I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Meadows, Global Product Manager Industrial LED, Current by GE, for an article about LED high-bay lighting I wrote for the February 2018 issue of tED Magazine.

DiLouie: How would you characterize the high-bay lighting market in terms of size, and current demand for high-bay lighting products?

Meadows: We look at the total square footage of manufacturing and distribution spaces globally, so the market size and opportunity is immense. However, we’re also using high-bay fixtures in retail applications which further expands the addressable market.

DiLouie: In what key areas have LED high-bay luminaires improved over the past three years, and what benefits do they offer?

Meadows: In terms of performance, LED high-bays are leading the way for all indoor fixtures. We’re seeing the high performance start to top out a bit as we edge closer to the theoretical maximum efficiency of the LED technology in a practical application. Several years ago, I don’t think you’d really be able to claim that LED fixtures could compete with T5 fluorescent lamps, and really the industry was primarily targeting the 250/400W HID products for LED replacement. Today we are absolutely going after the most efficient fluorescent technologies in retrofit as well as new construction applications and are having incredible success due to the price-performance combination available today.

DiLouie: How would you characterize current LED high-bay luminaire offerings in terms of light output, sizes, optics, wattages, CRI, color temperatures, service life, and compatibility with or integration of lighting controls?

Meadows: LED high-bays cover the range from what really represents a low-bay application at the ~5000lm range all the way up to 100,000+ lumen fixtures that could be used at very high mounting heights or even inverted for indirect lighting applications. Also, fixtures are getting smaller & more efficient which lowers the expected cost and lowers the wattage required to produce an equivalent amount of light. With decreased power comes lower operating temperatures and longer life. Similarly, there are many options now in terms of optical control (adjusting your delivered beam angle) as well as different CRI options and color temperatures. We still see the vast majority of applications utilizing 70 CRI as this is the most efficient LED chip package of the commonly offered options for factory or warehouse applications. The next wave of innovations that we’re already starting to see are all around sensors and controls. Most major lighting companies have integrated wireless control options that include standalone sensors all the way up to a fully connected control scheme that integrates with a building management system of some kind.

DiLouie: What are typical energy savings for replacing HID or fluorescent versus LED high-bay lighting in an existing building, assuming an equivalent maintained light level?

Meadows: Typical LED fixtures in the market are saving approximate 50% over HID and 30-40% over fluorescent. Your top tier manufacturers typically carry premium performance options. For instance, GE has options that can save 70-80% over HID and 55% over fluorescent in the high performance models.

DiLouie: What are the top trends in high-bay building construction, and how are they affecting demand and design of high-bay luminaires?

Meadows: High performance is quickly becoming a given with top brands. Newer codes are requiring controls which will quickly become another ubiquitous, must-have item in a competitive high-bay. Soon, differentiation will all be around delivering more value which means collecting valuable information and translating it into actionable insights

DiLouie: What are the top 5 trends in LED high-bay luminaire design?

1. Increased Efficacy
2. Increased number of fixtures shipped with integrated sensors
3. More fixtures shipped with wireless controls
4. Choose your performance (high efficiency / standard efficiency options)
5. Increased light from a smaller fixture

DiLouie: What are the main attributes of an LED high-bay luminaire that electrical distributors would be looking for? How do they confidently select a quality product?

Meadows: Distributors want to make sure they have the right product on their shelves, that they have the right price point, and that they’re selling a quality product that will keep a customer coming back for more products. DLC listings help confirm that fixtures will meet minimum standards and that they will receive rebates where applicable. However, DLC does not provide assurances around product quality. This is why we see distributors consistently pick a brand name manufacturer with whom they have a high degree of confidence and experience around the manufacturer standing behind their product in the event of an issue in the field. There are plenty of lighting companies that are offering longer warranties as standard to try and appease fears around product quality. Still the best warranty is one that you don’t have to use because the manufacturer has teams in place that thoroughly test and control product quality and have a vested interest in producing quality products.

DiLouie: What are the control capabilities of LED high-bay lighting? What control strategies are possible and typically implemented?

Meadows: Standalone sensors are still by far the most common method of controls. Wired controls, also called circuit level controls, are also quite common especially in the installed base. We are seeing the advent of the wireless controls in the past several years which adds another interesting option to the mix. With wireless controls, installers do not have to worry about the existing standalone or circuit level controls and effectively bypass the existing control scheme. This allows unprecedented flexibility in a retrofit application. In new construction, it means that a control scheme can be laid out and then reorganized again and again with very little costs associated with changing the layout. Lastly, with wireless controls, it’s more common that they have the option to connect to a building management system and even collect and aggregate data that could be utilized to unlock value at a facility.

DiLouie: In retail high-bay, issues such as color and sparkle come to the forefront. How competitive is LED compared to ceramic metal halide and similar sources in these applications? What does LED bring to the table that’s unique?

Meadows: LED technology can reveal colors in objects equal to or better than traditional technologies. With many different high-CRI technologies available, there are ways to get truer color and make colors appear very vibrant. GE introduced a TriGain technology that yields a very high CRI with no efficiency losses that were typically unavoidable when trading up to 90 CRI.

DiLouie: What impact is the proliferation of LED products having on electrical distribution business practices in general?

Meadows: People in the industry are becoming more knowledgeable on LED fixture technology. There are many more options with LED fixtures. For instance, GE has 10 different optical beam patterns on just one ABV3 fixture platform allowing several different photometric options that would not be available with traditional lighting technology.

DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about LED high-bay lighting, what would it be?

Meadows: Sensor-enabled high-bay LED light fixtures are the easiest way to reduce energy and transform your customers’ facilities for the future and now are at a price and performance that make it a true no-brainer to switch to LED. If you’re still selling fluorescent lamps or fixtures that don’t communicate digitally, someone will be there to earn your customers’ business with a fantastic LED intelligent solution.