Earlier this year, I attended the Parking Industry Exhibition in Chicago and the New England Parking Council Conference in Boston. Both events were terrific, and I met and reconnected with some very knowledgeable people in the parking garage arena.
It’s always interesting talking with people who are so well-informed and “in the know.” Just when I thought I had a good idea of what’s going with garage lighting, I find out what I don’t know. The technology is ever-changing.
I am neither an engineer nor would I consider myself the last word on garage lighting. My background is primarily media, but my career started in lighting shortly after college, when I helped a former high school classmate launch Boston Light Supply in Lynn, MA.
After several years of peddling lamps and ballast throughout New England, I followed my calling and spent the next few decades with some major media companies. However, looking back, I’d like to think that my early efforts in marketing were responsible for Boston Light Supply’s continuing success as a full-line lamp and ballast distributor.
No doubt the industry, especially technology, has changed since my early days in lighting. I recall the garage luminaires of choice back then as mercury-vapor, high-pressure sodium and metal-halide – and even incandescent. I can even remember low-pressure sodium lamps giving off that yellow light that made it impossible to distinguish the color of cars in garages.
Today, there are new names in the garage lighting arena producing greater lumens per watt, such as fluorescents, induction and LED. What to do?
As Director of Marketing and Business Development at IntellEnergy, I am often asked about various lighting options available to owners of multilevel garage and the advantages of one over another. That’s a tough question to answer when producing one type of fixture and not the other, while trying to maintain a semblance of honesty and impartiality.
I look at myself as a problem-solver, and if I can solve a customer’s problem by using another type of fixture, then so be it.
For example, at the Tampa Bay Medical Center, with garage ceiling heights of 14 feet, the photometry lent itself to the use of LED lighting, rather than fluorescent. However, most multilevel garages have ceiling heights no greater than 8 feet, and are better served with fluorescents. As such, I find myself a bit more partial to fluorescent than the other options.
Fluorescents have been around a long time, and although they were never really considered a suitable garage luminaire, they have emerged in the last 10 years as a viable option. There are a whole host of reasons for using vapor-tight fluorescent fixtures, but here are several reasons to seriously consider them.
GE and Sylvania have both introduced fluorescent lamps that are now rated up to 62,000 hours and ballasts rated at minus 20°F. Newly re-engineered reflector systems can give fluorescents a fixture efficiency rating of 90%.
Garage fluorescent fixtures are easily adaptable to accommodate sensors and controls, something that many owners/managers are considering.
Economically, fluorescent offers the best advantage over a 10-year period than the other options on the market today.
With all that said, induction and LED manufacturers make strong arguments for their fixtures as well, which leaves the garage lighting decision-makers in a quandary, coupled with the ever-changing technology in lamp and fixture efficiency.
This all presents an interesting set of circumstances. If the technology is changing so quickly, how does one decide what to do and when?
John Nolan, Director of Transportation Services at Harvard University, summed it up this way:
“Technology is ever-changing. Studying various options to achieve a best-valued solution is critical, but at some objective point in the process – understanding that something greater or better may arrive before you implement – you still have to ‘put a stake in the ground’ and get on with it. Otherwise, you will never move forward.”
Theo Tracy, Marketing and Business Development Director at IntellEnergy, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.