Parking Lot Lighting Guide
Parking lot lighting is a ubiquitous application across the country, providing illumination critical for the safety and security of commercial and industrial parking areas. There are a wide variety of LED lighting solutions for commercial and industrial parking lots, as well as street and roadway lighting requirements. LED technology provides several distinct cost and performance advantages over traditional lighting which makes it a very popular choice for retrofitting existing lighting for parking lots and roadways as well as being installed in new construction applications.
The largest benefit of LED lighting for parking lot and roadway applications is its dramatically increased energy efficiency compared to traditional types of lighting - such as HID, incandescent, fluorescent and mercury vapor lights. LED lighting has a minimum system efficiency improvement of 150% over all other types of traditional lighting, including HIDs. This is due in part to the fact that unlike traditional lighting, which emits light in a 360° pattern, LED lighting emits light in a directional 180° pattern.
This eliminates the need for reflectors used on traditional lighting which are inherently inefficient at redirecting light (40% loss is common). Not only is light itself directed more efficiently with LED lighting, the entire system is more efficient in terms of lumens produced per watt. Typically an LED light system produces 50 lumens per watt, whereas an HID light system produces 30 lumens power watt or less. The combination of both the lumen per watt efficiency and directional nature of LED lighting make them an easy choice for those looking to save long-term energy costs.
In fact, these benefits are highlighted in the Lighting Research Center’s (LRC) recently published Guide for Parking Lot Lighting. This comprehensive guide details not only the energy efficiency benefits of using LEDs for parking lots but also the lighting uniformity possible with LEDs due to their precise beam control. According to LRC’s laboratory testing,
“for the same illuminance, uniformity provides greater leverage in promoting the perception of safety compared to increasing CCT...”
Parking Lot Lighting Photometric Lighting
This uniformity in the beam produced allows for better photometric planning, giving the option to more efficiently configure light fixture placement - resulting in fewer number of fixtures in order to accomplish the same effectiveness in lighting performance. While free guides exist that give solid pointers to get started on a lighting plan, it is wise to have a professional work with you to ensure your photometric plan is set up optimally. When combined with already highly efficient LED technology, improved beam control only adds to the many reasons why switching to LED lighting for parking areas is the most logical choice.
In addition to the increased energy efficiency of LED lighting, they also offer significant savings in maintenance over traditional lighting. Traditional lighting for parking lots and roadways uses HID, fluorescent, incandescent and in some cases, mercury vapor lights. All of these lights are maintenance intensive compared to LEDs, and many have toxins inside that require specialized and expensive disposal methods.
Because these lights are typically mounted 15’ up or higher on poles, a crew with a specialized lift truck must be contracted to replace and service them. Over time, this adds up to a considerable cost in both parts and labor hours. LED lights last much longer (avg. 100,000 hours), and therefore this cost is dramatically reduced compared to the most popular type of traditional parking lot and roadway light - HID lights (avg. 7,500 - 10,000 hours).
The last thing that is often overlooked when comparing LED lighting to traditional lighting options for parking lots and roadways is the actual quality of the light produced. This is measured in CRI (Color Rendering Index) - which is the measure of a light's accuracy in replicating natural sunlight.
LEDs have a distinct advantage over traditional lights in this area, with a typical CRI of 90 or more (natural sunlight has a CRI of 100). Most traditional lighting has a maximum CRI of 80 when new, and then degrades significantly throughout its useful life. The higher CRI of LEDs makes for better visibility in parking lots and roadways, increasing safety while also improving the aesthetic appeal of the properties they are installed on.
Types of LED Lights
Canopy LED Lights - These are a canopy mounted fixture used in carports, walkways and parking garages. They feature a dust and water resistant lens, designed to keep out the elements while still allowing sufficient light transmission.
LED Wall Packs - Similar to canopy lights, these are designed to be mounted on the side of a wall or other exterior structure. They provide wide and intense lighting for parking areas and sidewalks adjacent to buildings and privacy walls.
Lamp Post Lights - These lights are designed to replace traditional lamp post bulbs while using existing fixtures and sockets. They are commonly used for small parking lots and walkways to parking areas.
LED Floodlights - By far the most powerful and versatile of the different parking lot lights available, these provide a broad beam that is useful for providing security and safety illumination for parking areas.