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Lighting 102 : Technology UpdateShelter Works News

A couple of years ago we did an article where we discussed the lighting options most commonly used in our fiberglass field equipment shelters. Due to advances in technology and pricing changes we’ve seen a shift in what our customers are using to fulfill their lighting needs. We spoke with our sales department to see what is influencing this shift and what that means when it comes to determining what lighting you may need for your equipment shelter.


Skylights are a cost-effective lighting option when high visibility is not an issue. Located in the ceiling, a Shelter Works skylight is fiberglass and resin only with no foam insulation. Since they are integrated during the manufacturing process they are seamless and will not leak. Skylights are translucent (not clear) and will illuminate the inside of a shelter during daylight hours, providing enough light to move around equipment without bumping into it. Passers-by cannot see the interior of the building through a skylight. Skylights are ideal for installations where there is no access to electricity.


Windows are another non-electrical way to illuminate the inside of the shelter during daylight hours.  A window would allow a passer-by to see the interior of the building. Windows can be placed in the doors and walls of the shelter allowing for greater equipment visibility from both inside and outside of the shelter. Windows can augment operator safety when a view of the building’s interior is helpful prior to opening a door. There are three primary window materials:

  • Tempered glass breaks into small less-dangerous pellets when broken
  • Laminated glass remains stuck to an interior plastic lining when broken (like a car windshield)
  • Acrylic resists etching over time in an environment with corrosive vapors

Interior Lighting

Our two most common types of interior lights are Fluorescent and LED.

Fluorescent lighting is an efficient and inexpensive way to provide illumination to a large area. The fixtures have a low upfront cost which makes them a popular choice for many projects.  The average lifespan of a fluorescent T8 bulb is 20,000-32,000 hours depending on how the light is used.  Replacement bulbs are cheap, making fluorescent lighting popular for projects where illumination is for maintenance purposes and man-hours inside the shelter are minimal. Some localities require documentation prior to the disposal of fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent remains a great choice for applications where the lights are only on a few hours each week.

LED lighting is a more efficient task lighting system but it comes with a higher upfront cost. Over the past few years, that cost has reduced considerably making it a more viable option.  LEDs offer a longer lifespan of approximately 50,000 to 100,000 hours. The higher initial cost is ultimately paid back to the investor through reduced maintenance costs (less labor changing bulbs) and overall energy efficiency.

Whether you choose LED or fluorescent lighting for the interior of your shelter, Shelter Works can calculate the number of fixtures required for optimal lighting efficiency.

Exterior Lighting

Exterior lighting provides nighttime visibility and added security.  The most popular is the wall pack floodlight that attaches to the equipment shelter’s facade.  There are three options available for how the light will function.

  • Dusk to dawn illumination provided by a photocell
  • Motion-activated lighting
  • Switch control only or switch over-ride

Again, the trend is toward LED.  When compared to the High Pressure Sodium lighting previously used, LED offers instant turn on so there’s no need to wait for lights to warm up, which is especially helpful in cold environments.  They offer brighter white illumination with a longer life and greater energy savings.  LED lights are also more durable because they are manufactured with plastic, not glass, so they can better withstand environmental abuses.

Emergency / Battery Backup

Battery backup lighting is a floodlight used when there is a power outage.  There are two options available:

  • Emergency: Turn on when the power goes out
  • Stand-by: Stores the battery power until the light is manually switched on

Both provide up to 90 minutes of illumination once turned on.  Stand-by is ideal for remote locations or when repairs can’t begin immediately. Emergency Lighting is better for situations where someone may be present in the shelter when the power is lost.  Both types are available in LED and incandescent options and can come with or without EXIT notification.

Hazardous Location / Explosion Proof

Some applications involve hazardous environments that require an explosion-proof electrical system designed to prevent an internal spark or explosion from causing a much larger blast.  We mostly see applications that the National Fire Protection  Association (NFPA) defines as Class I Div I or Class I Div II, where flammable gases or vapors are or

may be present in quantities sufficient to produce explosive or ignitable mixtures in both normal and abnormal operations.   LED and incandescent are currently our most popular lights for hazardous environments. There are HID and fluorescent configurations available as well.

No matter what type of lighting you are looking for, Shelter Works has a solution. Contact us today to discuss the best way to light your field equipment shelter for optimal performance and maintenance.