Let's address the first question first. The short answer? Yes, some LED light fixtures are explosion proof. The key word here is some. You have to select the correctly classified LED luminaire for it to be explosion proof for your particular hazardous location.
We have a whole post explaining the different hazardous locations, and another post defining the classification system (this involves OSHA and the NEC). If you choose the correct LED light fixture for your location, with the help of an LED lighting partner to ensure it is the appropriate luminaire, then LED lighting is the perfect choice for your hazardous location.
That said, if you choose the wrong LED fixture for your hazardous location, the results could literally be deadly. Not to be too serious, but when we're talking about hazardous locations, like a lab or an oil rig, the wrong light from an unqualified manufacturer could be a serious risk. Unfortunately, not all LED lights are created equal. There are manufacturers out there selling cheap products that just don't live up to expectations. We have a whole website page dedicated to explaining the project and product criteria you need to follow to ensure you get the most appropriate LEDs for your projects and applications. Without establishing these criteria, you leave yourself vulnerable to faulty LED products and the inevitable faulty lighting performance. This is bad in any lighting application, but poor quality lighting has the ability to result in serious safety issues in a hazardous location. Also on this criteria page? A list of specifications unique to hazardous location lighting- check it out.
Now that we've scared you into choosing the correct LED for your hazardous location lighting (we're sorry!), let's discuss why choosing LED over traditional lighting technologies is especially beneficial in these fickle environments. The answer to the second question in our title is also yes, LEDs are great for hazardous location lighting. Here's why:
- The number one reason: dramatically lower maintenance costs than traditional lighting. It can be really challenging to change out a light in any location, but especially a hazardous location. Your lights might be in difficult to access locations, requiring a lift to change. You may even have to shut down operations to change your lights, and even re-clean everything once they are changed since hazardous and sanitary locations can go hand-in-hand. LEDs have an incomparable lifespan, which simply means you won't have to change them as much. What a relief for your maintenance budget and team!
- It's no secret that LEDs are the most energy efficient lighting option. When you're running a hazardous location, your costs are already high because you have to be vigilant about everything and spend the money for the best, safest, regulation-abiding products. You can't cut corners when it comes to hazardous locations because you can't risk it. LEDs can save you money without effort on your part because they naturally consume less power to operate. Most LED lighting retrofit projects result in a 60-75% improvement in overall energy consumption. You could be looking at savings of up to 90%. Read some case studies here for actual proof of results.
- Put simply, LEDs will perform better. Here are just a few examples of what we mean:
- Better color rendering index and correlated color temperature. Imagine you're operating a laboratory running medical tests. You absolutely need to be able to see what you're doing accurately.
- Less lumen depreciation, which also means LEDs won't be as affected by dirt and debris, etc.
- LEDs are a solid state technology, meaning less pieces to break, change, and maintain in your rugged environment.
- LEDs don't contain toxic mercury like older technologies, including fluorescent lighting. You likely have enough toxic materials to worry about without having to recycle your lighting specially too!
- Another issue with fluorescent lighting that doesn't affect LEDs? Warm-up period and frequent switching. You need your lights to turn on right away, be bright right away, and stay on to keep everyone/everything safe and visible.
- LEDs aren't as sensitive to temperature as other lighting technologies. You can safely operate them in your dry cleaning facility (hot!) or your commercial refrigerator (cold!).
There are so many reasons to choose LED lighting in your hazardous location, and in general. And, in addition to the many benefits, if you choose the right LED for the job, it will be explosion proof!