Daylight and Storage: Can Light Exposure Damage Equipment and Inventory?

Can Light Exposure Damage Equipment and InventoryCertain objects, when left in direct sunlight, can become worn and damaged. It’s a well-known fact that ultra-violet radiation from sunlight can cause objects made from both natural and synthetic polymers to crack, wear away, or face when they are exposed to sunlight.

This fear of damage to equipment and inventory has made many businesses in the manufacturing and storage sector averse to daylighting. They fear that once they switch to lighting their manufacturing plants or fulfillment centers using natural light, their inventory could become damaged.

While this was certainly a possibility using old-fashioned skylights that had limited UV protection, today’s skylights and daylighting systems are designed to minimize, and in some cases completely eliminate, UV-related degradation to products made from plastic polymers.

How does ultra-violet light damage synthetic polymers?

Not all products are damaged by exposure to sunlight. Some remain completely unaffected even by long-term exposure to sunlight, such as certain stone, wood, plant, and organic products. Others are affected less by ultra-violet rays than by heating produced by exposure to sunlight.

The synthetic polymers most strongly affected by exposure to UV radiation are polypropylene and LDPE. These polymers have tertiary carbon bonds, which are activated by the rays of sunshine from windows and skylights. This can cause a variety of effects ranging from discoloration to cracks and structural damage.

The effects of this degradation are easy to observe. If you store a rope in direct sunlight for several weeks, it might begin to look frayed and discolored. This is particularly common in fiber ropes installed outside. Serious degradation can significantly reduce a rope or length of string’s strength and usefulness.

How do modern daylighting systems prevent UV damage?

Damage to inventory occurs for two reasons: UV exposure and heat exposure. A product that’s affected by heat – for example, a perishable food product, needs a chilled and moderated environment in order to remain usable. This environment can be achieved using daylighting in addition to an internal heating system.
Products that are damaged by UV radiation aren’t necessarily incompatible with a daylighting system. Modern skylights often have UV filters built in to their design, which significantly reduces the amount of radiation – and in turn, the amount of heat – that is transferred to the inside of the space in which they’re installed.

Because of this, you can safely store almost all products in environments lit using natural light. The concerns of previous decades, during which skylights typically weren’t protected against UV radiation, are no longer relevant for most modern businesses.

In addition to this, most polymers are designed using anti-UV chemicals, which prevent sunlight from causing damage. Modern plastics are designed using UV stabilizers, which dissipate UV energy as low-level heat instead of absorbing the radiation and damaging the polymers.

Is it safe to store plastic products in naturally lit environments?

In short, yes. Modern daylighting systems use a variety of special measures to keep plastic products safe, secure, and free of UV-related damage. While some products, such as perishable foods, should only be stored in light and temperature controlled environments, almost all products are safe in areas lit using natural light.

If you’re concerned about using a daylighting system in your fulfillment center or storage facility, speak to an experienced daylighting company to learn more about how you can protect your inventory from UV radiation and heat damage.

“Image courtesy of Ryan McVay/”

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