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LED High Bay Buyers Guide

A large metal manufacturing facility is shown with multiple LED high bay lights suspended above providing intense illumination to the shop floor and heavy equipment below

High bay lighting has been a popular choice for commercial and industrial users throughout the world for decades, due to its relatively compact size and intense lumen output. Over the past several years, LED technology has come to dominate the high bay marketplace due to improvements in energy efficiency and service life as well as considerably improved color rendering accuracy. This great leap forward in high bay lighting technology has saved users a considerable amount in operating and maintenance costs, as well as improved workplace safety and efficiency.

Oftentimes, first time or even seasoned buyers of LED high bays find it difficult to understand and shop for these new lights, due to differences in wattage to lumen ratios and a considerably wider range of options and choices than what was previously available. Recognizing this need for clarification, we have compiled one of the most comprehensive buyers guides available to assist in the selection of the best LED high bay light for a variety of applications. We also have included information regarding the technical and performance benefits of LED lighting, to help buyers understand why they should choose LEDs over conventional types of lighting fixtures for their commercial and industrial applications.

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Definitions

LED – Short for “Light-Emitting Diode”, this is a solid state type of lighting using a semiconductor diode that glows when voltage is applied. This type of light dates back to the early 1960’s and has been commonly used in electronic and computer equipment since its inception. As technology has improved over the years, the lumen output of LEDs have increased exponentially and today they can outperform practically any other type of commercially available light source.

Lumens – This the measure of the quantity of visible light emitted by a source. In the past a lights output was typically quantified in wattage instead of lumens. This was due to the linear relationship between wattage and lumen output in traditional incandescent lights. Due to the wide variance in lumen outputs of LED lighting compared to traditional lighting sources, comparing lights based on their lumen output is now the standard.

Wattage – This is the standard measurement of power consumption for the lighting industry, often used in a ratio to a lights lumen output in order to determine its energy efficiency. A watt is defined as the rate at which work is done when one ampere of current flows through an electrical potential difference of one volt. This can be expressed as [1W = 1V * A].

Voltage – This is defined as the potential for energy to move. Voltage is considered analogous to water pressure, as the characteristics of voltage are similar to that of water flowing through a pipe pressured by a pump.

DLC Listed – Short for “Design Light Consortium”, when a product is listed under this standard it means that it has been certified to perform under high levels of energy efficiency.

Color Temperature – Used as a way to define the color hue of a light, color temperature is measured using Kelvins on a scale ranging from 1,000K to 10,000K. The most common color temperatures in commercial lighting today range from 3000K to 6000K, with 5000K being the closest equivalent to daylight.

High Bay Lights – These are a specific class of lighting fixtures intended to be mounted high up in order to provide vertical clearance for daily operations as well as to provide wide illumination capabilities. High bay lights have a high lumen output and are intended for industrial and commercial environments.

Color Rendering Index – Also commonly referred to by its acronym “CRI”, this is the measurement scale used to determine a light’s accuracy and its performance in proper color rendering. This numerical scale ranges from zero all the way up to 100, which is the CRI of daylight, and considered to be a perfect light source. The higher the CRI of a light, the more accurately it will illuminate its surroundings.

See our comprehensive article on CRI illumination for more information.

Selecting Wattage for LED High Bay Lights

High bay lights come in a variety of different wattages in order to suit a wide range of applications and illumination requirements. In the past, a lights output was usually measured in watts, as performance for certain wattage ranges was very consistent across different manufacturers. This made it easy for buyers to select replacement light fixtures, as well as plan out the quantity and placement of fixtures in new construction.

However in today’s market there is a wide variance in performance between manufacturers, with some providing considerably more efficient lighting than others. LED lights require considerably less power than traditional lighting, which also makes it difficult for those familiar with metal halide and HID technology to choose the correct wattage LED high bay for their application. The chart below highlights common HID wattage ranges for high bays and how they correspond to modern LED technology in order to help with the selection process.

Chart showing wattage and lumens for LED High Bay lights. These numbers range from 50 watt lights for small indoor areas all the way up to 360 watt lights for large industrial areas

Low Wattage (30-90 Watts) – At the low end of the wattage scale, these lights generally fall within the 30 to 90 watt range. They are most popular with users looking to illuminate smaller areas in the most energy efficient manner possible. A good portion of high bay lights in this wattage range also have the benefit of being plug-in-play with existing outlets without requiring manual rewiring.

Medium Wattage (100-230 Watts) – In the middle of the range, these medium wattage high bay lights are by far the most popular for commercial and industrial users. Lights in this wattage range provide the best balance of lumen output and power consumption for the majority of applications and can be commonly found in warehouses, commercial facilities and manufacturing centers.

High Powered High Bays (280-360 Watts) – At the top end of the wattage range, these lights provide the most intense illumination possible while still featuring the energy efficiency benefits of LED technology. Most commonly used for sports arenas, stadiums and other facilities with high ceilings that require immense amounts of light.

Appropriate Lumen Rating

Selecting the correct lumen rating for your application is critical for proper lighting performance and to ensure the maximum return on your investment. In fact in today’s marketplace, lumen output has supplanted wattage as the main measure of a lights performance. Considering most people are still thinking about lighting performance in terms of wattage, transitioning to lumens as a primary measurement of a lights output can be a confusing task. However this will be the way in which the lighting industry measures performance for the foreseeable future, and therefore its vital to understand how lumen ratings translate into real world performance.

In LED lighting, the number of lumens produced is usually proportional to the wattage of the light fixture, although this does vary depending on the manufacturer. Because of this, we have listed several common lumen ranges to help simplify the buying process:

Low Lumens (4,000-20,000) – At the low end of the lumen range, these lights are primarily for applications requiring a high value light that also has exceptionally good energy efficiency. These lights are commonly used for illuminating smaller to medium sized areas in manufacturing and commercial facilities, or non-critical areas that do not require intense illumination.

Medium Lumens (21,000-35,000) – By far the most popular lumen range, lights in this category are often used for large scale operations such as warehouses and large commercial facilities. They are highly sought after due to their balance of impressive illumination capabilities and energy efficiency. In addition to this, these lights are usually moderately priced which makes them accessible to a wide range of users.

High Powered High Bays (40,000-50,000) – Lights in this category are by far the most powerful and are used when maximum illumination is the primary objective. While these lights still offer the energy efficiency benefits of LED technology, they have the highest wattage consumption out of all high bay lights in order to provide their lumen output. These lights are commonly used in sports stadiums, arenas, public venues and other areas requiring accurate and intense lighting.

Color Temperatures

In addition to selecting the correct wattage and lumen output for your application, it is important to determine the correct color temperature for your application. This will vary depending on the overall purpose and objective of the lighting. Certain color temperatures work better for ensuring worker attentiveness and efficiency, and others are better for relaxation and setting a positive mood. Below we have compiled a summary of the most common color temperatures available in high bay lighting today in order to assist in the buying process.

5000K – 5000 Kelvin LED high bays are by far the most common. This color temperature projects a cool white illumination that emulates day time environments. This is ideal for general illumination of warehouses, manufacturing facilities and other commercial spaces that require accurate lighting. This color temperature also works best with higher CRI lighting as it is the most natural of all color temperatures.

4000K – 4000 Kelvin LED bulbs project a natural colored light you commonly find within workspaces. Although these are generally less common than 5000K high bay fixtures, there are still many electrical contractors and building managers that prefer this color temperature. This is due to its warmer feel and because it closely mimics the color temperature of traditional lighting such as HIDs and fluorescent lights. As a result, 4000K high bays are easily found throughout the LED lighting marketplace.

3000K – 3000 Kelvin is a warm color of LED light used primarily inside restaurants or houses. It’s uncommon to find 3000K LED bulbs in high bays fixtures since these lights are designed for larger buildings such as warehouses and commercial gyms as opposed to residential or hospitality lighting applications.

Applications and Types

High Bay lights are used in a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications, ranging from workshops, automotive repair facilities, warehouses, manufacturing plants, fitness centers, indoor sports arenas, and even large scale retail stores. Their high power to size ratio makes them ideal for applications where traditional lighting does not have the ability to provide enough illumination. Below are a list of the most common types of high bay lighting fixtures available:

Round UFO high bay fixtures projecting bright illumination from the ceiling of an industrial facility

UFO High Bays – Named after their resemblance to a stereotypical UFO, these round shaped fixtures are the dominant lighting option for warehouses, workshops, and other industrial areas. Their popularity owes to several key factors that makes them an excellent choice, including exceptional durability, high lumen output and compact design that is easy to set up and install. This design provides highly focused lighting while maintaining a high energy-efficiency and low maintenance costs.

A linear high bay fixture suspended from a warehouse ceiling using four chain hooks illuminates the floor below

Linear High Bays – These long LED tube fixtures are popular in applications that require high bay lighting that is dispersed over a more broad area than a regular UFO light. Linear high bays are popular in commercial facilities and storage areas, especially those that value simplicity and cost efficiency in their facility’s lighting setup. They provide a wider beam angle than UFO style high bays which allows them to illuminate a larger area at a lower lumen intensity.

Mounting Options

Yoke Mount Bracket – These brackets are used to mount UFO style high bay lights on a flat surface while allowing for angle adjustments to accommodate for sloped roofs. These are also popular for lights that are mounted up against a ceiling, especially in facilities with lower roofs that still would like to use high bay lighting.

Suspension Hook Mount – By far the most popular of all high bay mounting systems, these mounts suspend a light from a ceiling at a variable distance depending on the application requirements. While these require a certain degree of customization for the suspension system, they are relatively straightforward to install and sometimes require zero modification to their mounting point. They typically use cables or chains for their suspension system, although they technically can mount anywhere with a hook.

V-Hooks – These are standard hooks used on high bay fixtures to suspend them from a ceiling or other raised surface. Normally they are separate pieces that are screwed onto the fixture itself using a standard electrical conduit type threading. Most also feature a locking screw to secure them and prevent accidental disengagement and prevent them from falling.

Surface Mount – These are the closest fitting mounts for applications requiring maximum vertical clearance under the light itself. In order to accomplish this, surface mount lights have a low profile fixed angle bracket that brings the unit as close to the ceiling or mounting surface as possible while still providing sufficient clearance for heat dissipation and ventilation.

Rod and Plate Mount – Similar to suspension mounts, this mounting system uses conduit style rods to connect a high bay light fixture to a metal mounting plate affixed to the ceiling. These are the most stylish of all suspended or hanging style mounting systems, as it offers the ability to enclose the wiring into a sleek rod that can then be painted or designed to suit the interior of the facility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are LED high bay lights?
These are a type of lighting fixture designed to be mounted from a high ceiling. Typically used in large facilities, these lights have a relatively narrow light pattern that provides intense illumination over the surface below. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, although circular or round UFO style fixtures are the most popular due to their versatility.

Q. How do you hang high bays?
High bay lights can be hung or mounted in a variety of different ways, depending on the application requirements. The most common and easiest mounting option is by suspending the fixtures from the ceiling using a cable, chain or other method. This normally involves a v-hook or pendant hook attached to the backside of the fixture, to which the chain or cable would be connected.

The other common option is direct mounting, using either a surface mount or yoke mount. Surface mounting is the lowest profile and is popular for level ceilings that do not require any angle adjustment to the fixture itself. Yoke mounting is similar however it does allow for adjustments for ceilings that are on an angle.

Q. How many high bay lights do I need?
The number of high bay fixtures you’ll need for your specific project depends on several factors. The first of these is determining what your lumen requirements are for the coverage area. Afterwards, you would then have to calculate how many fixtures needed to fulfil your application requirements, which is dependent on the amount of lumens produced by each fixture. The height of the fixtures off the ground will also play a factor in this, as the higher a light is off the ground the higher the wattage requirement in order to provide proper illumination.

Obviously, this can be a complex task and it is therefore best to consult with a commercial LED lighting expert in order to properly design your project. Consulting with an expert will minimize cost and maximize illumination throughout your area.

Q. Why use LEDs for high bay lighting?
There are several benefits to using LED technology in high bay lighting fixtures. The primary reason for most users is the dramatically lower energy consumption of LED lights compared to traditional lights such as HIDs. Additionally, LED fixtures require zero maintenance throughout their lifespan, providing significant savings in terms of both parts and labor hours costs. They also produce a more accurate and higher quality of light that improves visibility and safety when compared to traditional lighting sources.

Q. How do you replace metal halide with LED?
There are multiple ways in which lighting systems can be retrofitted with LEDs, depending on how the existing lighting setup is configured. In many cases, the easiest and most straightforward way to accomplish this is by simply replacing the existing fixture with a new LED fixture that provides an equivalent lumen output. In other situations, it may be desirable to reconfigure an entire lighting system layout in order to effectively upgrade to LED technology. There are even a select number of scenarios where it may be possible to upgrade the existing fixture with a LED retrofit kit, however this requires some electrical expertise in order to properly complete.