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Connected LED lighting in hazardous industrial locations: A bright next step in digital transformation

February 24, 2022 | By Anthony Capkun

February 24, 2022 – Oil, chemical and heavy industrial processing facilities are feeling the pressure to implement modern cost-cutting networking technologies throughout their operations, including in areas classified as hazardous.

Whether this movement is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the Smart Factory or another buzzword, this high level of digital transformation presents new challenges with regard to safety in hazardous locations where highly specialized electrical equipment is required.

However, the ROI of digital transformation cannot be ignored when helping to manage the ever-increasing load of data generated by the smart meters, sensors and other lightweight edge analytics devices deployed throughout the processing operation.

With quick and accurate data analysis made possible by digital transformation, it is much easier to prioritize maintenance and identify potential hazards or failures that may put the safety, reliability, and compliance of a facility at risk.

One of the ways industry is tackling these environments is through lighting; specifically, connected lighting—alongside analytics—for reducing facility costs while improving the productivity, safety, and functionality of hazardous locations.

LED efficiency – it bears repeating

By now, it is common knowledge that LED lighting is up to 65% more energy-efficient than the traditional HID or HPS systems found in the majority of hazardous locations. However, plant managers may not be aware that connecting LED lighting to the network could reduce costs by an additional 60% due to energy-saving controls, the ability to analyze energy consumption patterns, and fixture health monitoring (which reduces maintenance requirements and production downtime).

Consider: the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that only 17% of the installed base of industrial high-bay/low-bay fixtures is LED. Retrofitting to LED from older lighting sources would save industry up to $3.6 billion annually (in the U.S.). Taking the next step and applying digital transformation via connected LED lighting would save another $1 billion or more, as companies conserve energy and identify potential maintenance issues, thereby preventing costly failures before they occur.

The state of hazardous location lighting

HID lighting is costly to replace, maintain and dispose of, and even more expensive to operate because these energy-guzzling devices—which require an extended warm-up period to come up to full output—are typically always on, 24/7. To make matters worse, HID cannot be equipped with occupancy and daylight harvesting sensors, nor programmed dimming.

More troubling is that the poor light quality associated with traditional high-pressure sodium lamps impacts the safety of employees, resulting in fatigue and issues with concentration, performance, and motivation.

Workers receive about 85% of their information through sight, making lighting critical to the avoidance of slips, trips and falls. Also, those tasked with the maintenance of older-technology fixtures must endure extremely harsh environments (e.g. offshore drilling platform or inside a refinery’s processing units), often requiring them to breathe dirty air while standing on scaffolding above vibrating heavy machinery.

Connected LED lighting

Connected lighting refers to a system of fixtures equipped with sensors that are linked to a network, allowing them to transmit and receive data. Connected lighting has been rapidly adopted in commercial buildings where it captures valuable insights into energy usage and enables users to make real-time adjustments to lighting levels for improved efficiency, comfort and safety. Sensors attached to the fixtures can also gather data on occupancy, humidity and temperature.

When combined with LED technology, a networked lighting system in a commercial building can typically pay for itself in less than two years due to better space utilization and energy savings.

Unlike commercial settings, however, industrial environments—especially hazardous locations—demand robust, certified solutions.

Features to look for

Thankfully, connected lighting solutions do exist for these demanding environments. Aim for a solution that doesn’t require additional programming; something that, perhaps through a simple app, allows you to configure controls.

Don’t overlook these three core controls that deliver improved energy savings and enhanced safety:

1. Occupancy detection to raise lights to maximum brightness when people are in the area.
2. Daylight harvesting to trim light output while taking advantage of natural light—both indoors and out—while maintaining optimal brightness in specific locations.
3. Scheduling allows you to establish time-based control, letting you set specific lighting periods throughout the day.

According to the Lighting Control Association (LCA), on average: occupancy detection generates energy savings of 24%; daylight harvesting saves 28%; time scheduling saves 23%. Unlike legacy luminaires, the latest LED offerings can also be dimmed, a strategy that LCA says is capable of saving an additional 36% on energy consumption.

When combined, these controls may reduce lighting-related energy costs by up to 60%; again, this is on top of the savings already being delivered by LED luminaires.

Ratcheting it up

Some solutions providers may offer data analysis software to help you analyze the energy and facility usage data that is collected at each luminaires. A change in energy consumption can be compared to historical use over the past year, month, week, and so on. You can then use this data to track a facility’s performance against your energy efficiency and emissions-reduction goals.

Other solutions address maintenance concerns. The upkeep of luminaires can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when an electrician must contend with an explosive atmosphere or towering heights. Ultimately, lowering lighting maintenance to a minimum is the foremost goal in hazardous locations.

LEDs have already proven to be a reliable lighting source requiring little maintenance, but some fixtures come with self-diagnosing capabilities and alert maintenance staff to impending issues. Maintenance personnel can be dispatched to conduct preventive maintenance and avert a failure before it occurs, preventing losses from downtime.

Digital transformation is one of the leading initiatives that have the potential to increase business opportunities by connecting related products and systems together. This convergence of devices and systems allows for significantly more data to be gathered which, in turn, empowers managers to make faster, more informed decisions.

— With files from Emerson Appleton

This article—along with more great content—appears in the February 2022 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Back issues are located in our Digital Archive.

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