Lighting Your Warehouse: Low Bay vs High Bay Fixtures

low bay vs high bay lighting in warehouse

Lighting a warehouse requires careful consideration whether you’re planning a new construction or upgrading the lighting system in an existing warehouse. There are many factors to consider and also lots of available options, which can make the task daunting for many business owners. 

However, the process doesn’t have to be that difficult, especially if you have the help of an experienced commercial electrician, who can walk you through code requirements, possibilities, as well as options, from the basic choice of light sources to more complex issues, such as distribution types.

When it comes to warehouse light fixtures, low bay and high bay lights are the most common options you have for both commercial and industrial spaces. Choosing between one or the other usually depends on the final application, as well as the specific spot they’re installed. 

The important thing is that this choice has a significant impact on the safety of the warehouse, therefore the safety of your employees, as well as their efficiency and overall health and wellness. To this extent, it’s important to know the differences between low bay and high bay lights when lighting a warehouse. 

Low Bay vs. High Bay Lights: Definitions

low bay lighting warehouse

Bay lighting is a general definition given to all lights used to illuminate warehouses, factories, processing plants, and any such large spaces. These types of spaces require heavy-duty lighting systems in order to make sure that open areas are provided with uniform and well-distributed light.

As a general rule, bay lights are used in buildings with ceilings up to 10 feet tall. It is exactly the height of the ceiling that determines which type of bay lights you need: low or high. Before installation, however, there are several factors to consider, such as:

  • the height of the warehouse ceilings;
  • how frequently the lights are being used;
  • how easy it is to retrofit the current fixtures with new bulbs.

Usually, a high bay light is defined as any ceiling light installed anywhere between 20 to 40 feet high. It’s very common in industrial spaces, although sometimes you can also see these in commercial buildings.

At the opposite end, a low bay light is used for ceilings that are under 20 feet high. These are most commonly used in public buildings or retail businesses.

Low Bay vs. High Bay Lights: Installation

high bay lighting warehouse

As said above, low bay lights operate in ceilings between 12 and 20 feet. They require no special reflectors or installation considerations. 

High bay lights, on the other hand, are used for ceilings between 20 and 40 feet high, and in order for them to operate properly at this height, they make use of special reflectors or lens angles. If your lights use HPS or MH bulbs, then they require specially engineered reflectors. If you have LED high bay lights, these will need engineered lens angles in order to distribute the light to the floor evenly, and avoid any being wasted

Because high bay lighting can be hung from pendants or chains, there are mounting considerations to take into account as well. As mentioned, they can be hung or simply fixed to the ceiling, therefore, a wide range of fixtures can be used for this type of lighting. 

Some of the most common such fixtures are linear high bays, grid-mount high bays, round and architectural high bays. All of these can light vertical surfaces as well as the floor, which is an important consideration for this type of lights. 

Low Bay vs. High Bay Lights: Application

Another difference between low bay and high bay lights is their application. Lighting a warehouse is just one of the multiple applications for high bays, which are commonly used in industrial and commercial spaces. Other applications include:

  • factories;
  • airport hangars;
  • municipal facilities;
  • school and university gymnasiums.

Low bay lights can also be used in warehouses, as long as the ceiling height requirements are met, but they’re more commonly used in petrol stations and retail stores. Another consideration to take into account is the beam angle, as low bay lights have an angle of 120°.

High bay lights have several common beam angles like 60°, 90°, or 120°. A narrower beam angle helps focus the mean, which provides a higher lux level at the floor surface.

Lighting Your Warehouse: Lumen Output

In addition to the installation requirements and applications, there are also technical differences between high and low bay lights. These are their lumen output and their light direction. Since lower lights tend to lose less light, low bay fixtures need less lumen output. Therefore, they need to perform less hard compared with the high bay lights.

On the other hand, high bay fixtures are installed at a greater distance, therefore they need to provide higher lumen output. This is especially needed in vital areas, where the light needs to reach working areas. The higher lumens are also needed in order to prevent shadows. 

The lens angles and reflectors are also different, and these differences stem from the dissimilar ceiling heights. Different heights usually require different light placement and direction. High bay lights, as mentioned above, use special reflectors that make sure the light fans out download and outward. This way, the light will provide the much needed visibility regardless of the installation distance.

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