A look at Ultraviolet Lights

Ultraviolet Lamps encompass a range of lights that produce Ultraviolet light. As these lights are used in many unrelated industries and applications, with many variables in their output, we’ve created a one-stop guide for helping you identify the best UV Lamp for you.

What is Ultraviolet?

UV is a light radiation produced by the sun, and you may know of it due to classic Australian ads that talk of its dangers to our skin. Invisible to the human eye, UV travels on a wavelength between visible light and x-rays.

Ultraviolet ranges:

The most important thing to understand when buying UV lamps is the differentiation between the UV subtypes. As ultraviolet light is on a spectrum, it has levels of intensity based off its wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the more dangerous it is for humans – because while the earth’s atmosphere protects us from all but the long wave UV light, some lamps are made to produce a type that is extremely harmful to the eyes and skin, and shouldn’t be used unless by a professional.

Just knowing the below will help you identify if it’s the right light for you.

UVA:  Longwave ultraviolet light, most commonly known as blacklight or blacklight blue in the lighting industry. These lights often use a filter material which makes the bulb appear violet. UVA is the safest of the UV spectrum.

UVB: Medium-wave, UVB is often used for reptile lights, and speciality tanning lamps.

UVC: Shortwave UV, and the most dangerous of the UV subtypes. Used for what is known as germicidal lamps, UVC disrupts DNA and can be used for a range of specialised applications, especially in sterilisation and water purification.

Lamp types:

Blacklight and Blacklight blue:

The most recognisable form of UV lighting, Black light and Black light Blue (BL and BLB) can be distinguished by the colour they emit.

Black Light Blue shines as a violet, purple colour, made due to the filter material of the bulb’s glass. Known as Woods glass, these appear almost black when unlit, filtering out most visible light. While not bright, BLB triggers a fluorescence in other colours, causing them to glow. This effect can be useful in a wide variety of applications, including medicine, forensics, detection of counterfeit money, and of course for decorative purposes in nightclubs.

Blacklight on the other hand ironically produces a bluer colour than Black Light Blue, and is often used in bug zappers and insect traps. This is due to insect’s ability to see UV light, attracting them. These lights don’t produce the fluorescence that BLB does, so make sure that the UV lamp you’re buying is dark in appearance and tagged with “BLB” if you require that effect.

Blacklight and black light blue lamps come in two core types: Fluorescent and Mercury Vapor. Below, we’ll go over the difference.



Normal fluorescent lamps produce light by sending an electric current through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapor. When the mercury vapours are excited, they produce UV light, which in turn causes the coating of the lamp to fluoresce or glow.

Fluorescent black light lamps work similarly, but use a phosphor on the inner tube surface which emits UVA radiation instead of visible light, and the dark blue filter coating over the tube.

As Fluorescent lamps already naturally produce more UV than any other light, they are well suited to the BLB and BL applications, and much more effective than incandescent BL and BLB lamps.


Mercury Vapor:

Mercury Vapor BLBs are most commonly used in clubs, concerts, and other large displays where the aim is to create a particular aesthetic through the fluorescent glow caused by the UV, aka the “glow in the dark” effect. Mercury vapor lamps are the most efficient producers of UVA, even more so then fluorescent tubes.


Germicidal Lamps:

While these may look like ordinary tubes, Germicidal Lamps produce the far stronger UVC. They do not have the phosphor coating of BL or BLB, as this absorbs UVC. These tubes have nearly triple the UV output of ordinary fluorescent lamps.

As previously mentioned, this UV type is the most dangerous to come into contact with, and can cause temporary or even permanent blindness and skin conditions if mishandled. For this reason, germicidal lamps are used primarily for specialised areas.

The most common of these is in Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). This is a method of disinfection that uses UVC to break down and destroy bacteria and other microorganisms at a cellular level. You may see now why it can be so harmful to humans as well. Most often used to purify drinking water, as well as medical equipment and even food.

Industrial Lighting Upgrades: Why you should go to LED

While the switch from traditional highbays to LED highbay lighting may seem like the obvious choice, many are still sitting on the fence when it comes to making the upgrade.

Industrial spaces such as warehouses, factories, and manufacturing facilities traditionally use older technology such as metal halides for their lighting requirements. When the time comes to replace a lamp, more than a few businesses will opt to simply replace old technology with old.

This is the easy choice, and perhaps the short-term savings choice – but not the most commercial option. While biting the bullet to upgrade to a high-quality circular LED highbay may seem like a large investment, the long-term savings and benefits are not to be overlooked.

Long life and better lumen:

New LED Highbays last up to 50,000 hrs vs a metal halide’s 11,000, and this doesn’t just affect the time to needing replacement.

While a conventional highbay will significantly reduce in lumen output as time goes on, new LED highbay’s will keep 95% of their initial brightness up until obsolescence. This more than makes up for the lumen reduction one will see in HID vs LED discussions.

Not only that, but every year LED technology improves, increasing the lumen output while keeping wattage low – and keeping the lights even more compact. Take the Deluxlite UFO Highbay as an example, it reaches up to 19,500lm while operating at just 150W!

Safety and better working conditions:

Metal halide lights, a type of HID (high intensity discharge) light, have a dangerous history of overheating and exploding from high pressure. While this is usually an end of life behavior – halides can fail and explode, even when new. This presents a risk not only to employees but the entire facility. Exploding lights can lead to fire and property damage.

Circular LED highbay lights mitigate this risk as they do not run hot, nor do they have a history of issues like the metal halide.

They also produce a better-quality lumen, and can be easily adjusted to point towards workstations and other areas where a concentration of light will benefit employees.

Save energy and money:

Industrial spaces like warehouses, factories, and manufacturing facilities are known for their high electricity bills and the detrimental carbon footprint they produce. Replacing old halides with LED Highbays will quickly help with both the presented issues.

LED’s produce far less heat and UV, use up to 70% less energy than a HID light, and last longer. Less replacement’s means less carbon produced in their manufacturing – and a lower electricity bill for you.

So, LED Highbays or Corn Lights?

Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of LED over traditional lighting, it begs the question of which LED replacement to choose. We’ve used circular LED highbays in our previous examples, but it’s not the only option for those looking to change.

Corn Lights:

Corn lights are the retrofit replacement for old HID systems such as metal halides and high-pressure sodium lamps.

These ‘corn-shaped’ lamps are a power-saving LED alternative to traditional bulbs. Coming in a range of lumens, sizes and voltages, there’s sure to be one that will fit your needs.


Replacing your old HID bulbs with these will still require some rewiring, however, you will be able to keep the same reflector setup as your traditional highbay’s, and once done it will be as simple as getting a new corn light should one (rarely) fail.

Like all LEDs, they are energy saving, environmentally friendly, and long life – up to 50,000 hours, although you may find some brands are lower in lumen than your traditional lights.

Don’t worry too much, though, as explained in our LED blog, LED lumen will not degrade like older globes, so the later in life output will be better than what you’ve had previously.

Circular UFO LED Highbays:

Unlike corn lights, which replace the bulb, a UFO LED Highbay light is a direct switch out from your metal halide or other HID setup. Comparable in shape to a ‘UFO’, these lights have a wide beam angle and high lumen output.


The fittings for your HID will be replaced with the new highbay, requiring more time to change out compared to a corn light. The wide angle of the light beam may not be suitable for aisles, and in changing from your metal halide setup, more consideration with have to be taken for placements.

If you don’t require a directional light, then the UFO option is a great way to reduce dark spots in your lighting.


It isn’t exactly the contest of one being strictly better than the other. All setups require consideration and review of what could best be applied. In the end, both options will see you savings on energy bills and long term maintenance costs, along with the other benefits of LED lighting.

If you’re still not sure of what to choose, it’s best to speak to either your electrician, or give our great team at Lightonline a call on 03 9819 1777.


GMT Lighting is a major distributor and wholesaler of replacement lamps with top brands such as Philips, GE, Osram and many more. Our large range enables us to serve many different industries including – commercial lighting, theatrical, industrial, domestic, medical lamps, audiovisual, stage studio lights and other specialist industries.

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