ALD - LED Parking Lot Lights
- Why should I use LEDs for my commercial parking lot lights?
- Retrofitting Lights for Commercial Parking Lots
- What do I need to know about parking lot lighting?
- What does metal-halide (MH equivalent mean and how many watts do I need?
- What are distribution and beam angles and how do they work?
- What mounting type should I get for my light?
- How much light do I need?
Why should I use LEDs for my commercial parking lot lights?
For commercial parking, most previously installed lights will be using either high-pressure sodium or metal-halide bulbs, which have substantially shorter lifetimes than LEDs. They also include additional components like ballasts, that are prone to failure. While these and other similar types of bulbs can often compete with LEDs in terms of brightness, the same illumination requires several times the amount of energy and they degrade significantly faster.
Not only that, LEDs are generally smaller and more compact, making them easier to handle and maintain. Lighting parking lots can be a big labor cost, one that is easily controlled with strategic product selection.
Whether replacing old HID lights or setting up a whole new area lighting system, LEDs are the choice that makes the most sense. They have a lifespan several times longer than any other potential solution, which when combined with the energy savings, continue to save you money and maintenance year over year.
Retrofitting Lights for Commercial Parking Lots
When it comes to retrofitting your organization’s parking lot lights, you’ve got two main choices.
Your first option is replacing your existing high-pressure sodium or metal-halide bulbs with LEDs. This requires matching base type and physical size as well as rewiring, in most cases, to bypass components like ballasts. This method is viable, but often, you will find yourself spending more on labor to prolong the lifespan of an inferior product. This is especially true if the existing fixture is not in pristine condition.
Your other option (and best bet in our opinion) is a retrofit. This refers to replacing the entire fixture with an updated LED one. This approach provides the longest lifetime and lowest maintenance option.
What do I need to know about parking lot lighting?
There are several factors you need to consider when illuminating a parking lot. Depending on what fixtures you select and how you position them, you may end up with different lighting. It’s about understanding your intent for the parking lot.
Consider these variables:
- How much space is there?
- How consistent do you need the light to be? Do you need different types of light on some parts of the parking lot?
- How much of the space will be used primarily by pedestrians?
- How close is the property to residential areas or other businesses?
- What existing mounting options are currently installed?
- What is the available power input?
- Do you have any video surveillance systems that would benefit from clear lighting?
- Do you want to use photocells to have the lights turn on and off, based on the levels of available light?
- Are you looking for a specific metal-halide equivalency?
What does metal-halide (MH) equivalent mean and how many watts do I need?
Metal-halide (MH) equivalency tells you how bright a given LED bulb or fixture will be, using MH watts as a comparison. If you currently have 300 Watts MH fixtures, and you’re happy with the light output, you can easily select LED replacements that will match what you have (using significantly less energy). It’s a quick reference for you to compare new products to your old lighting, and easily understand the benefits and savings you can expect.
What are distribution and beam angles and how do they work?
While related, beam angle and distribution type represent two separate things. Beam angle is fairly simple and represents the raw angle of the light output from the fixture. This can be one number for a largely round or square beam pattern or two numbers for a more rectangular or oval one.
Distribution type is more related to the overall shape (or pattern) of the light output and also has to do with the throw or projection of that pattern from the light source. You can see a more detailed breakdown of different distribution types here. The distribution type is a key factor to consider when planning your lighting design as it will enter into the coverage of your fixtures as well as spillage outside of your property or area you intend to light.
Some parking lot light fixtures also come with additional lenses, which can change the light distribution. Contact our commercial sales team to learn more.
What mounting type should I get for my light?
When it comes to parking lot lighting, the variety of options can make a simple product seem more complicated than it actually is. When it comes down to it, the choice is really based on where the fixture is being installed.
Here are the main choices for your commercial parking lot light mounts:
Slip-fitters slide over a pole, post, or tenon and tighten in place. For this type of mount, diameter is very important as each slip fitter will only work with a certain diameter range. This type of mount is typically adjustable horizontally for aiming purposes as well. Slip-fitter mounts are also used for LED Street Lights!
Pole/post mounts are designed to attach to the side of a pole or post. Some mounts are adjustable for aiming on this type of mount as well. Poles/posts come in a variety of shapes, and not all mounts are compatible with both round and square poles/posts so it is important to confirm this aspect before ordering this type of mount.
Trunnion mounts are adjustable two-piece mounts that attach directly to a flat (typically vertical) surface. This type of mount has a pivot point in-between the piece attached to the back of the light and the mounting surface. As a result, they are more highly adjustable versus most other mount types, allowing for a lot of customization in terms of aiming.
Yoke/flood mounts also attach to a flat surface, but they attach to the side of the light by wrapping around them in a one piece design. These are considered one of the most versatile in terms of mounting and can perform well in just about any location.
How much light do I need?
If you know the height the light will be mounted at and the required brightness at ground level, that will allow you to select one or two wattages that will be best for the job. Picking the correct light is important to avoid under or over lighting an area as well as unnecessary extra costs. We offer IES files for most of our area lights to help you—your lighting designer—to calculate exactly what you need based on your existing parameters. Contact our commercial sales team to learn more.
What about voltage?
Depending on where your lights are being installed, you may require a specific voltage. It is also important to know that you will be connecting to single phase power, as lighting is not typically designed to connect directly to three phase power. Be sure to consult an electrician with any questions about running supply power for your specific application. This reference shows each common AC power type and how it is branched from the main power connection on your property.
Common voltage types will vary by area but the various types are typically grouped into two sets due to the LED drivers’ ability to use a wide range of input voltage. The most common will be lights that are rated for 100 to 277 VAC or 120 to 277 VAC. These lights will work on five different voltages that are typically found in residential, commercial, and industrial areas—120 VAC, 208 VAC, 230 VAC, 240 VAC, and 277 VAC. The other version would be 200 to 480 VAC or 277 to 480 VAC, which are designed for 277 VAC and specialized commercial and industrial areas that use 347 VAC or 480 VAC.
What’s the right color temperature (CCT) and why?
This is one of the more complicated questions because there is no one answer for every project. Some municipalities and agencies require specific CCTs for compliance with local regulations, so that is a great place to start to narrow options down. In unregulated areas or areas where a wide range is allowed, three main options will be available—warm, natural, and cool CCTs.
Natural CCTs like 4000K and cool CCTs like 5000K are often preferred in commercial parking lots, because they promote a more alert setting which, as a byproduct, can make people feel safer as well due to their resemblance to daylight. Cool and natural CCTs will often have slightly higher lumen output than warmer CCTs as well.
Warm CCTs like 2700K or 3000K are preferred in areas in or adjacent to residential spaces as warmer CCTs create less glare and will not affect sleep cycles. Warm CCTs also have beneficial effects for wildlife and insect populations that can be important depending on the location.
Is color rendering index (CRI) important for parking lot lights?
CRI impacts the ability to see clearly, which is important in any application. For parking lots, this can mean making it easier for people to easily spot their car. Lights with lower CRI can mean all the cars appear gray, which is a bit of a nightmare.
For something like a car dealership, higher CRI lighting may help to better sell products. In areas with high security, higher CRI can also help to better identify problems and trespassers. In most cases, such as a typical parking lot, 70+ CRI will be adequate and 80+ CRI will perform extremely well.
What controls are available and how do they work?
In addition to the inherent energy savings provided by LEDs, there are additional controls that can be used to further increase efficiency.
Photocells (or photo controls) turn fixtures off when enough ambient light is present, allowing for automated operation with no adjustment needed for seasonal or weather changes. These types of controls can either be remote-mounted for a set of lights or mounted on each light for more accurate results.
Motion sensors can be used as well to provide enhanced security and efficiency by dimming lights when no motion is detected then returning them to full output as soon as motion is detected. These can also be remote-mounted or mounted on the fixture itself depending on the design of the sensor and/or fixture.
What do the different certifications mean?
On top of the many technical specifications, you also need to ensure you understand the standards and certifications and how they may affect your installation. A few you may see most often in reference to area lighting are DLC, ETL, and UL related. Lighting products that have these designations meet specific criteria for safety, efficacy, etc. and can even help qualify you for rebates with local utility companies. We also have a more detailed resource to learn about standards and certifications available.