Lighting a parking lot all night is very expensive, especially during times of the year when daylight hours are at a minimum. Getting enough light spread throughout a parking lot is another dilemma many business owners face. Dark spots in parking areas can encourage a criminal element. Walking through a poorly lit parking lot makes employees, customers, and other visitors feel unsafe. It also potentially leaves you open to litigation for accidents that occur in areas without adequate lighting. Replacing or upgrading your existing parking lot lights may seem like an exorbitant expense, but can you really afford to not look at your options? Parking lot lighting systems installed more than a decade ago may utilize inefficient lights and cost more to run than new LED alternatives. Utility cost savings, lower maintenance costs, and longer lifespan also give LED lighting options a good ROI that can quickly offset your replacement costs. While researching your options, here are the 5 things about LED parking lot lighting you should know:
HID vs LED
HIDs are gas-discharge arc lamps in which light is transmitted via an electrical current between two electrodes and ionized gas. A second gas is also used, which determines whether the HID is a sodium, mercury or metal halide lamp. Everything is sealed in a quartz glass capsule. All HIDs require a ballast to regulate power and create the initial electrical surge to start the light. HIDs consume less power and produce greater illumination than halogen bulbs, but this is nothing when compared to LEDs.
LEDs offer an even spread of illumination, unlike HIDs that must be fitted with bulky reflectors to redirect light output. Overall, LEDs are much more efficient, with a difference you can immediately see. Historically, HID lights have been the go-to choice for parking lots and other sizable areas that require large amounts of visible light. However, they haven’t been the perfect solution, because the light produced isn’t always pleasing and most HIDs require an extended amount of time to warm up before they’re fully illuminated. While it’s true that installing HID lighting usually results in lower upfront costs, regular re-lamping and ballast replacement requirements often counteract these savings. Even with a higher initial investment, LED lighting offers a quicker ROI because LEDs have virtually no maintenance expenses. All these issues, combined with rapid technological advances that improved performance and lowered the price of LED products, have prompted many companies to make the switch. No matter how well a product performs or how long it lasts, with high-use outdoor lighting fixtures, this all means nothing if the product isn’t backed by an exceptional warranty.
While there are vastly different parking lot layouts, almost all parking lot light fixtures are attached to tall poles. From this vantage point, the light can more easily pool throughout the area. Once you’ve decided to switch out your existing light fixtures for LED pole lights, you must decide whether to keep or replace your existing poles. Because LED lighting provides more light and the light distribution can be tailored, you can get the same or better results with fewer light fixtures. This means you won’t need as many light poles, so you also have to decide whether to leave poles that no longer contain light fixtures or remove them. Pole height, the distance between the poles and the structural integrity of the poles could factor into your decision about pole replacement. In most cases, if the pole is still in good shape and matches your desired aesthetics, it’s more cost effective to reuse existing poles. You may also be able to retrofit new LED kits into existing light fixtures, instead of replacing the entire fixture to potentially save time and money on your conversion.
Retrofitting Versus Replacement
Retrofitting is the process of adding new, improved technology to an existing system. LED retrofit kits can utilize your existing light fixtures and add improved lighting technology. Retrofitting can cost less than installing new fixtures, but cost savings is not the primary reason most people choose this route. The main goal of retrofitting is to retain your property’s existing aesthetics, especially when it already matches your desired architectural design. Retrofit kits make ideal choices when the design and layout of your current lighting system are satisfactory, but its effects can be far improved with upgraded technology. However, like your light poles, your existing fixtures must be in good shape and have the ability to support LED technology.
Increase Efficiency With Controls
LED lights typically offer technology that delivers high-quality lighting with significant energy savings in commercial parking lot lighting applications, especially when paired with adaptive control integration. One of the biggest advantages of LED lighting is the ability to be dimmable, so fixtures often include a 0-10v dimmable driver to give you this capability. There is also adjustable Passive Infrared Photo/Motion (PIR) sensors that can detect motion and adjust light output as necessary. After sensors stop detecting motion, time delay controls keep lights in high mode for a defaulted time period of typically five minutes before switching back to low mode. Cut-off controls then switch the luminaire off completely after running in low mode for a default time period of one hour. Photocell controls are another option that tells luminaires when to turn on or off based on the current amount of ambient light. When you combine all your potential options, you create successful adaptive control integration with sensors that prevent LED pole lights from lighting an empty parking lot at full brightness when it’s not necessary. Having these innovative controls in place further increases your energy savings and reduces light pollution. Even if you’re not going to use these controls immediately, it’s important to build in the ability to implement them down the road.
Professional Lighting Assessments
LED technology is continually and rapidly improving and the price of commercial LED parking lot lights continues to drop. If you’re considering a switch to LED lighting, but you’re still unsure whether the cost savings justify what could be a substantial investment, schedule a complimentary, no hassle Professional Lighting Assessment. A lighting expert will perform a complete cost savings analysis and ROI timetable based on an evaluation of your current system and projected cost estimates for our recommended lighting solutions. They will also be able to do a physical layout to accommodate any specific lighting level requirements like the averagely maintained footcandles needed to hit the ground.