High bay lights are usually found in large indoor spaces with high ceilings like sports arenas, gymnasiums, warehouses, big-box stores, and industrial facilities. These light fixtures usually have a very high lumen output as they have to light up large vertical and horizontal spaces. Many fixtures used in high bay applications produce diffused light which does not cause glare.
The word “bay” was birthed as the construction of commercial and industrial facilities became popular and technically refers to a skeletal framework used to create an interior subspace. But lighting experts use it to refer to any large indoor area that needs to be lit from a high point.
Many commercial and industrial buildings pose a lighting challenge as they have higher-than-normal ceilings and their large surfaces cannot be illuminated from a standard height.
What’s The Difference Between High Bay and Low Bay Lights?
In the lighting industry, high bay lighting and low bay lighting are terminologies used to refer to indoor lighting fixtures that are commonly mounted directly to a ceiling, a ceiling girder, or via pendants, hooks, and chains. These fixtures are usually mounted higher than fluorescent or recessed troffer lighting systems.
High bay fixtures are used in facilities with high ceilings that need to be illuminated from very high points. Generally, high bay lights are mounted on ceilings that are 20 feet to 40 feet above the floor. However, they can also be installed on ceilings that are 15 to 20 feet above the floor, it all depends on the setting.
High bay luminaires can be mounted at lower heights (15-20 feet) to generate light distributions that vary from wide to narrow, depending on the application and the necessity for vertical illumination. The fixtures also work well in environments that have corrosive and harsh substances, like dust and oil particulates.
Low bay lighting fixtures are ideal for spaces whose ceilings aren’t very high – 12-20 feet above the floor. These lights are usually designed to provide sufficient vertical and horizontal illumination and are normally mounted close to each other. They are typically used in less demanding environments and are usually aesthetically pleasing – as they are meant to match modern indoor decor in commercial lighting applications.
The luminaires for high bay applications typically have a high lumen output, each luminaire produces 15,000 to 100,000 lumens. It is worth noting that high bay lights can only be used in high bay applications. If they are used in low bay applications, the light they produce will overpower the spaces. Low bay lights also can’t be used in high bay applications as the light they produce will be inadequate and the spaces will be poorly lit.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Metal Halide and Fluorescent High Bay Lights
For a long time, only metal halide lights were used in high bay applications, because they have a better light output and color temperature than other HID lighting technologies. However, they take at least 15 minutes to attain full brightness and also take long to cool down (they cannot be switched on as soon as they have been switched off). These light sources also consume a lot of electricity, buzz and flicker, and do not have long lifespans. As they age, they lose most of their lumens and shift colors –which makes them bad choices for spaces that need to be well-lit all the time.
Because of their inefficiency, these lights were quickly replaced by fluorescent lamps. And while fluorescents are the best of all conventional lighting systems, they also have many downsides. They have a long warm up time, hum and flicker, are sensitive to temperatures, contain dangerous mercury, are not recommended for enclosed fixtures, and have limited color temperatures. They also don’t dim as smoothly as LED lights and dimming decreases their lifespans. Their biggest issue is most definitely the mercury they contain as the bulbs and the ballasts have to be properly disposed of.
Since high bay lights typically operate for a minimum of 12 hours a day, high bay applications need lights that are energy-efficient, well-constructed, and provide lasting performance. It makes financial sense to replace metal halides and fluorescent lamps with energy saving LED lights.
Compared to fluorescent lamps and metal halides, LEDs are better. They achieve full brightness instantly, last ten times longer, and are less prone to lumen depreciation (they maintain 70% of their lumens for their entire lifetimes).
They also work perfectly with dimmers, motion sensors, occupancy sensors, and other lighting controls – unlike HID or linear fluorescents. But their biggest benefit has to be the energy savings they offer. LEDs consume very little electricity and drastically cut down an energy bill, saving businesses a lot of money. The savings they offer are particularly noticeable with high-intensity lights like high bays, parking lot lights, and street lights.
The Different Types of High Bay Models
Traditional High Bays
Pay a visit to one of the older industrial buildings in your area and chances are you’ll see these fixtures mounted on the ceiling. Featuring a pendant style, they are usually fitted with reflectors made of aluminum. The fixtures usually contain high intensity discharge lamps which need reflectors to capture the light and direct it downwards.
HID lights are omni-directional by nature and discharge light in all directions, unlike LEDs whose light is focused. The light produced from the sides of the bulbs is usually lost if reflectors are not installed in the fixtures to redirect the light.
If your high bay application uses HID high bay fixtures and you would like to convert to LED technology, you don’t have to get rid of the bulbs and their fixtures. You can simply replace the traditional lamps with LED bulbs and start reaping the benefits of LED technology.
However, if you would like to update the look of your space when you convert to LED technology, traditional high bays won’t do, you will need to replace them with panel-style high bays, UFO high bays, or linear aisle lights.
UFO High Bays (Round High Bays)
When choosing light fixtures for high bay applications, efficiency is the most important thing. This is because the light will be discharged from a high ceiling, so it needs to be optimized for illumination. UFO high bays are uniquely designed and their design plays an important role in their efficiency. They are specially created with a fin style that helps them to transfer thermal properties more evenly.
These fixtures don’t need reflectors, because LED lighting is directional and the light produced is focused – unlike traditional lights. Because LED fixtures don’t contain reflectors, they have compact, low profile designs that are pleasing to the eye.
UFO LED highbay lights provide illumination that is powerful and widespread. They feature heavy-duty construction and are IP65 rated, which means they can be used in harsh environments such as grain processing plants, barns, car washes, and industrial laundries.
IP (Ingress Protection) is an International Protection Marking Code that indicates the level of protection a light fixture provides against foreign substances such as dirt and water. UFO lights are also UL listed (for safety purposes) and DLC Listed (which means you can get rebates from your utility company).
Since UFO high bays are very striking in appearance, they are perfect for locations that need to look beautiful– like large grocery stores and sports arenas.
Panel-Style High Bays
These should never be confused with LED light panels. They look like troffer-style panels and resemble T5 and T8 fixtures. Their biggest advantage is that they spread light over a large area, so fewer fixtures may be needed to adequately illuminate a space. Besides their great light distribution, they also contain large heat sinks, which efficiently disperse the heat produced by the LEDs.
If you use T5 or T8 lights in your high bay application, panel-style high bays will make perfect replacements for those lights. The lights can also replace linear fluorescent fixtures. LED tubes can be installed in the fixtures and provide excellent lighting, all you’ll need to get rid of are the fluorescent bulbs. You can also retrofit your existing fluorescent lights with magnetic LED strips.
Linear Aisle LED HighBays
You will mostly see these high bay fixtures in large grocery stores, wholesale club stores, and warehouses as they have beam angles that are specially designed to be used between aisles. If your high bay application contains a lot of aisles, consider getting these high bay fixtures. Some linear aisle LED highbays are UL listed and DLC listed, so you can get rebates from your utility company when you install them in your space.
When you mix the design of these high bays with the incredible power of LED, you get a lighting solution that is affordable, high-functioning, and practical. So, if you have aisles that need to be well illuminated, these are the fixtures you should get for the best lighting design.
LED HighBay Retrofit Kits
Retrofitting is the best way to switch to LED for those who want to save money. A retrofit kit is installed inside the existing light fixture and a LED head and driver replace the traditional bulb and ballast. Retrofits are usually more economical than new LED fixtures as they are cheaper to manufacture (fewer parts are needed to make them), cheaper to buy, and cheaper to install. They also range in power distribution.
6 Important Things to Consider When Buying High Bay Lighting Fixtures
Lumens and Luminous Efficacy
Nothing determines the light output of a bulb more than the lumens. Watts do not measure the brightness of a light bulb, they only tell you the electricity the bulb consumes. Lumens, on the other hand, measure the total amount of visible light generated by a light source. Bulbs that produce more lumens appear brighter compared to those that produce fewer lumens.
Watts may have been the determining factor of brightness in older lighting systems because these lights need a lot of watts to give off many lumens – but that’s all in the past. These days, lumens are all that matter when it comes to light output.
Why are lumens so important?
They play a vital role in helping us to know the brightness of a LED bulb compared to a traditional light source. For instance, if your high bay application currently has high intensity discharge lamps that produce 30,000 lumens, all you have to do is look for LEDs that generate the same amount of lumens (while drawing the least amount of watts).
This brings us to luminous efficacy.
Luminous efficacy (lumens per watt) helps us to know the efficiency of a LED bulb. It measures the number of lumens produced by a light source for every single watt of electricity it consumes. The higher the lumens per watt, the more efficient a light source is.
Thanks to technological advancements, new-generation LEDs have excellent efficacy ratings. A lot of the LEDs on the market have a luminous efficacy of more than 80 lumens per watt (80 lm/W). At the time of writing this post, the most powerful LED listed by the Department of Energy was a 108w bulb that produces more than 22,000 lumens.
You can think of lumens per watt as bang for your buck. The efficiency of your new LED high bay lighting fixtures will be measured by the reduction of your monthly electric bill, because utility companies charge by the watt. LEDs with high efficacy ratings will pay for themselves in a short period of time.
Color Rendering Index (CRI)
One of the things most people complain about when it comes to high intensity discharge lights and fluorescents is poor light color. In the lighting industry, Color Rendering Index is used to define the light color. One thing that makes LED lights superior to their counterparts is their high Color Rendering Index.
CRI is a metric that measures the ability of a light source to reveal the true colors of items when compared to an ideal light source such as sunlight. It measures how a light source reveals and reflects the colors of the objects it illuminates.
Light color is one of the most important things in high bay applications because it affects things like contrast and clarity. In a sports arena, if a sportsman misses a shot, they will complain about the lighting. This space requires a high level of illumination so the flight of the ball can be followed – as do other high bay applications. Powerful lighting is usually needed to maintain the appropriate foot candle levels for sufficient illumination.
Color Temperature (Correlated Color Temperature)
One of the best things about LEDs is that they generate light in a range of colors. While high intensity discharge lamps and fluorescents also produce light in different colors, the color range is limited. Color temperature is usually measured using the Kelvin scale as it is very accurate at measuring extremely hot and cold things.
The sun’s color temperature ranges between 5500K and 6500K. In places where very bright light is needed – like assembly lines, showrooms, parking lots, and warehouses – the lights installed usually have a color temperature of 5000K.
Most offices have lights with a color temperature of 4000K. A low color temperature usually indicates that the light is warm while a high color temperature indicates that the light is cool. The standard color temperature range for commercial and industrial spaces is generally between 3000K and 6000K.
A long time ago, HID lights were the most efficient. This is no longer the case. These lights have very short lifespans (15,000 to 25,000 hours) and have to be used with ballasts, which also consume electricity and have a short life expectancy.
As we earlier mentioned, HID lights have a rapid rate of lumen depreciation and their light output quickly decreases before they reach the end of their lifetimes. Since high bay light fixtures are typically mounted on very high ceilings, electricians usually have to replace these lights all together because changing single fixtures is very expensive (lifts may be needed during the process).
Fluorescent lamps need both ballasts and starters to work, important electrical components that need to be replaced every now and then. The bad news is that you may spend the same amount of money replacing these parts as you would buying new fixtures.
The maintenance costs of traditional lights are very high because many replacement bulbs have to be bought at the same time and money also has to be spent on labor.
Unlike these lights, this is one area where LEDs really shine. They do not need sensitive electrical components to function optimally and last longer than all lighting technologies (up to 100,000 hours). If you buy high-quality LEDs, you can use them for 10 years and still have many hours of use left.
Indicators of Quality
No doubt about it, replacing the lights in your high bay application is an expensive, labor-intensive task. The last thing you want is discovering 1 year later that the LED lights you bought – which were supposed to last more than 10 years – have started to malfunction.
So, how do you avoid this scenario?
The best way to make sure you buy high-quality LED lights is to get them from a reputable manufacturer. When shopping for LED lights online, you will come across many manufacturers. Some may even tell you that their LEDs are the only suitable ones for your space – do not believe such claims as they may be nothing more than sales gimmicks.
We pride ourselves on offering in-depth knowledge first before trying to make a sale. When buying LED highbays, consider how much information the manufacturer gives you about the lights and also check online reviews written by their previous customers.
Another quality indicator of LEDs is their warranty. A reputable LED manufacturer will always honor their warranty, as long as the warranty is still valid. However, disreputable manufacturers may refuse to honor their warranties and give different excuses for their actions.
You can test a manufacturer’s customer service by doing the following:
- Checking how long they have been in business.
- Calling the company’s phone number and seeing who answers when you call
- Reading reviews written by previous customers (on independent review platforms, not the manufacturer’s website)
- Checking if the company has physical warehouses in the U.S. where the LEDs are stored
All the LED fixtures sold by The Lighting Center come with a 10-year warranty and we are always quick to honor warranty claims. While our LED fixtures are of the highest quality and we rarely get any claims, we always respond swiftly to all customers who have issues – which is the reason why we have thousands of happy customers. There’s no better way for a company to prove its integrity to its customers than by honoring warranties.
Buying cheap LED lights can be very tempting, but when you take into account the cost and disruption of replacing all your lighting fixtures, you’ll understand why high-quality LED lights are the best option. You may save money now but spend it all (and even more) in the future.
Rebates and Incentives
Rebates offered by utility companies and incentives offered by the federal government and local municipalities can make converting to LED technology a less costly undertaking because they considerably lower the upfront costs of an upgrade. Utility companies all over America have different rebate programs and offer rebates for commercial and residential LED lighting projects.
The rebate programs differ in each area but utilities typically offer rebates for the energy savings delivered or for new energy-efficient units installed. Each utility company has specific rebate values for energy-efficient lighting technologies like bulbs, lighting controls, and fixtures. Some utilities give free energy assessments to help property owners identify prospective lighting projects and also give them information on the available rebates.
If you own or manage a property with high bay lights, contact your utility company and local municipality. The rebates and incentives offered may be enough to convince you to switch to LED. You can also find out about the available rebate programs by making use of ENERGY STAR’s Rebate Finder or visiting the Department of Energy Rebates and Savings Page.
We have installed LED high bays in gymnasiums, warehouses, big-box stores, industrial facilities and many other spaces with high ceilings. Our fixtures are UL Listed and DLC Certified and we always ensure they are evenly spaced for proper light distribution. Contact us today so we can discuss your lighting project.