How to Choose the Best Lighting for Your Food Facility

All lighting is not created equal. When selecting LED or fluorescent lighting for your food facility or warehouse, understand that each type is better suited for some areas rather than others. How can you know which is the right fit for your plant?

LED lighting: ideal for warehouses, processing areas

When LED lighting first hit the market, most food manufacturers were turned off due to its high price points. However, in recent years, the energy-efficient lighting solution is heating up again thanks to more reasonable price tags (though it’s still expensive).

LED has great applications for warehouses due to its dimmability. When working with LED lighting for Stellar’s warehouse clients, we put motion detectors in the light fixtures so when forklifts are moving down the aisles, the lighting will brighten and then dim after the trucks have passed.

In addition to its highly touted energy savings, LED lighting’s advantages include:

  • Longer lamp life—Most LED light fixtures last up to 10 years before requiring bulb changes. Fluorescent lighting requires new bulbs every one to two years. This allows plant owners to install lights in harder to reach places, such as over equipment, without worrying about interrupting production schedules.

  • Low maintenance costs—Because of its longer lamp life, LED lighting requires less maintenance than other lighting types, allowing your plant to continue operations with fewer interruptions from service personnel.

  • Ability to withstand cool conditions—LED lighting performs especially well in cooler conditions like freezer warehouses, unlike fluorescent lighting, which is more sensitive to extreme low temperatures, causing malfunctions.

Fluorescent lighting: cost-effective, best for employee areas and packaging

Years ago, the industry’s lighting of choice was high-intensity discharge lamps, but now it’s fluorescent. Fluorescent lighting is about 30- to 40-percent less expensive than LED lighting and is the default choice for budget-conscious plant owners.

At Stellar, we typically recommend fluorescent troffers for less profitable areas of the plant—away from production and processing. This includes employee and office areas.

Fluorescent lighting can also be a viable choice for areas of the plant where product is less exposed, such as packaging. Keep in mind, because of fluorescent lighting’s short lamp life, you must factor in relamping time (and associated costs)—again, every one to two years. The time it’ll take to perform this task will likely interfere with your production schedule.

Be mindful that some maintenance solutions for fluorescent lighting can create additional risks. For example, fluorescent lamps installed as top-access fixtures (to enable maintenance from above instead of forklifts) involve additional installation costs and require holes to be cut in the insulated metal panels (IMP) for every light fixture, compromising the building envelope for each room and lessening your insulation value. They can also create fall hazards for personnel.

Fixtures fit for washdown

Whichever lighting type you go with, ensure you have the appropriate fixtures depending on the washdown procedures or product handling in the corresponding area.

For example, where there is exposed product such as meat, ensure the fixture is washdown rated vs. a standard high bay or low bay, which is best suited for minimal washdown areas such as packaging.

Also be aware of the energy requirements and standards in your state of operation. For example, California has stringent high energy requirements, with standards mandating most rooms include LED or dimmable lighting.

For other areas, review ASHRAE’s 90.1 standard for the industry’s benchmark for your facility’s lighting energy requirements.

If you’d like to learn more about lighting for your food processing plant, email me at or connect with me on LinkedIn.




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