Vapor Proof Fluorescent Light Fixtures: When, Where and Why

Posted on September 22, 2016 by

Vapor Proof Fluorescent Light Fixtures

In many lighting scenarios, using dust or vapor proof fluorescent light fixtures to protect the light source from harsh elements and other threatening conditions can be a challenge.

Parking garages, tunnels, temporary construction lighting, food processing, walk-in freezers, stairwells, car washes, farms and barns, subways, laundry facilities, sports arenas, and oil and gas drilling operations all present unique challenges to the lighting system designer that vapor proof fixtures solve.

More often than not, the solution involves using vapor proof fluorescent high bay light fixtures.

In the examples listed above, lighting systems are needed to function in environments where protection from extreme temperatures, moisture, steam, vandalism, vibrations, and corrosive and explosive gases is vital.

Vapor proof fluorescent lighting fixtures provide protection from those elements.

Vapor proof lights have been around for more than a century. Characterized by their “caged” appearance, the classic vapor proof lights included a metal mesh to protect the tubes and a sealed glass jar, protecting the bulb from moisture and potentially explosive gases.

Modern vapor proof and vapor tight lighting fixtures are specially designed to not only provide protection and reliability for any space, but to save energy as well. These fixtures keep moisture and vapors from entering inside the fixture, minimizing the likelihood of an explosion.

In damp and wet areas where the environment exposes the lighting system to moisture, condensation or a direct impact by water, fixtures need to meet the National Electrical Code (NEC) standards to address the moisture and water conditions.

Some environments contain fumes and vapors that corrode lighting fixtures and supplementary components such as mounting hardware. Fixtures for corrosive environments must also be approved for use as required by the NEC. Corrosive location fixtures are specially coated to protect them from corrosive fumes and vapors. They may also be enclosed or feature specially treated reflective surfaces.

In low-temperature environments such as refrigerated areas, special “cold weather” vapor proof fluorescent lamps and/or jacketed lamps can help ensure reliable performance. In addition, vapor proof fluorescent light fixtures can be located a suitable distance from cold-air source units. Cold weather ballasts that can start the lamps at temperatures below 0°F should be specified for applications where the ambient temperature is expected to be below 50°F.

In stables and barns housing horses, additional lighting safety precautions are recommended. Electrical panel boxes must be in a dry and dust-free area. Even when they are inside a building they must be made of weather-resistant and non-corrosive material. Vapor proof fluorescent lighting fixtures should be installed out of the reach of horses and caged to prevent shattering. Lights should also be placed where they are not in contact with any flammable materials, including hay and bedding.

In selecting vapor proof light fixtures for any application, commercial or industrial, the chief comparison today is between fluorescents and LED, which many in the industry predict will ultimately replace fluorescents.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that rapid adoption of LED lighting over the next 20 years in the United States could save an estimated $265 billion in energy costs and replace the construction of 40 new power plants.

Until the price point on LED drops, however, fluorescent lighting will remain the technology of choice for a majority of commercial and industrial users, which means vapor proof fluorescent light fixtures are likely to outsell vapor proof LEDs in the short term.

The latest generation of fluorescent tube lights offer the longest life bulbs and with new electronic ballasts – are quiet.

Fluorescent lamps are phosphor-coated glass tubes filled with an inert gas and a small amount of mercury. Newly developed electronic ballasts eliminate that annoying flicker and buzz that used to occur with old magnetic ballasts, which were also heavier and less efficient. The newer fluorescent fixtures are more energy and cost efficient.

To create the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb, a fluorescent tube uses only one-quarter to one-third of the energy. Plus, fluorescents last 10 to 15 times longer – 10,000 hours or more.

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