Outdoor LED Lighting:
The Definitive Guide
The need for energy-efficiency cannot be overstated, especially in the commercial sector. A report by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that in 2015, this sector consumed approximately 40% of the overall lighting electricity consumed nationally. It isn’t hard to see why this was the case, commercial and industrial properties need a lot of light, and at times, lights are switched on even during the day.
The report also mentions that when energy consumption is ranked according to lighting technology, HIDs, which are quite popular in the commercial industry, comprised 34% of all lighting systems used for lighting in that year. However, daily skyrocketing energy costs are pushing the commercial industry from its comfort zone to newer, energy-efficient light sources that combine high-quality lighting, ease of maintenance, and versatility in one neat package.
Commercial outdoor LED lights are quickly overtaking traditional commercial outdoor lights and are now lighting up public parks, parking lots, open spaces, docks, sports, and other outdoor spaces. LEDs have the ability to produce intense and uniform light for up to 100,000 hours. They have become the go-to sources of light for commercial lighting applications, improving security and making spaces more inviting to users.
LED Outdoor Fixtures
Where Are Commercial Outdoor LED Lights Used?
Commercial outdoor LED lights are very robust fixtures and are suitable for car dealerships, service stations, private or public parking lots, walkways, building entrances, building exits, building perimeters, streets, warehouses, garages, workshops and other outdoor spaces.
Installed on posts 10-100 ft high, they can be used to light up displays, signboards and other public spaces. They are very flexible in installation and different types of mounts can be used to install them.
Types of Commercial Outdoor LED Lights – and Their Advantages
High Mast Lights
High mast lighting is designed for outdoor areas that require strong safety and security lights. This kind of lighting is commonly found in transportation terminals, highways, airports, and shipping ports. The light fixtures are mounted at high points and focus light downward to the ground. High mast lights effectively illuminate large areas, providing a sense of security.
A high mast lighting pole can be as tall as 120 feet, and the light fixtures can be mounted at heights between 60-120 feet, depending on the particular height of the poles. A single lighting pole can have 4 to 16 lights installed on it, based on the lighting requirements. Traditional high mast lights utilized metal halide and high-pressure sodium light bulbs, which have some of the shortest lifespans and the highest maintenance costs of all lighting sources.
Both high-pressure sodium lights and metal halides have long warm up and cool down times, a feature that makes them very inefficient. LED lights may be newer to the market, but their many advantages over traditional lighting systems have endeared them to contractors, business owners, and facility managers.
Advantages of LED Outdoor High Mast Lights over Metal Halide High Mast Lights
- They are extremely precise and even at extremely high points none of their light is wasted. Traditional light bulbs, on the other hand, are multi-directional and disperse their light all over the place, sending most of the light where it is not required.
- They have a high color temperature that gives them the ability to reveal the true colors of objects. They help users to carry out tasks without experiencing visual discomfort. The lights also ensure surveillance cameras record minor details that are essential for security and safety.
- LEDs can last up to 100,000 hours, maintaining 70% of their illumination capacity to their life’s end. Some HID lights tend to shift colors with age – metal halides produce pinkish light at the end.
- Because LEDs are very robust and last so long, they are almost maintenance-free.
- LED lights do not require ballasts, unlike HID lights. They can also be switched on and off on demand. They produce no infrared energy and are not as dangerous as HID and fluorescent lamps.
- Commercial outdoor LED lights easily integrate with intelligent lighting controls that regulate the light intensity, the light output, and the lighting duration.
LED Shoebox Lights
Shoebox lights are used in areas that require broad-scope, intensely-bright lights. They pair perfectly with surveillance cameras, allowing them to record activities with ease – thanks to their high CRIs. LED shoebox lights have many advantages over HID lights. They are energy-efficient and are highly versatile. For this reason, they can be used to illuminate different environments and can be easily upgraded.
LED shoebox lights can directly replace 1000W-2000W HID shoebox lights and produce up to 60,000 lumens. Shoebox retrofit units can easily replace HID or fluorescent bulbs and lower both installation costs and time. The traditional bulbs are simply replaced with LED bulbs. LED shoebox fixtures have very little maintenance costs because of their long lifespan.
Advantages of LED Shoebox Lights
- Unlike HID bulbs that produce bright spots and dark spots and have poor light coverage, LEDs distribute their light evenly. They ensure that there are no dark or bright spots, enhancing both safety and security.
- LED shoebox lights can be dimmed without adversely affecting their lifespan, unlike HID lights.
- LED shoebox lights are available in a wide range of color temperatures and are perfect for use in different environments. They can be used to create a unique ambiance outside a commercial space.
- These lights are eco-friendly and are a great alternative to conventional lighting which is not. They use less electricity yet produce powerful, high-quality light, ensuring your energy bill stays low.
- LED shoebox lights are very tough in build and can be installed in areas with extremely low or high temperatures and still work effectively. Their performance actually gets better in low temperatures. They can also withstand higher temperatures better than traditional shoebox lighting fixtures.
LED Outdoor Flood Lights
These broad-beamed, high-intensity lights are perfect for sports venues and the exteriors of commercial spaces, thanks to their powerful lighting capabilities. They enable nighttime sports coverage, giving sports fans an excellent chance to let off some steam after a long day's work. They can also be used to highlight beautiful landscapes, pathways, and monuments.
Flood lights can also be used as temporary light solutions for venues that have no permanent flood lights installed. There are two types of floodlights: directional and area floodlights. These two are classified by their capability to regulate their light's distribution and intensity.
Directional flood lights are commonly used in façade lighting and architectural wall washing. They can be used to boost the visual appeal of architectural or structural features. Most area flood lights are found in outdoor stadiums, warehouses, and parking lots. These are areas that need high-intensity light that is well distributed.
LED outdoor flood lights are usually mounted with trunnion mounts, slip fitters, or straight arm mounts. Common shoebox light fixture wattage range between 400W and 1000W. Once you convert to LED, you will lower energy usage by up to 75% – even more if you add lighting controls.
High-quality flood lights are very sturdy and are built with aluminum casings to protect them from extreme temperatures, strong winds, rain, or storms.
Advantages of LED Outdoor Flood Lights
- LEDs have a high CRI which ranges between 80 and 95. Their high CRI mimics daylight, revealing even the slightest variations in colors.
- These lights do not have toxic substances in them and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- They are well-built and can withstand high-abuse and extreme temperatures and weather conditions.
- They are economically beneficial as they drastically reduce energy consumption and are low maintenance.
LED Outdoor Wall Pack Lights
Also known as wall mounted lights and wall packs, these lights are used to illuminate parking lots, landscapes, building perimeters, office complexes, and walkways. You will find them installed on vertical surfaces, on walls, or on lighting poles. They are normally used to light up outdoor spaces with heavy pedestrian and vehicular movement.
Wall pack lights work perfectly as surveillance lights and the best ones have certifications like DLC Premium Rating, UL Rating, and IP Rating. They are able to withstand harsh weather conditions of any kind.
These lights have very low glare values and are impact-resistant. Paired with lighting controls, they can be switched on and off at dusk or dawn or on demand.
Advantages of LED Outdoor Wall Pack Lights
- They are resistant to vibrations, external impact, and extreme weather conditions.
- They have no UV emissions or infrared radiation and are suitable for lighting up spaces that have heat-sensitive and temperature-sensitive materials. When traditional lights are installed in such spaces, the air conditioning has to be switched on to decrease the heat and temperature.
- They light up areas evenly, ensuring that no dark or bright spots are created. HID lights create shadows in dark corners, posing lighting and security challenges.
LED Outdoor Pole Top Lights
These lighting fixtures, which also go by the name post top lights, are used to light up street scapes, walkways, pathways, green spaces, campuses, parks, and gathering areas. They are great alternatives to HID and fluorescent pole top lights.
LED outdoor pole top lamps feature type III, type IV or type V light distribution and light up all areas around the lighting poles. The lights are typically mounted on poles with heights ranging between 7 ft to 20 ft. Multiple lighting fixtures can be mounted on one pole.
Because these lights come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, they can be used for decorative lighting purposes. You can pick from a wide range of color temperatures, and their light output and performance is superior to that of traditional pole top lamps.
When photocells are installed in the lights, they detect the brightness of the ambient light and switch the lights on at dusk and switch them off at dawn, cutting down energy costs. Motion sensors can also save energy by only switching on the lights when there is any activity.
Lighting Distribution Types for Outdoors
Type I Lighting Distribution
Type I distribution is great for lighting walkways, paths and sidewalks, or narrow roads. This type of lighting is designed to be placed near the center of the pathway. This provides good lighting for narrower paths or roadways. If the mounting height is equal to the width of the roadway, then Type I is a good choice.
Type II Lighting Distribution
Type II distribution is used for wider walkways, on-ramps for road ways, as well as other long, narrow lighting. It can accommodate roads wider than Type I. This type is meant for lighting larger areas and usually is located near the roadside. You'll find this type of lighting mostly on smaller side streets or jogging paths. For roadways, the width of the road should not be greater than 1.75X the mounting height.
Type III Lighting Distribution
The type III distribution is meant for general roadway lighting, parking areas and other larger areas where an area of lighting is required. Type III lighting needs to be placed to the side of the area, allowing the light to project outward and fill the area. Its throw is taller than Type II but its side to side throw is shorter. For roadways, the width of the road should not be greater than 2.75X the mounting height.
Type IV Lighting Distribution
The type IV distribution produces a semicircular light meant for mounting on the sides of buildings and walls. It's best for illuminating the perimeter of parking areas and businesses. Its projects further out front than Type III but its side to side throw is shorter than Type III. For roadways, the width of the road should not be greater than 3.75X the mounting height.
Type V Lighting Distribution
Type V produces a circular distribution that has the equal light distribution at all positions. This distribution has a circular symmetry of foot candles that is essentially the same at all viewing angles. It is great for parking areas or flooding large areas of light directly in front of the fixture. It is one of the most common distribution types available today.
Advantages of LED Outdoor Pole Top Lights
- They not only provide sufficient illumination, they enhance the aesthetics of a space because of their contemporary designs.
- They highlight landscape elements and enhance safety by offering bright, uniform light that increases visibility for drivers and pedestrians
- They are available in a variety of styles to suit different environments – from traditional to contemporary.
- They easily pair with lighting controls and can lower energy consumption by up to 90%.
- The lights last almost 10 times longer than HID and fluorescent bulbs; some are capable of providing light for more than 20 years.
- Commercial outdoor LED retrofit units are cheaper and much easier to install than new fixtures.
- The commercial outdoor LED lights sold by My LED Lighting Guide reduce light pollution because of their high-quality optics which control the light distribution and send the light where it is needed.
- Lighting controls and LEDs go well together, enabling easy manipulation of light intensity and output.
- Unlike conventional bulbs, LEDs do not burn out. They retain at least 70% of their light output as they age, emitting high-quality light for up to 100,000 hours.
- A high-quality LED that produces 50,000 lumens consumes a lot less energy than a HID lamp with the same lumen output.
- LEDs can be turned on and off on demand and have no warm-up or restrike times. They will save you a lot of money you could have spent on power bills.
- Traditional light sources emit light that is not powerful or bright. LEDs have higher color temperatures so the light they produce is identical to daylight.
- HID lights have low CRIs while LEDs have a CRI range of 80 to 95. This gives them excellent color rendering abilities.
- LEDs require neither reflectors nor ballasts and feature heavy-duty construction. This lowers their maintenance expenses.
- LEDs emit light that is focused. Older lighting solutions emit light in a 360-degree angle – and while this light is redirected by reflectors, some of it is usually lost to the surroundings.
Outdoor Lighting Controls
In today's world, facility managers and business owners have to do more with less. Shrinking budgets, expanding regulations and increased consumer demand require outdoor lighting systems that are not only cost effective and maintenance free, but deliver a safe, secure and inviting environment. A lighting strategy that incorporates efficient led lighting with onboard controls helps customers realize significant advantage and saving over lights only options.
It is not uncommon to find or want the use of lighting controls in parking lots and other large outdoor areas, installed in shoebox fixtures. They can also be found in other types of security lighting, like wall packs and flood lights.
Reduction in Energy and Maintenance Costs
Applying lighting controls can save an additional 20 to 50 percent savings over light alone savings, depending on how it is set up and your type of environment. The right control strategy can also have a positive impact on a project’s payback by reducing energy consumption and lowering maintenance costs and extending the life of the LED Fixture. Proper use of controls can even enhance commercial and industrial properties.
Reliable, high quality LED lighting improves visibility, which can help deter criminal activity around you property. But this does not mean your lights need to be on 100% all the time. Dimming your lights when no activity is detected will lower your utility bill and extend the life of the product. Think of it as the car you drive. It will last a lot longer if you drive it at 50 mph and not at the top range of 100 mph. Lighting is similar. Incorporating motion sensors on your lights ensures you have full bright when someone is around, and saving money when no one is near by. Dusk to dawn sensors ensures your lights are only on when they are needed.
Dusk to Dawn Sensors - Photocells
A dusk-to-dawn photo control allows fixtures to turn on / off based on outside light conditions. Simply put, they turn light on at night and off during the day, making this ideal for facility managers and business owners looking to reduce maintenance costs and save energy.
There are two photo control options that can meet these basic controls need fixture based photo control and circuit wide photo controls.
Fixture Based Photo Control
With fixture based photo controls, a photo control is installed on each fixture. An important point to consider when selecting the sensor for your fixture is expected life. Customers purchase LED solutions, in part, to reduce maintenance costs. If they have to maintain a sensor on each fixture, it becomes a needless maintenance cost. That is why we recommend you do not reuse photo sensors from old fixtures. These sensors are not expensive and the small extra cost may be worth the replacement in the future.
With this solution, fixtures located in shaded areas turn on sooner than other fixtures that may not be shaded, providing well lit areas even during early evening hours.
Many options are available, and the one you choose depends on the functions you are trying to perform. It must match with the Nema Socket of the fixture. They are typically easy to install, you insert them into the socket and twist lock them into place. If your fixture has a Nema Socket and you do not intend on using a fixture based sensor, then you must install a shorting cap to make sure the light is operational.
Circuit Wide Photo Controls
With circuit wide photo controls, a single sensor is located near an electrical panel that controls an entire leg of a circuit. At dusk, the photo control allows all of the fixtures on that circuit to turn on. At dawn, the lights will turn off automatically together. This option is frequently used instead of a timer.
A key benefit to this installation is that there aren’t any required options (Nema Socket) on the fixture when ordering, which means that this can be added to existing systems.
The trade off between both systems is flexibility versus simplicity. A system with individual sensors is more flexible and adaptable, but slightly more complex. A system with centralized photo sensor is simpler, but many not work well with other controls, like motion sensors.
Motion sensors allow for the detection of movement, and then signal the light to turn on or go to a predefined higher level of output, typically 100%. This type of on-off-dim setting is really dependent on the fixture and the driver you have, including the type of Nema socket. Being able to dim a fixture is an option when the fixture is installed with a 0-10V dimmable driver, otherwise, you are looking at an on-off scenario.
There are many different types of sensors available, one of the most common is Passive Infrared or PIR. And there is no one size fits all sensor, mounting height and field of capture can all be captured with the right control.
The best solution is to use a dimming system along side a 0-10V LED Driver. In this scenario, the dimmer, by setting on board toggles, will allow you to set the output at no-activity, output when activity is detected, and the amount of time no activity is sensed before it dims or turns off.