What is a Bay Light?
Before we get into the differences between high bay and low bay lighting, you should first know what bay lighting is. Bay lights are light fixtures that have high power wattage requirements and cover relatively large areas. More often than not, bay lights are used on ceilings over 12 feet in height and produce over 8000 lumens. Bay lighting is available in two different styles, with two drastically different applications.
You’ll most often hear these lights referred to by these two different styles, otherwise known as high bay lighting and low bay lighting. There are many differences between these two, which we’ll go over in detail later. But for now, just know that High Bay lights are typically found on ceilings over twenty feet and Low Bay lights are most commonly used for ceilings between 12-20 feet.
Within these two categories, you’ll find several different variations of both styles, each suited to a different purpose. These high-powered lights are widely used in commercial and industrial facilities across the country. But, choosing which one is right for your facility can be tricky, especially when they appear so similar on the surface. Here, we’ll break down the key differences between both, their many variations, and suggestions for different applications.
Bay lights come in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular versions are circular UFO High Bays and rectangular (or square) shaped Linear High Bays. Lighting specialists find the right light fixture for your space by determining the total coverage required, and taking the desired aesthetic into account.
High Bay Lighting Basics
Because these lights are so similar, in this case, it’s more helpful to discuss them in terms of where they can commonly be found
A High Bay is a tall vertical ceiling space, with a vast open area beneath it. Any light designed to be installed and light this area is a “High Bay Fixture”. Super powerful lights and wide beam angles make it perfect for illuminating high bay areas.
As far as the actual installation goes, the spacing of these fixtures should be proportionate to the mounting height. What this means is that at a 20-foot height, the light fixtures should be spaced 20 feet apart.
Similarly, for fixtures mounted at 30 feet high, you will find the lights spaced 30 feet apart. However, a photometric is the ideal way to tell what the best layout for your space is.
Low Bay Lighting Basics
Now that you’re familiar with what high bay lights are, it’s time to take a look at their counterparts, low bay lighting. A low bay is a space where the ceiling is between 10- 20 feet high.
Typically, LED Lights used for low bay areas are between 10,000-20,000 lumens. Since they are mounted so much closer to the ground than high bay lights, they do not require a powerful LED light to properly illuminate the space.
If you were to use a light with higher lumens, you’d likely find that the light would be much too bright.
High Bays vs Low Bays: 5 Key Considerations
High bay and low bay lights look virtually identical when you look at them side by side. However, their applications are much, much different. Height of installation, mounting, and beam angle are some of the key differences between high bay and low bay lighting.
1. Height of installation
Although we’ve already mentioned this a couple of times, it’s worth going over in detail because it is the most noticeable difference. For your lighting to correctly suit your space and do its job, noting ceiling height is extremely important.
Choosing the wrong type, whether it’s too powerful for a low ceiling or vice-versa, will result in poor light distribution and an unworkable environment.
High bay lighting is specifically designed for spaces with ceilings anywhere from 20-40 feet high.
To function property, they are the more powerful versions of the bay fixtures we offer. On average, they produce between 15,000 to 60,000 lumens. High Bay lights also can be outfitted with optics if needed to ensure the light is directed to the floor, and not on the walls..
These extra steps ensure that the fixture can evenly illuminate the space without wasting any shine.
Low bay lighting is used when the ceiling is anywhere from 12-20 feet high.
Because of this, low bay lights produce fewer lumens than high bays. Fewer lumens may seem like a bad thing, but if you installed a high bay light on a 15-foot ceiling, you would quickly discover that the light is way too bright and distributed extremely unevenly.
Low bay lights are typically used in smaller commercial and industrial environments for both public and private use.
LED bay lights are widely used in industrial and commercial spaces. These lights are hardy and virtually maintenance-free, making them a no brainer for facility managers. But, high bays and low bay lights have very different applications. To give you a general idea of what each light does best, we’ve listed some options below.
3. Wattage and Power
The amount of power you use will vary greatly from high bay and low bay applications. Using a powerful fixture in a low bay, low ceiling application will make the lighting too bright. Not using a powerful bay fixture in a high bay application will have the reverse affect. The lighting will appear dim and underlit.
Typically high bay wattages range from 150 to 200 Watt to replace 400 Watt Metal Halides, and 240 to 400 to replace 1000 Watt Metal Halide.
Typically low bay wattages range from 80 to 150 watts. It’s almost harder to light up a lower ceiling application because light balance and reducing shadows is harder to solve. High ceilings have an advantage of being able to balance light easier across the space.
4. Beam Angle
Although it is often overlooked, choosing the ideal beam angle for your LED fixture is very important. This can be defined as the “width” of the light that is produced by the bulb, and is measured in degrees.
Note: LED Lights use optics to control beam angles, where as old technology like Metal Halide use reflectors to control beam angles. It is not common to find reflectors on a LED Indoor Fixture.
Beam angles for high bay lighting are usually either 60, 90 or 120 degrees. This relatively narrow beam produces a highly concentrated shine.
This is extremely important in high bay lighting because it ensures that the light doesn’t dissipate before it reaches the ground.
Low bay LED lights usually use a beam angle of 120 degrees.
Facilities with lower roof heights benefit from wider beam angles since there is less space for the light to spread out and provide illumination.
Mounting methods apply more to the application of the light than the fixture, but there are still noteworthy distinctions between mounting a high bay light and low bay fixtures.
Both fixtures can be suspended from chains or hooks or directly on the ceiling, but their opposing settings play a huge role in determining how they are installed.
High bay lighting fixtures can be hung from the ceiling using chains, pendants, hooks, or by mounting them directly. In addition to traditional mountings, high bay lights can also be used to provide lighting to vertical surfaces.
Alternatively, you’ll find that low bay lights are a little less flexible. They are designed for spaces with lower ceilings, there is much less room for them to hang. Because of this, low bay lights are mounted as close to the ceiling as possible.
6. Input Voltage
In commercial and industrial spaces, input voltage is typically much higher than what you see in a home residence. It is very common to see voltage up to 277 Volts in a commercial space, and voltages up to 480 Volts in an industrial space
Standard Voltage Drivers on Low Bays and High Bays are 100-277V. This means that any voltage between 100 and 277V will automatically be detected by the driver and adjusted to, without the need for conversion or setting by the installer.
High Voltage drivers, available on some high and low bays, are offered in the range of 277-480V or 347-480V. The latter is designed for Canadian installations. They are also self adjusting like the standard voltage drivers.
7. Color Temperature
Color Temperatures can vary significantly. The most common range of temperatures are between 2700K and 6500K. The lower the number, the more yellow the light (also described as warm lighting). The higher the number, the more blue the light is (also described as cool lighting).
The most common low bay and high bay lighting temperatures are 4000K and 5000K. Of those two, 5000K is the most commonly asked for and purchased for commercial and industrial applications.
Use a Lighting Plan to Ensure a Good Fit
With all of this information, you should have enough knowledge to make the right decision on lighting for your facility. But, if you want to get more specifics on how many lights you need and where they should be installed, things become a little less clear.
So, how do you determine what is the best fixture for your location? How do you know how many you should get, and the best places to mount them for an even distribution? A little thing called a photometric lighting plan will answer all of your questions and more.
Using lighting software, we can create a free lighting plan that will show you different lighting options and give you all the information you need to make the right choice.
The report will show you everything from how bright the area will be and how well the light’s distributed to what light fits your space best. This free software ensures that you’re confident in your decision and makes choosing lighting for commercial and industrial facilities a breeze
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.