Magazine

A Smart Lighting Choice for Parking Areas

Kevin Orth

Parking lots and garages are familiar sites. But what drivers don’t realize are the many decisions that go into making that parking area aesthetically pleasing, easier to navigate, safer and more cost-efficient.
There are many considerations to make during construction and renovation of garages or surface lots, including important decisions about lighting. It can have a tremendous impact on the look and feel, as well as the bottom line
Many of us have driven into a lot at night that uses way too much light. The result is not only high electric bills for the owner/operator, but light pollution that affects neighbors and creates a glare. You don’t want to over-light the parking lot. You want to draw people into your building, not upstage it by creating a light curtain that is hard to see beyond.
If a parking lot or garage is over-lit, when people leave the establishment they have to re-adapt to the 1 foot-candle of street lighting. It could take several minutes for this to happen, particularly with older drivers, with the potential for accidents because of the extreme contrast.
Typically, developers and engineers specify high-intensity discharge (HID) sources such as high-pressure sodium or metal halide for outdoor use. However, there is a more cost-effective, energy-efficient and greater lumen-output choice: light-emitting diodes.
LEDs have been around for a long time. The small digital devices can be used to produce millions of different colors and brightness levels of light, but they use significantly less energy than traditional lighting methods.
Until recently, LEDs did not have the output necessary to match HID light sources. Previously, conventional approaches to developing general illumination LEDs often involved retrofitting existing fixtures to house the new LED technology. Many early attempts simply used traditional standards and housings, resulting in poor performance, inefficient lighting and lower fixture life.
LED Advantages
LEDs provide virtually no need for maintenance, plus tremendous energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, replacing a 175 watt metal-halide parking garage fixture with an LED one provides a 44 percent energy savings. The long life and reliability of LED light sources diminish maintenance costs, especially in large installations. Another advantage of LEDs over HID sources is that they re-strike instantly after a power interruption, which improves safety.
An LED does not burn out like a standard lamp, so individual diodes do not need to be replaced. Instead, they gradually produce lower output levels over a very long time. If one LED fails, it does not produce a complete fixture outage.
Many light sources in use today are not well-suited for cold environments. However, LEDs do not require any special equipment to deal with low temperature conditions, and they tolerate high heat and humidity. This allows for instant on/off control without specially designed circuitry.
Additionally, LED lighting for general outdoor use provides:
Durability – LEDs are solid-state devices containing no moving parts, no filaments or fragile glass to break, eliminating the risk of damage during transportation and installation. And unlike conventional light sources, LEDs are not subject to sudden failure or burnout.
Longer life span – LEDs last vastly longer than incandescent, fluorescent or HID lamp sources; even after 50,000 hours, it is still producing 70 percent of its original output.
I am quick to tell owners and developers that while some LEDs may fit into existing housing, that design won’t leverage their positive qualities. Retrofitting can’t handle the challenges of thermal management, and the optical design will likely fall short of the LED’s maximum efficiency.
Installing LED outdoor lighting for parking garages can also result in intangible benefits:
• Improved employee productivity and safety.
• Optimized operations.
• Regulatory compliance.
• Strategic maintenance planning.
• Reliability and reduced downtime.
• Public relations and shareholder value.
Meeting Needs
Both private and municipal lot owners and operators want to provide a safe and secure environment while also trying to control skyrocketing energy costs. Therefore, lighting is an essential component for the electrical design of the lot or garage. Light choices need to be energy-efficient, offer long lamp life and have a good “Color Rendering Index.”
Responsibilities
It’s important that I emphasize one other key factor that affects the owner of a parking lot or garage – the responsibility for maintaining it in a manner that is reasonably safe for people using it.
Inadequate lighting may lead to accidents involving falls due to unseen holes, cracks and uneven surfaces. Uniform lighting with adequate light levels can reduce these potential dangers and provide an inviting and safe environment for customers.
Both public and private owners of parking garages and lots can reap tremendous energy savings for themselves while providing improved safety and security for their patrons through the use of state-of-the-art LEDs for general purpose lighting.

Kevin Orth is National Sales Manager for Beta LED.
He may be reached at (800) 236-6800, Ext. 3132 or at Kevin_orth@beta-kramer.com.

Article Abstract from October, 2007




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