Supercharge Your Outdoor Lighting

March 22, 2016

Overhaul your exterior fixtures with LEDs to slash energy and maximize illumination.

When was the last time you paid attention to your exterior lighting? If it’s been a number of years since the last upgrade, your fixtures might be devouring energy while failing to deliver on aesthetics and safety. With energy demands that run from dusk to dawn, ditching high-pressure sodium or metal halide luminaires for LEDs will significantly reduce operational costs and improve the exterior appearance of your property.

Seeing is Believing

It doesn’t take much to spot bad exterior lighting, with its sickly amber color, unnerving shadows or eye-squinting glare. It makes people scurry through an area while glancing over their shoulder or searching the ground for tripping hazards.

Outdoor lighting has to fulfill more checkboxes than its cousins inside a facility. Good exterior illumination should:
■     Minimize glare and shadows to create a safe environment
■     Improve navigation and situational awareness
■     Enable facial recognition, signage readability and color rendering
■     Create nighttime visibility for marketing purposes
■     Illuminate areas to improve surveillance footage
■     Avoid light trespass and pollution
■     Preserve circadian rhythms for animals or nearby residential communities.

Now add energy efficiency, low maintenance costs and sustainability and you can see that balancing these objectives can be tricky.

Luckily, it’s easy to see with your own eye if exterior lighting isn’t meeting the mark. Test how easy it is to recognize a face at a distance, recommends Wendy Norman, National Account Sales for Eaton. Drop your keys and see if you can find them or try to read information in your hand; any difficulty is a sign that your lighting needs improvement. To verify perceived shortcomings, use a light level meter to measure footcandle levels.

Proper lighting, however, can go beyond numbers. “Outdoor illumination is insufficient if it’s falling short of the intended function. Maybe customers don’t feel safe or the architectural design is being overlooked,” explains Jeff McClow, Area and Site Product Manager for Hubbell Lighting. “Conduct a lighting audit to ensure light levels are based off on IES recommendations for illuminance values.”

Extend Savings with Controls

As you upgrade your fixtures, take a hard look at your control options. With the right capabilities, you can attain step dimming, tunable color temperature, reporting capabilities, maintenance alerts and outage notifications. Unlike incumbent technologies, which don’t react well to fluctuations in voltage, controls won’t decrease the lifespan of LEDs, says John Casadonte, Vertical Marketing Manager for Cree.

“LED fixtures are also easily controlled with wireless technology, which eliminates the need to run any additional wiring when changing out fixtures,” Norman states.  

We’ve gathered four projects that switched to LEDs to satisfy energy, aesthetics and safety goals. See the difference for yourself.  

Retail Plaza Shines Bright With LEDs
New pole and canopy LEDs slash energy by 48%.

Low-Maintenance Fixtures Deliver 53% Savings for Historic School
Eliminated high pressure sodium lighting and created more perceived light output.

Parking Garage Secures $116,000 Annual Savings with LEDs
Lowered yearly energy consumption by over 1,230,000 kWh and achieved a 3.5-year payback.

LED Lighting Satisfies Hotel Guest Experience
Uniform lighting creates an inviting atmosphere with portfolio savings projected at $1,750,000 per year.

Jennie Morton [email protected] is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS. 

About the Author

Jennie Morton

A former BUILDINGS editor, Jennie Morton is a freelance writer specializing in commercial architecture, IoT and proptech.

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