Lighting is essential safety equipment — a well-lit facility is necessary for safe and efficient operations, making the choice and maintenance of lighting critical for manufacturing.
Many facility managers have made the switch to LEDs because of the many benefits they can provide over traditional solutions. LEDs can be more robust, last longer, provide better and more consistent lighting and can reduce energy waste — making them an especially good fit for facilities that have embraced eco-friendly or lean manufacturing principles.
Nevertheless, this type of lighting does suffer from one major disadvantage — it can be more vulnerable to surges than traditional counterparts, especially in extensive industrial facilities.
Below, we’ll cover how electricity surges can damage LED systems, as well as some of the best ways to keep industrial lighting protected.
How LED Lights Are More Vulnerable to Power Surges
While LEDs are more powerful in some ways than traditional lighting, their electronic controls make them vulnerable to power surges.
Surges can cause damage to LED lights themselves, as well as drivers, control panels, protective devices and generally any grid-connected device used to manage the system. Over time, this wear and tear will require costly replacements and can undercut the lifespan gains.
While power surges can cause the most severe damage to electronics, power fluctuations don’t need to be massive to cause problems with LED equipment. Dirty power, a catch-all term for variations in the power supply, can put a strain on sensitive electronics, causing similar damage and wear over time. Activating machines with high energy demands — like arc welders, motors, pumps, copiers and fax machines — and issues like damaged wiring can also cause similar problems with the power supply.
The long-term solution will be to resolve whatever issue is causing power fluctuations. However, if you want to save your LED lighting from the damage that dirty power can cause, you’ll need surge protection in the short term.
Surge Protecting Industrial LED Lighting
Surge protection devices — sometimes called SPDs or transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSSs) — are devices that handle surges by redirecting high currents destined for your electronics to ground. This equipment limits the total voltage that makes it to sensitive devices.
Industrial facilities have a few different types of surge protection devices to choose from, the most appropriate of which will depend on the facility’s configuration of lights.
LED lights with built-in surge protectors can be an effective solution. However, it may not be possible to upgrade your currently installed LED devices with new surge protectors. In cases like these, built-in surge protectors will require the installation of entirely new equipment for each installed LED. If a built-in surge protector is damaged or fails, a facility may also need to replace both the LED and protector.
Stand-alone surge protectors, by comparison, can be replaced without needing to swap out the light or connected device in case of failure.
A good SPD should feature indicators that make it clear that the device is ready to ground high currents. This way, if something is causing the SPD to be nonfunctional, your facility will have early warning and can repair or replace the malfunctioning SPD.
In addition to standard SPDs, you can also use surge protection devices like ballasts and drivers, which sit between the light fixture and the bulb itself, and manage the electrical current delivered. Modern drivers, by regulating current and energy flow, can provide further savings on electricity costs and make it easier for facility managers to comply with energy efficiency regulations.
If separate from the protected LED device — and connected via a cable or wire — the cable connecting the SPD to the LED should be as short and straight as possible to minimize the restive path of the circuit to ground and guarantee the most protection.
Keeping LED Lighting Protected From Power Surges
An adequately lit facility is necessary for efficient and safe operations, no matter what you’re producing. When it comes to lighting, there are many options to choose from — including efficient LEDs, which many manufacturers have switched to due to the savings on energy costs and longer lifespans. Some municipalities even offer tax credits to businesses that make the switch.
Unfortunately, LED lights can be especially vulnerable to power surges and fluctuations due to the sensitive electronics they rely on. Because of this, surge protection is especially vital for facility managers who want to keep their LED lights undamaged.
Companies can choose from a few different options when it comes to surge protecting devices, including separate SPDs connected by cable, LEDs with built-in surge protection devices, and devices like ballasts that sit between the LED and light fixture. All of these solutions can reduce the damage caused by sudden changes in voltage or current and help keep lights functional.