Buildings or facilities that are 10 years or older likely have lighting that’s outdated and costing a lot of money in energy bills. Outdoor lighting—like parking lot lighting—was once considered a low priority, and only thought of to enhance the appearance of a parking lot, a building, or cars outside of a dealership. This is still a popular option with lighting, but what is becoming more important to lighting designers is lighting for safety and security. Read the tips below to know what to expect when it comes to evaluating your parking lot lighting
5 Things to Consider for Parking Lot Lighting
- Intensity of the lighting: How bright of lights are needed?
- Uniformity of lighting: Will the consistency of the lights be in unison?
- Color of lighting: How accurately does the lighting render colors?
- Efficiency of lighting: How much light is produced per watt?
- Lamp life: What is the lamp life? What is the industry standard?
- Costs: How much does it cost to have the lights on?
Understanding Your Existing Lighting and How it Works
You need to be familiar with your current lighting system to gain a full understanding of how you will benefit from a new lighting system. Know how many watts your fixtures are using and what they are using to light them. If you are unaware of what is being used, ask your facility maintenance person or your lighting contractor. It is common to see the following sources of lighting in parking lots:
- Low Pressure Sodium Lights
- High Pressure Sodium Lights
- Mercury Vapor Lights
- Metal Halide Lights
- LED Lights (most efficient)
To fully understand what your existing lighting system is capable of you will need to survey the area that is illuminated. A survey is important because it will show the light levels throughout the area. Also, it is important to know that light levels are measured in foot-candles (fc) or lux (lx), the metric equivalent.
For the light level survey to be accurate and descriptive, prepare (or find) an accurate map of the area. Be sure to include all fixtures and light poles on your map, if they’re not already included. You can either borrow or buy a light-level meter to take an accurate reading of your lighted area.
Adequate Parking Light Levels
Everyone has their own opinion on what the best lighting level is for parking lots or any other outdoor lighting. How active the area is is a useful determinant in how much light will be adequate. In low activity areas, sometimes .5 fc can be enough; in high activity areas 5 fc is common.
It is not uncommon to find parking lots that have a low foot-candle level. Parking lots often have a foot-candle level that is well below what Electro-Matic recommends as the minimum foot-candle level. Not only do a lot of parking lots lack proper lighting, but also lack proper uniformity, which is essential for creating an attractive, well-lit parking lot.
There are certain applications where you may want more foot-candles. For example an auto-dealership would want their cars to be gleaming at night for an attractive look, so their foot-candles would vary from other applications. To be more specific, Electro-Matic recommends a minimum light level of 1 fc throughout the desired area and 2 to 4 fc being more desirable for optimal visibility and appeal.
As mentioned before it is important to have your parking lot lighting in unison. Uniformity creates a more appealing look. Electro-Matic recommends that the ratio of your light level should be 3:1 for most outdoor parking lot applications. To find your ratio, find the highest and lowest light levels throughout the area. Then find the average using the highest and lowest light levels. Take your average light level (i.e. 3) and your lowest light level (i.e. 1) to find your ratio, which in this case would be 3:1.
Typically, when lighting lacks uniformity it’s due to the space between the fixtures. Often, trees and other landscaping gets in the way, the lighting uniformity can become more complicated.
Parking Lot Light Operating Costs
Operating lighting costs for a facility can quickly go up, especially at larger facilities. Parking lot lighting is a great opportunity to reduce those costs and save hundreds to thousands of dollars each month. LED lighting replacement can save you the most money, if you are switching from sources such as high-pressure sodium or metal halide. Take a look at our LED ROI Calculator to find out how much money you could potentially save each year.