Low Voltage Systems: A Multifaceted Solution for Manufacturing Facilities

Moving to low-voltage offers manufacturing companies installation and operational cost savings, while providing safer and more efficient operating conditions and scalability for the future.

Project Frog has sponsored this post.



In today’s rapidly evolving manufacturing landscape, one of the most pressing challenges is providing adequate, efficient and cost-effective lighting. With facilities often spanning vast areas and operating around the clock, the energy demands and maintenance costs associated with traditional high-voltage lighting systems can be staggering.

Enter distributed low-voltage LED lighting systems, a game-changer in the industry. These systems are not only substantially more energy-efficient, reducing power consumption by up to 80 percent compared to conventional lighting, they are also significantly easier to maintain due to their extended lifespan. Additional benefits of this technology also include exceptional flexibility, making it easy to tailor illumination levels for different tasks and areas, thereby enhancing productivity and worker safety.

Companies like LANTANA LED are taking lighting to new efficient and green levels with low-voltage systems that have a remote driver. While purchasing these systems comes with upfront costs, results from a recent study by Inglett & Stubbs provide some compelling reasons for manufacturers to make the switch.

A Comparison Between Low Voltage and Line Voltage

Manufacturing facilities often have unique and varied electrical systems. Instead of other buildings that may only require around two voltages, manufacturing plants typically need different voltages to power equipment and the facility.

LED lights operate on Direct Current (DC) or low voltage, yet most power supplied to businesses is Alternating Current (AC), or line voltage. This necessitates a conversion from AC to DC for LED lighting.

Line voltage refers to the voltage level of the AC supply, which is typically 120 volts. To safely use AC line voltage, various protective measures are employed. These include circuit breakers and fuses to prevent overloads, grounding to provide a safe path for excess current and insulation to protect users from electrical shock. Facilities wishing to use line voltage for LED lighting will require fixtures that contain drivers to convert AC to DC.  These small converters consume energy, which produces a high-power dissipation.

While the early days of low-voltage meant the volt circuits needed to be close to a transformer, the latest systems feature a simple system combining a centralized remote driver unit and Class 2 wiring run in general cable trays. Having remote drivers enables fixtures to receive the DC power needed immediately and with no extra heat from integrated drivers.

The Benefits of Low Voltage

Lighting may not be at the top of the list for manufacturing facilities, but the evolution of low-voltage solutions is quickly proving to provide more benefits than simply ensuring workers have the light needed to get the job done.

In manufacturing, safety is always a concern. Low voltage, as its name implies, eliminates the risk of electrical shock. Using a system with a remote driver allows for easier and safer maintenance, which is needed less frequently. Instead of removing each fixture to find out the problem, maintenance personnel only need to go to one source to address any issues.

As more businesses across the board focus on efficiency and sustainability, low voltage offers an ideal solution for both. Unlike line voltage, these systems minimize energy loss while still ensuring the voltage gets delivered seamlessly. Along with only using 20 percent of the energy compared to line voltage, the consistent delivery of voltage and not having to rely on integrated drivers enhances the longevity of LED systems.

Using less energy results in instant cost savings on electricity consumption. Savings also come in other forms. These systems are scalable, allowing manufacturers to get a lighting solution designed for their specific needs, further minimizing waste while allowing time to be used more efficiently.

Change is constant, especially in the manufacturing world. From reconfiguring a line to creating space for new machinery or automation tooling, existing lighting does not necessarily work for a new setup. Low voltage is not limited by junction boxes or conduits, making it easy and safe to reposition lighting as needed.

A Surprising Solution for the Electrician Shortage

For more than two decades, a shortage of electricians has been a growing concern. That time has arrived, creating difficulty for companies in nearly every industry when it comes to structure maintenance and construction.

All the benefits that new innovations and technologies provide also mean an increased need for electricity. From handheld devices to an increased focus on smart buildings and a boom in new construction, both residential and commercial—making all of that happen requires professionals who can ensure everything gets connected. As the demand to electrify increases, the shortage of electricians becomes even more glaring and threatens to impede progress and innovation. The Wall Street Journal in February 2023 reported a lack of sufficient electricians to meet the country’s electrification goals.

Moving toward a green and sustainable world also drives the need for more electricity. Considering that the Inflation Reduction Act dedicated $369 billion toward energy, the need for electricians will only increase.

Whether building or renovating a manufacturing facility, the standard way often requires multiple electricians and a significant amount of time spent installing the systems. Remote driver low-voltage systems enable the power inversion to happen in a centralized location, instead of at the fixture. Having a centralized power source means that installing the system only requires an electrician to run AC power at the main unit. The rest of the system can be installed by technicians, freeing up electricians for bigger projects.

All Signs Point to Cost and Time Savings

The manufacturing industry has an opportunity to emulate data centers and the emphasis on Power Use Efficiency (PUE).  Every percentage of cost, even the small drivers, adds up and contributes to profitability. Lighting, which is essential to production, can be one of those cost-efficiency drivers.

While the conventional definition of a data center might encompass around 5,000 servers within a 10,000 square foot area, hyperscale data centers significantly surpass this standard. Hyperscale data centers are characterized by their large size, high power consumption and substantial server capacity.  On average, these facilities consume between 20-50 megawatts (MW) per data center, and 10-25 kilowatts (KW) per rack. These facilities play a pivotal role in the digital ecosystem, providing the infrastructure necessary to support the massive growth in data traffic and computational needs of today’s world.

A recent study by Inglett & Stubbs examined the cost and speed of installing low and line-voltage lighting for a 40,000-square-foot hyperscale data center, a building that requires intense coordination and significant electrical labor.

The Inglett & Stubbs study found that for this 40,000 sq.ft. data center there were higher material costs, but those were offset by the significant savings in labor.  Using a low voltage, remote driver unit system, Inglett & Stubbs demonstrated a savings of 1.38 hours per fixture in installation time.  This resulted in a savings of 375 hours of labor, or an entire week of savings on the schedule.  In the current constricted labor market, this could either mean a week of time savings, or it could mean a smaller electrician crew for the same amount of time.

The study also suggests that installing low voltage systems, which come with a simplified wiring structure, reduced heat generation and enhanced safety and reliability. The flexible nature of these systems, such as the ability to increase scalability or incorporate new technologies, contributes to operational efficiency.

Although hyperscale data centers are large, it is worth considering that the largest manufacturing facility in the world is the Boeing Everett Factory, spanning an impressive 472 million cubic feet. Although most facilities are not close to being that size, with the minimal upfront cost savings coupled with more efficient labor and long-term savings, the study indicates that investing in low voltage solutions provides companies with long-term savings and better enables them to meet the growing needs for efficiency and sustainability.

To learn more, visit LANTANA LED.