LED Parking Lot Lights


Let’s cut to the chase. Whether you are planning to replace your older HID lamps or are in the process of constructing a completely new parking lot – there’s generally two options to choose from.

While shoeboxes are the most common types to use for new parking lots, LED corn bulbs are usually used for retrofitting and thus keeping your existent fixtures.

Of course, there are other alternatives that may fulfill your lighting needs.

For example, flood lights are sometimes used to light parking lots. Despite their commonly known ability to provide excellent directional light, there are flood lights that are able to distribute their output in angles that suit larger areas such as parking lots. Another example are LED wall packs which can definitely be the right product for a parking lot – as long as the lots are situated close to a building.

Regardless of your decision to retrofit or to install new fixtures, there are three major aspects to consider as you decide on your parking lot lights:

  1. The quality and quantity needed
  2. Incorporating lighting controls – save energy and costs
  3. Installation and mounting

After understanding these three steps, you can feel confident in buying the LED parking lots that suits your needs – resulting in well-lit parking lots that saves both energy and money.

Determine the Quality & Quantity Needed

Not all parking lots are the same. Apart from the difference in shape and size, different parking lots may require different types of LEDs depending on who will be parking in the lot. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) continuously performs research within this area and provides recommendations for light levels for different application areas. For example, parking facilities in high security and emergency areas need to have more light to facilitate operations. Therefore, lights in close connection to a typical office building will be different from lights in a hospital parking lot.

But remember, more light does not necessarily equal better quality.

For this reason, when selecting the light, you must keep in mind the requirements of surrounding equipment such as security cameras as well as the people frequenting the area. Too much contrast of light and dark can not only keep security cameras from performing optimally, but also makes it less safe for people and vehicles. The goal is to keep the lighting uniform by distributing the light evenly across the area.

LEDs are built to distribute light evenly – but you should also play your part by creating the right layout and design for the parking lot.

Consider Lighting Design

The installation process has a lot to do with their effectiveness at illuminating the area. They must be able to deliver even, crisp, glare-free light across the lot. But since parking areas are of such diverse shapes and sizes, we can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to the lighting layout. Make sure you take these three elements into account when setting up lighting in your parking lot.

Deciding on the light distribution will help you figure out which fixtures to use.

Here are the six types of light distributions commonly used:

  • Type I
    This one’s great for illuminating walkways, narrow roads, sidewalks, etc. The light is positioned at or near the center of the path to adequately light up the way.
  • Type II
    Light up wide walkways or extended narrow areas with the type II distribution type. These are used to illuminate larger areas, i.e. close to the roadside. You’ll find this type of lighting along jogging tracks and side streets.
  • Type III
    This one’s perfect for general parking lots or pretty much any type of large area that needs plenty of lighting. The light is selected according to the size of the area and it projects the illumination outwards, thereby flooding the space with plenty of light.
  • Type IV
    This type disseminates light in a semicircular area; it is meant to be mounted on the sides of buildings, perimeters, and adjacent parking areas.
  • Type V
    Type V produces a circular distribution with uniform light intensity at lateral angles. You can find these LEDs mounted at intersections and the center of roadways. It’s also great for large commercial parking lots.
  • Type VI
    Type VI has a square distribution of light, but again with the same intensity at all angles. It works well at intersections, center islands in parkways, near the center of roadways, etc. Again, since this type also uniformly distributes light across large areas, it is often deployed in large commercial parking lots.

Consider Uniformity and Foot-Candle Ratio

The best kind of parking lot lighting is uniform, so there is no contrast between dark and lit areas.

Uniformity is the ratio between the average and lowest reading of light in a particular area. Now, if the average light level is 5 foot-candles and the lowest light level reaches 2 foot-candle, the ratio will be expressed as 5:2.

Note: A foot-candle is a unit of light intensity, i.e. it measures how bright and uniform light is.

While a ratio of 3:1 is optimal for parking lots, the requirements change based on the time of day, the volume of traffic and the safety requirements. For example, the parking lot of an amusement park won’t need as much illumination as that of a bank.

Consider the Color Temperature (Kelvin)

Color Temperature in Kelvin 2000K – 3000K 3100K – 4500K 4600K – 6500K
Light Apperance Warm white Cool white Daylight
Ambience Cozy, inviting and intimate Vibrant and bright Crisp and refreshing
Best For Commercial lighting, restaurants, tables and floor lamps Basements, garages and offices Security lighting, display areas, parking lots, etc.

The term color temperature does not refer to the ambient heat or cold in our surroundings, but the color of the light produced by the LED.

Higher color temperature makes for cooler lights and lower color temperature means warmer lights. So, an LED with 5000 K (Kelvin) will be bright like sunlight, but a warmer 2700 K would be like a low, warm amber flame. Generally, LED lighting color temperatures vary from 2300K to 6000K.

HID bulbs and sodium lamps that were used in parking lots previously had a warm color temperature. As a result, they were considered unsatisfactory for secure environments such as banks, hospitals and car dealerships.

Parking lot LEDs are being adopted quickly because these produce blue or white light, which is why they are effective at uniformly lighting up vast spaces like commercial parking lots – and lend extra safety and security for sensitive businesses.

Incorporate Lighting Controls

Save energy and costs

With new technological advancements, parking lot lighting has become quite energy efficient. LED lights consume up to 80% less electricity than traditional lighting, while also delivering better luminosity, brightness, and uniformity.

Still, to improve luminaire efficiency and to minimize wasteful use of energy, LED lights should turn on in the evening and turn off at dawn. However, it is reported that most parking lot lights remain on for more than 13 hours a day.

Lighting controls can help you automate the process by circuiting the LEDs on the lot to reduce the output or completely turn off, depending on the time. For example, some parking lots aren’t used during late nights and with the right lighting control, you can program them to reduce the lighting during those hours automatically.

These controls save energy while contributing to the longevity of your parking lot LEDs. However, there are different ways to control the output of your LED lights.

You can deploy lighting controls such as dusk to dawn photocells (switch on when the sun is going down and switch off when natural light comes back, bi-levels (reducing light output at a pre-programmed time), motion sensors (turn on when movement is detected in the area) and astronomical clocks (turn the LED on and off depending on the seasons).

Addressing The Cost-Effectiveness Of LEDs

It’s not just about the pricing – when buying LEDs for your parking lot, figure out the payback period, ROI, lifecycle costs, as well as the savings to investment ratio.

Use our lighting calculator to get a better overview of the return on investment your change in lighting will give you. It may also be worth to read the FEMP life-cycle cost analysis tools which may help you when analyzing the investments you want to make on your construction projects.

Installation & Mounting

You should choose lighting mounts for your parking lot LEDs depending on the poles in your area.

Whether you are retrofitting the lights or installing new LEDs, make sure you know that the mount you choose works well with the fixed poles.

These are the three most popular types of mounts:

Slip Fitter Mounts

Slip fitter mounts can be installed on 2 3/8-inch-wide lighting poles - they also have adjustable heads so you can direct the light where you want to, thus illuminating specific areas only.

These mounts can be installed horizontally or vertically, so you get the flexibility to direct the light upwards or downwards even, depending on the circumstances.

Direct Mount (Straight Arm Mount)

This one’s the best-looking of all, as it can be discreetly incorporated into the pole itself. It can safely hold PLT fixtures weighing up to 110 pounds and can be installed on square poles that are 3.2 inches wide or more.

Straight arm mounts are often used in LED retro-fitting projects where square poles are involved as they have preinstalled direct arm mounts. All you need to do is buy new parking lot LEDs and get them installed in 4 simple steps.

You’ll find two bolts to lock them onto the lighting poles, ensuring they’re secure. But know that this is the least flexible of all your options, so choose wisely.

Trunnion Mounts

These are known for their versatility and can be used in some unusual situations that require creative mounting. Trunnion mounts are also excellent for directing light to particular areas if need be.

Reasons to Buy LED Parking Lot Lights

For years, High-Intensity (HID) Discharge light fixtures were used to illuminate parking lots.

In recent times however, there has been a growing trend to replace them with new LED lights. HIDs have several downfalls that have made the technology redundant – for starters, they aren’t visually appealing and then there’s the bigger problem that they consume a lot of power. Despite the high consumption in energy, the overall light quality is low and they are quite expensive to maintain.

On the other hand, LED parking lot lights provide several benefits ranging from energy to safety aspects:

  • 1. Significant Energy Savings

    Street lighting accounts for 30 percent of the electricity provisioned for outdoor lighting and 60 percent of it is spent on parking lots.

    According to some estimates, the United States could save 662 trillion BTUs, i.e. enough power for 5.8 million U.S. homes for one year—by simply switching outdoor lighting to LEDs.

    Since LED lights range from 40 Watts to 600 Watts, this means a 40 to 60% reduction in energy bills for the parking lot. This means that your facility could save up to $300 per fixture in electricity costs every year.

  • 2. Reduced Maintenance Costs

    Compared to other types of lights, LEDs don’t burn out and stop working. Instead, an LED light will in a extremely slow manner gradually reduce in brightness which significantly reduces the replacement and reinstallation costs.

    Additionally, extreme weather – hot or cold – has little to no impact on LED lights. They are also highly resistant to breakage, turn on to full brightness immediately with no IR or UV emissions to worry about.

    Type of Cost 400W HID Fixture 150W LED Fixture
    (400W Equivalent)
    Fixture N/A $8,500 (25 Structures)
    Installation N/A N/A
    Relamp Time Every 3 Years N/A
    Group Relamp $150 - $300 N/A
    Bulb Only Group Relamps $3,750 - $7,500 N/A
    Ballast Kit for Group Relamping $3,000 N/A
    25 Ballast Kits for Group Relamping
    (Every 3 Years)
    $6,750 - $10,000 N/A
    Yearly Maintenance Costs Up to $3,500 $0
    HID Maintenance Costs vs. LED Fixture Costs @11-Hour Use Per Day
  • 3. Lighting Performance

    LED parking lot lights deliver high-quality lighting compared to HID alternatives. These are a great option for parking lots because of how they produce and distribute light. Specifically, Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are outfitted with a semi-conductor that generates light while HIDs actively consumes a ‘fuel source’ to create light.

    When it comes to light distribution, LEDs have ‘multi-point sources,’ i.e. multiple diodes with individual optics and the result is a more evenly distributed and brighter light. In contrast, HIDs are outfitted with only one bulb that is surrounded by reflectors within the fixture. Also, LEDs are available in a range of color temperatures, making it easy to find warmer or colder types of lights for your parking lot.

  • 4. Lifespan

    It takes a very long time for an LED to stop working entirely and this is called lumen depreciation. Some even estimate the functional life of an LED to be more than 100,000 hours. More conservative figures put this number at 80,000 hours; but even that is eight times longer than metal halides and halogen alternatives.

  • 5. Good At Rendering Colors (High CRI)

    LED bulbs have a color rendering index of 80 and higher, so they can help us see the real colors of objects around us. This means that if parking lots are well-lit with LED lights, drivers and pedestrians would be able to spot any obstructions in their way, thus decreasing the chances of accidents.

    It’s important to note that parking lot LEDs should have a higher color rendering index and a higher color temperature.

  • 6. Create a Safe Environment

    The National Safety Council recounts that tens of thousands of crashes happen in parking lots and garage structures each year.

    Good lighting can make parking lots safer, deter crime, and prevent accidents.

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