Light on the Subject

LED lighting has quickly gained popularity in the mining industry as a much more robust, durable and long-performing lighting solution than traditional HID fixtures. In addition to its obvious energy efficiency, the solid-state design of LED fixtures makes them much more resistant to the extreme high-vibration and generally harsh environment inside virtually any mining operation—from the gold, iron ore, lithium and copper mines of Australia, to the coal, pot ash and aggregate operations in the western U.S.
This durability can dramatically reduce the burden and cost of maintenance. In a typical mining operation in Australia, for example, where facilities are often very remote and hard to access, the cost of merely changing a single lamp could well exceed $1,000. Multiplied over potentially thousands of lights throughout a single facility, the cost of lighting maintenance is staggering.

For that reason alone, it’s easy to see why the long-life and durability promised by LED systems is attractive. But, despite their well-known advantages, not all LED fixtures are created equal. In fact, there’s a great deal of discrepancy among manufacturing processes and fixture design, which plays a significant role in overall fixture performance.
If you’re already convinced that LED is the way to go and are ready to start evaluating brands and suppliers, ask these six questions of each one to ensure you’re getting the absolute best product for your investment.

1) What is the real fixture life span and warranty?
Many LED manufacturers promise 100,000-hour performance or even a 5-year or more warranty. But, in many cases, this only pertains to the LED modules. The power supply (often the weakest link in an LED system), heat sink, capacitors, etc. are not covered, which means when these parts fail, the fixture fails. When done right, LED fixtures are total system fixtures, which means overall fixture performance is only as good as that of the individual components. Choose a supplier that can substantiate lifetime performance for the entire fixture and back that claim with a warranty that covers the complete system.

2) What is the expected lumen maintenance?
It’s a common problem in HID: luxe levels degrade rapidly, and even though the bulb may still be burning, it’s not producing nearly enough light to make it worthwhile. Across the board, LEDs typically maintain lumen output much better than conventional HID fixtures, but again, power supply, heat dissipation and other system factors impact the performance of the LEDs, which influences luxe level. Look for an LED product that maintains at least 80 percent lumen level over its rated lifetime, which maximizes safety and ensures the best possible ROI.

3) Is it more than just a pretty face?
The best industrial LEDs aren’t necessarily the prettiest. While some LED fixtures are merely commercial products slightly modified and sold for industrial applications, true industrial-grade products are built for rugged durability, not necessarily for looks. That includes the exterior coating, which must be resistant to both corrosion and contact. Look for products with a baked-on powder coating, complete with a zirconium nanocrystal substrate surface treatment and double-layer epoxy primer/polyester coating, rather than just a painted surface, for a fully corrosion- and rust-resistant housing.

4) Can it tolerate wide temperature swings?
Many mining operations are located in harsh climates. In Australia for example, daytime temps can reach as high as 122 F (50 C) and dip below freezing at night, while extreme cold is the primary challenge in North American and Eastern European locations. Fixtures that can tolerate this wide range are a must – you need lights that work no matter what, not just in fair weather. The best fixtures can handle these wide swings and, in many cases, perform far better the lower the mercury drops. Ask prospective suppliers for rated ambient temperature performance (T-rating) and compare figures before making a decision.

5) Can you prove durability?
Most every supplier conducts industry-standard accelerated life testing plus a “burn-in” of 4-6 hours, which tests the quality and durability of the product during the design phase to ensure the components function as expected off the assembly line. However, this only scratches the surface. Highly Accelerated Stress Screening (HASS) is a new process that subjects fixtures to a much more rigorous testing process that provides a higher level of performance testing and assurance. Rather than random sampling, HASS involves testing every single fixture, including longer burn-in, over 100 high-voltage power cycles and other tests that validate performance and reliability. Ask your manufacturer if they use HASS protocols – any that do will be happy to provide you with HASS quality audit reports to substantiate their claims.

6) Do you offer a complete product line?
Some LED suppliers specialize in lighting for certain applications – high bay or area lights, for example. That’s fine if your needs are limited to that scenario, but what if you need fixtures for other applications, like streetlights, low bay or even general area lights? And certainly, fixtures for hazardous location are in a breed all of their own. Buying lights from multiple suppliers complicates procurement, supply chain management and service. The best bet is to find the supplier that offers the most complete product line to meet a diverse range of applications. This way, as your needs and demands change, you don’t have to go through a lengthy vendor evaluation process each time you need new fixtures. You’ll have a fully vetted, trusted brand and supplier that can accelerate the purchase and installation process, so that you can start reaping the benefits ASAP.
LED fixtures often come at a slightly higher up-front cost than conventional HIDs, but when energy and maintenance savings are taken into account, LEDs offer a much lower total cost of ownership and higher ROI. Of course, the product you choose is only as good as the manufacturer behind it. As adoption of LEDs in mining operations grows, suppliers are working hard to compete on price and service. However, the smart money is on true total system manufacturers that not only stand behind their entire fixture, backed with a robust warranty, but also serve as a trusted partner in meeting your long-term lighting needs. 
Michael Schratz is vice president of sales and marketing for Dialight, and plays an integral role in managing new product introductions. For more information, visit

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