Keeping a parking lot well-lit every night can get expensive, especially during times of the year when daylight hours are at a minimum. Getting enough light spread throughout a parking lot is one of the main problems business owners will face. Walking through a poorly lit parking lot makes employees, customers, and other visitors feel unsafe, and dark spots in parking areas can provide an environment for criminal activity. 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 life spans also give LED lighting options a good ROI that can quickly offset your replacement costs. While researching your options, here are the 6 things about LED parking lot lighting you should know:
1) 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 revolutionary LED technology.
LED anatomy uses solid-state technology to convert electricity into light. Basically, LED modules are made up of tiny light "bulbs" that are semiconductors fitted into an electrical circuit. When the module is turned on and electricity passes through these semiconductors, it causes them to emit photons of light and the fixture illuminates. 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, providing an immediate visual difference and a long term utility cost-difference.
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 LED's require virtually no maintenance. All these issues in combination with rapid technological advances, have prompted many companies to make the switch. No matter how well a product performs, or how long it lasts, nothing matters if the product isn’t backed by an exceptional warranty.
2) Pole Placement
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.
3) 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 is satisfactory, but its efficiency 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.
4) Ideal Light Characteristics For Parking Lot Applications
There are many characteristics that make some commercial LED parking lot lights better than others. These include the product’s Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) or color temperature, Color Rendering Index (CRI), light distribution properties, heat distribution properties, eco-friendliness and earned safety ratings. Color temperature defines the color of a light’s glow, which can have a warm or cool quality, ranging from a warm reddish-orange to a cool white or bluish color. CRI ratings tell you how an object looks when illuminated compared to when it’s under daylight conditions. The higher the rating, the more the illuminated object looks the same as it does under natural light.
Ideal light distribution characteristics should include an exceptional BUG rating. BUG (Backlight, Uplight, and Glare) is a comprehensive system developed by the Illuminating Engineering Society and the International Dark Sky Association. The system’s purpose is to calculate light pollution onto unwanted or undesirable directions from an outdoor light fixture. An LED fixture’s housing should also help with heat mitigation and keep operating temperature low. Since an LED’s efficiency decreases as the operating temperature rises, it’s critical to control the heat emitted, especially in warmer climates. LED technology is also good for the environment because it lowers carbon emissions and eliminates hazardous substances, such as mercury or lead like you find in HIDs.
Metal Halide HIDs use mercury in the lighting process, which is dangerous when it’s inhaled or released into the environment. HID bulbs can also emit substantial amounts of UV radiation if the outer glass bulb breaks and the inner tube continues to operate without this insulating protection. Unlike LEDs, HID bulbs also require special steps for safe disposal. If an HID bulb bursts, you must put it in a sealed container or bag and take it to an appropriate hazardous waste facility or recycling center.
5) Increase Efficiency With Controls
LED lights typically offer technology that delivers high-quality lighting with significant energy savings, especially when paired with adaptive control integration. One of the biggest advantages of LED lighting is dimmability, fixtures often include a 0-10v dimmable driver to give you this capability. There are 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 tell 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.
6) 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 justifies 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 average maintained footcandles needed to hit the ground.
Want to learn more about the benefits of LED lighting for parking lots? Read more about them here: Parking Lot Lights. You’ll find out more about the Viento Medium and Viento Large LED Parking Lot Lights and how they are the ideal product specification for your parking lot.