What Is High Bay Lighting and How to Choose?

This high-bay lighting design guide will help you choose the best lighting fixtures for your warehouse, workshops, or similar large spaces.

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Lighting large warehouses and gymnasiums may seem simple, but any expert designer will tell you that a lot more goes into the design than just installing bright lights. High bay lighting is perfect for such lighting and comes in various options.

We’ve compiled this guide based on market research to help you choose the best high bay lighting for your lighting design.

Let’s dive into it. 

High Bay Lighting: An Overview

The primary purpose of high bay lighting is to provide functional lighting to high bay areas, such as a large warehouse with shelves 40 ft to 165 ft (12-50 meters) tall. 

Other high bay areas include retail stores, storage areas, workshops, factories, recreational centers, airport hangers, gas stations, and gymnasiums. 

Mostly, high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH), and LED lights are preferred for high bay lighting. 

High bay lighting fixtures have unique reflectors that restrict beam spread, preventing light spill. Moreover, it creates adequate vertical lighting for shelves and aisles in warehouses. 

High bay vs. Low Bay Lighting 

Both lighting fixtures work well for functional lighting of bay areas. The major difference between high bay and low bay lighting is the ceiling height. 

Typically, low bay lighting fixtures are well suited for 12 ft to 20 ft (3-6 meters) ceilings. For heights greater than 20 ft, high bay lights are preferable. 

Power ratings of low bay lights fall within 50 -100 Watts, while high bay lights are more intense and usually rated higher.  

Both high-bay and low-bay light fixtures are mounted using chains, ropes, or hooks. For higher ceilings, we recommend suspended fixtures.

How to Choose High Bay Lighting? — 8 Critical Things to Consider

Step: 1) Consider Your Lighting Needs

Be clear about the end goals for your lighting project. High bay lighting comes in different shapes and sizes, so knowing your lighting needs will help you make the right decisions and avoid losses. 

Here are some things to consider before starting the bay area lighting project. 

  • Is it a storage area for goods or a furniture workshop where the worker needs proper illumination for work? 
  • Is it better to install a new lighting setup or go for retrofit lamps? 
  • High bay lighting must have an efficiency of 130 lumens per watt (lm/w). Anything below poses safety and health risk. 
  • Invest in energy-efficient and smart lights for higher profit in the long run. 
  • Make a detailed lighting layout.

Step: 2) Calculate the Lighting Requirement 

You can’t have a proper lighting design without knowing the actual light requirement of the place.

Here we have given you some estimates you can use to get an estimate. This data is from IES and OSHA standards and industry practices.

High Bay Area Ceiling Height (ft)Fluorescent WattsMetal Halides WattsLED WattsLumens per sq. ft. Lumen Output(lm)Fixture Spacing (ft)Horizontal
20-30240 250-30090-1503-520000-3500015-25
31-40360 300-400180-2005-1035000-4700025-35

The above values are averages and adjustable according to any project. Generally, 5 lumens per square foot is bright enough to read a book. 

How Many High Bay Lights Do You Need?

Calculating the number of high bay light fixtures is easy.

1. First, calculate the total area of the warehouse. Let’s take an example of a typical commercial warehouse covering an area of 50,000 sq. ft. and a 20 ft high ceiling. 

2. Divide the total area by the recommended lumen rating from the above table. In our case, it’s 20,000 lumens. 

3. So, 50,000/20,000 comes out to be 2.5. You can go for 2 or 3 fixtures, each with a lumen rating of 18,000 or above. 

Reduce Glare 

Due to the intense beam of high-bay lighting, glare is likely. It’s a serious issue, and studies show that glare significantly reduces work performance.

Reduce glare due to high bay lights in warehouses by using frosted lenses. Also, make sure the lights are evenly spaced both linearly and horizontally. 

Step: 4) Choose The Right Lighting Technology

Lighting technology can make a huge difference in high bay lights.

High bay lighting commonly uses fluorescent, metal halides, HIDs, and HPS. 

Fluorescents are a good option for low bay lights as they are cheap. Metal halides consume high energy but are way brighter and more reliable. They also need less maintenance. 

HID high bay lights are the brightest and most suitable for large warehouses. However, they consume a lot of energy, producing higher electricity bills. 

A likable alternative is LED high bay lights. They emit the same brightness while consuming 70% less energy. LED lights also have a 25% more life span and come with various smart controls.

Moreover, the government also offers rebate programs for LED because they are the most environmentally friendly option. Though the initial cost of LED bulbs is higher, it yields long-term financial benefits.

Are you still confused? Check out this table for the pros and cons of different high-bay lighting fixtures. 

Insert table 2

Features  LED HID Metal Halides  HPS  Fluorescent
Cost  High initial cost. Lower cost than LED Lower than LED but still relatively higher. Lower upfront and operational costs. Cheap. 
  Operational cost is also higher
Low operational cost.  
Lifespan 50k hrs. 6 to 24 k hrs. 6 to 15k hrs. 24 k 7 to 15 k hrs.
Maintenance Extremely Low Low Regular  Low maintenance  May need to change before the time due to flickering.
  Care is needed while disposal due to harmful contents Changing starters and ballasts
Warm-up time None Few minutes 15-30 min 10 min Few seconds of delay at the startup
Flickering None None Prone to flicker close to expiry Prone to flicker close to expiry Prone to flicker close to expiration.
Buzzing noise due to faulty ballast
Energy Efficiency  Highest. High but lower than LED. Moderate.  High.  High.
Minimum heat wastage The majority of energy converts to heat. Generally, efficient during continuous use only. 
Light Output Directional light (60 to 120) Omnidirectional, which causes light spillage. Omnidirectional, which causes light spillage. Omnidirectional, which causes light spillage. Omnidirectional, which causes light spillage.
No light spill. 
Dimming Possible with specialized LED dimmers. Possible with Step-level dimming. Possible, but it reduces the efficiency Possible with special ballasts, but it causes the lights to expire prematurely.  Possible with specially rated ballasts.
Also, come with other smart controls.
Safety  Resistant to shock and impact Relatively fragile compared to LED. It contains mercury and requires specialized disposal. Contains toxic mercury. Delicate. Easily gets damaged.
No moving part or harmful content.   Possibility of explosion Broken glass is laced with mercury, which can be harmful.

 Step: 5) Different Types of High Bay Lighting

High bay lights come in different shapes and sizes. Apart from the apparent difference in lumens and power, you can choose from a wide variety of fixtures.

Round High-Bay Lights

Round of UFO high bay lights have circular fixtures much like a stereotypical alien ship you see in movies. The round shape and aluminum reflectors help the light beam spread evenly across the place. They are most commonly used in large warehouses. 

Linear High-Bay Lights 

Linear high bays have long rectangular fixtures, perfect for illuminating aisles and shelves requiring vertical lighting. It’s most commonly used in retail and storage areas. 

Recessed High-Bay Lights 

Linear high-bay lights also come in a recessed fixture variant. They aren’t popular as opposed to the above two types but are still useful for specific applications. 

Smart Features 

Companies are investing in the automation of high bay lights to produce better and more efficient luminaires.

An example of this is the introduction of motion sensing and dimming options in the high bay lights.

Step: 5.5) Mounting Types 

Mounting techniques for high bay lights vary with each type and scenario. Here are some to give you an idea. Choose one according to your project need. 

Rod & Plate

The sleekest and most elegant mounting system. In this, high bay fixtures are attached to the ceiling mounting plate, and a plastic or metal conduit is used to connect electric wires to the fixture.

The supply is hidden inside, and the rods can be painted to suit the environment.  

Yoke Bracket 

Yoke mount bracket is an excellent option for sloped ceilings as it lets you adjust the angle of UFO high bay light according to your preference. 

Suspension Hooks

It’s the most common mounting technique where chains and cables are attached to the ceiling hook, and the lighting fixture is attached in the end. The chain height can be adjusted depending on the requirement. 

V-Hook Mount 

An ordinary V-shaped mounting bracket for attaching fixtures to the ceiling. It usually comes in two separate pieces and is connected to the fixture from the sides. 

Surface Mount

As the name suggests, it attaches the high bay fixture as close to the ceiling as possible while leaving room for heat sink and ventilation. Surface mounts also provide the largest vertical clearance from the floor compared to other mounting techniques. 

Step: 6) Beam angles, Color Temperature, and Rendering 

Beam angle refers to the angle at which the light beam spreads from the lighting fixture.

The greater the angle is, the more evenly it illuminates the place. However, we recommend shorter beam angles for high bay lights, typically ranging from 60 to 120 degrees only, as it prevents light spillage. 

We prefer cool light temperatures in most warehouses and commercial bay areas. Cool daylight high bays are brighter than warmer temperatures. Go for 4500 Kelvin or higher. 

Color rendering means how well the artificial light source depicts colors compared to natural sunlight. For workshops and retail stores, we recommend anything above 80 CRI. 

Step: 7) Manage Budget: Retrofitting or New Installation

Managing cost and budget the right way for high bay lighting can make or break your business.

If you are installing lights in a brand-new warehouse, we recommend opting for  LED high bay lights. You can learn about the benefits of this decision in a later section. 

However, when replacing the old high bay lamps, you have the option of selecting retrofit lights.

Retrofit led may cost higher than the original lamps, but you will get highly efficient lights.

You can either use a retrofit LED fixture or use an LED fixture kit that transforms existing fixtures into LED-compatible ones.  

So, for a slightly higher investment, you can yield greater profits for years to come.  

Step: 8) Consider Power Consumption 

Typically, high bay lights are common in commercial warehouses and retail stores, where a huge amount of lighting is required, and that too for long hours. Sometimes it runs continuously 24/7 and 365 days a year, meaning more than 50% of your business profits depend on the lighting system’s efficiency.

So always choose high bay lights with quality drivers manufactured by top companies like Cree, Philips, and OSRAM. 

A high-quality lighting driver means a longer lifespan and significantly reduced maintenance and operational cost. 

Why High Bay LED Lights Are the Future? 

Directional Light Output 

LED high bay light fixture is inherently directional, meaning most of the light beam falls only on the area that needs to be lit. Such lights reduce light spillage to unwanted sites, significantly reducing power wastage.

Others, like HID and metal halides, are omnidirectional, meaning lighting is emitted all around space. Only with the use of special reflectors that this light can give directional output. However, it affects performance efficiency. 


Lighting automation in warehouses and commercial bay areas makes operation cost-effective and efficient. Workers don’t have to control the lighting manually, which reduces the chances of error.  

Motion sensing, sunrise/sunset on/off, temperature changing, and dimming capabilities make LED high bay lights the best choice. 

Energy Efficiency 

LED high bay lights are the most efficient luminaire out there. By an estimate, it can save up to 70% energy compared to an incandescent bulb, and the same is the case with metal halide and high-pressure sodium lights. 

Since there is no moving part, burning gas, or filament involved, the LED produces a minute amount of heat. So 90% of the electricity used actually converts to visible light. 


Many people are worried about the high initial costs of LED lights. Though the concern is valid, it’s not entirely true. 

A typical 18000 LED high bay light is only 10-20% pricier than traditional MH and HPS high bay lights. Moreover, the extra price recovers within the first 6 to 12 months of use due to lower electricity bills. 

LED high bay lights also last 50000 hours and more than five years, making them an extremely cost-effective option.

Damage Resistant 

LED high bay lights are rated IP65, which makes them dust and waterproof. Furthermore, the fixtures are shock and impact resistant.

On the contrary, HID, MH, and HPS are delicate and can render useless with even slight mishandling during installation and maintenance.

Be smart and invest in high-quality luminaire for a better future.

Evolving Technology

LED lighting is continuously evolving. Companies invest millions of dollars in the research and development of LEDs, making them better and more efficient.

However, older technologies like  MH, HPS, and fluorescent lights have already peaked, and we can’t expect any more advancements.

So, in summary, modern led technology is perfect for contemporary designs. 

Final Thoughts

While this guide is not a replacement for an actual lighting designer, it can certainly make you understand the basics of high bay lighting and how you can choose the best option for your business. 

We’ve discussed the function of high and low bay lights and what technologies work best for different project needs. Afterward, we shared techniques for calculating lighting requirements, spacing, and installation tips. 

Moreover, we discussed different types of high bay lights and which is the most efficient.

Shop for Premium Quality High Bay Lights

It doesn’t matter how well you plan lighting design if the luminaire quality is subpar.

Here at RC Lighting, we produce supreme quality LED high bay lights that include high-quality drivers which can last more than five years. Also, all our products comply with international quality standards.

We serve clients all around the globe at competitive market prices and timely delivery. 

Our vast product catalog includes (but is not limited to)  LED High Bay, Low Bay, Canopy, Linear, and Panel lights in various power ratings, color, and temperature options.

Moreover, you can order the customized product by discussing your project needs with our experts.  

That’s not all. RC Lighting also offers a free evaluation of the project. So get in touch with our 24/7 customer service, and get your quote NOW!

Request A Quote for Your Lighting Projects!

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