical safety scenarios. As technology advances, LED lighting will continue to play a crucial role in safeguarding workers and assets in hazardous areas.

Stuart Head is technical and compliance manager at Petrel.

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