Anyone who owns or manages a commercial property knows that it’s important to properly illuminate parking areas. Parking lots require good quality lighting not only so that workers and visitors can see well, but it is just as crucial to provide safety and security. What’s more, your best option for these lights is LED because they are superior to traditional lighting in every way.

Unlike indoor lighting, parking lot lights must be able to withstand harsh environments. This includes excessive heat or cold along with rain and/or snow. Lights that are exposed to these conditions will require more maintenance than their indoor counterparts so that they can operate at an acceptable level at all times..

LED parking lot lights provide a great solution to maintenance concerns due to their durability and long lifespan. An additional benefit that they provide for most environments is that they don’t emit UV rays and therefore don’t attract insects. Combine their maintenance-free qualities with their exceptional energy efficiency and you’ve got yourself the perfect lighting solution that outshines all other lighting technologies in every conceivable way.

Converting your old parking lot lights to LED can seem like a daunting task, but not as much as you think. In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the important factors to consider so that you can confidently make the switch. You’ll be happy with the results!

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1. Is There a Need for You to Replace Your Parking Lot Lights with LEDs?

There are several main advantages to converting over to LED – better light – lower lighting bills – reduced energy costs. Moreover, you may have to replace your existing parking lot lights because the fixtures are failing.

Converting to LED is an investment, but one where energy savings can be applied to pay off the investment. Paybacks are quickly realized.

Real savings after payback are real and will last for many years with a light that needs little if any maintenance. You can make a payback assessment by considering several cost factors.

Warehouse light installation
Warehouse light installation
Warehouse light installation
Warehouse light installation

Cost of the Fixture

LEDs will cost you a bit more than other lights initially. However, energy savings in the long term with their low maintenance demands will quickly offset the initial investment.

Cost of Installation

Installation of LED lights is no higher than the installation of any other traditional light source. In fact, many new LED Fixtures are designed so that one man can safely and easily perform the installation. Gone are the days when you need two men in a lift to install one light.

Cost of Disposal 

Metal halides and Fluorescents contain mercury. You cannot just dispose of these in a landfill. The good news is, once you convert to LED, your days of paying for hazardous disposals are over.

Possible Rebates

Many utility companies incentivize the purchase of LED lights in the form of purchase rebates. It’s best to check with your utility provider before you buy – or ask us – we can help with that.

How to Make a Savings Estimate


A. Calculate Your Current Fixture Wattage Along with the Ballast Draw.

You Can Do This Calculation Pretty Easily. Multiply the Wattage Value of Every Bulb by 1.15 and You Will Have the Total Power Consumption of Every Bulb.

B. Calculate the Cost of Electricity

This is Measured in Kw/h with the Common Range of 0.045 to 0.30.

C. What is the Run Time of Your Lights Per Day?

Three Hours a Day? 12 Hours? Do They Operate All Day?

Check these guidelines:

  • If you see a higher kw/h cost, then you can choose to switch.
  • If you see a higher run time, then you can choose to switch.
  • If you see good incentives like great rebate offers from your utility provider, then you can choose to switch.

If all the options listed above are occurring at the same time, then you should definitely opt for an LED conversion.

LED Parking Lot LIghts

2. How are Your Current Light Levels?

Assuming you already have poles, how are the light levels? If you like what you have, then converting to LED is easy. If you need more, that’s when a lighting plan will help.

You can begin by hiring any general contractor or an expert electrical contractor to carry out the process better. At the same time, knowing about the current and the new lighting system will prove useful for you. Here is a list of other things that you need to know before starting the process:

Choose The Right Led Parking Lot Lights

  1. Know the type of your current fixture. Take a picture if you’re not sure.
  2. Identify the mounting type and base of the fixture. This can be a pole, wall mount, fitted with a trunnion, slip fitter, etc. Take a picture. Show it to an expert salesperson for accurate identification.
  3. Identify the type of light bulb. This can be high-pressure sodium or metal halide.
  4. Determine the wattage. This is typically 400 Watts or 1000 Watts.
  5. Determine the line voltage and phase. This is typically 277V or 480V or belongs to single or three-phase.
  6. Determine the current cost of your electricity.
  7. Identify your utility company.
  8. Determine the running hours of your current lights.
  9. Determine if you currently use (or want to use) any controls like timers or photocells to save even more on energy costs.
  10. Assess your current lighting requirements and if the current lights meet them. The new solution can fix any issues.
  11. Assess the lifespan of your current lights and see if retrofitting can make things better.

3. Understand Parking Lot Fixtures Mounting Options

You may not have paid enough attention to this part before but it is equally important to know about the right type of mount you will need. Understanding this will smooth out any installation issues down the road.


Parking Lot Light Mounts

SlipFitter Mount
Trunnion Mount
Straight Arm Mount

Slip Fitter

This mount for parking lot lights can be used to set the light fixtures on a bull horn. These mounts can be inserted into the tenons that are commonly 2 to 3/8 inches in diameter.


Also known as a Yoke Mount. These mounts are mostly used for flood lights and can be attached to walls, arms, and poles too. The remarkable flexibility of the mount make it useful for various installation needs and accommodations.

Straight Arm

This mount can only be attached to light poles. For circular poles, adapters are required. Pre-drilling will be required so that they will fit with the bolt pattern.

4. Choose the Right Distribution Pattern

We can’t overstate the importance of selecting the right optic for your needs. Choosing the right optic or distribution pattern, can make the difference between a successful project and one that comes up short.

Optimal lighting in a parking lot only helps to make them safer for employees and customers. Having a bright, evenly lit parking lot is ultimately the end goal you are trying to achieve.

The answer to how to select the right light and pattern lies in developing a lighting plan. A lighting plan uses specialized software to model spaces like parking lots. It adds poles, adds shoebox fixtures, and then calculates light levels and light distribution.

For the most part, when we do lighting plans for our customers, we use fixtures with Type III and Type V optics.

Type III Light Distribution for Parking Lots

This distribution layout is meant for parking spaces and general roadway areas. They are mounted higher than Type II but are shorter in width. It’s the perfect choice for lighting on the edges of the parking lot area.

Type V Light Distribution for Parking Lots

This distribution type is circular and generates the same amount of light in all positions. It works great for spaces that need a lot of even lighting. It’s ideal for poles mounted in the center of parking lots.

5. Retrofit or New Fixtures

Retrofit kits turn out to be extremely useful when you want to replace your bulbs without needing to replace the light fixture too.

New LED lights come with all the types of equipment needed to change the current fixture. They include a light fixture with a slip fitter, trunnion, or a new arm.

However, you may have a situation where changing the light fixture altogether might not be a suitable option. If you have functional and well-maintained fixtures, then retrofitting is the best option.

Retrofitting allows you to replace the existing bulb/ballast with new LED lights within the same fixture. It makes perfect sense if you have a substantial investment in a light fixture and a new fixture would not work.


Retrofit Considerations:

  • Current fixture condition
  • Cost estimate of the retrofit/fixture
  • Disposal cost
  • Compare retrofit vs. installation cost
  • Payback or rebate offer estimate

Retrofit Kits For Parking Lot Lights

However, you may need more information to make the right decision. We can help you by providing info on all the parking lot lighting types along with tips on light retrofitting and replacements.

6. Choose the Best LED Wattage

A watt is defined as a unit of power. But because LEDs are so much more efficient than other traditional sources of light, they can produce equivalent effective lumens while using less energy.

Therefore, using “watts” is not a good comparison. You should focus on the number of lumens a fixture produces instead.

Even among LED products, there is a huge variability in power consumed and lumens produced. You will always use fewer LED Watts than the watts consumed by a traditional light source. Here’s a checklist to help you make the decision:

  • Check the lumen production rate on the specification sheet of the LED. If it’s not stated, divide its lumen production number by the watt consumption number and you will get the result.
  • If the rate is less than 130 lumens/watt, then the LED you have chosen is outdated technology.
  • Around 130 lumens/watt is a good target. Even better are lights in the 170+ lumens per watt range.
  • Check the Design Lights Consortium (DLC) qualification. If it is DLC Listed or rebate eligible, then the light is probably not a good choice.

How to Understand This in Terms of Watts.

For 110 Lumen/watt, You Will Need:

  • 10,000 lumens can be produced with 90 Watts.
  • 20,000 lumens can be produced with 181 Watts.
  • 50,000 lumens can be produced with 454 Watts.

For 130 Lumen/watt, You Will Need:

  • 10,000 lumens can be produced with 76 Watts.
  • 20,000 lumens can be produced with 153 Watts.
  • 50,000 lumens can be produced with 384 Watts.

For 160 Lumen/watt, You Will Need:

  • 10,000 lumens can be produced with 62 Watts.
  • 20,000 lumens can be produced with 125 Watts.
  • 50,000 lumens can be produced with 312 Watts.

7. Choose the Optimal Color Temperature

For the most part, LEDs are available commercially between the color temperatures of 2700K to about 6500K. Even though this is the effective range, by far the most popular color choices are:

  • 4000K – a warm white light
  • 5000K – a whiter, but not harsh, light, closely resembling Metal Halide.

Color Temperature Bulbs

8. Understanding CRI and Light Quality

The quality of light is represented by CRI or Color Rendering Index. Here, understand that CRI denotes quality and Lumens denotes quantity. The higher the quality, the less quantity is required. Objects look better under high-quality light.

  • Objects and items appear yellowish when seen under High-Pressure Sodium (2200K) light as their typical CRI is around 20.
  • The same objects look more natural and appealing under LED, whose CRI ranges from 70 to 95+.
  • So, what would be the right CRI for you? The answer lies in your needs.
  • A CRI of around 70 would be good for parking spaces. For car dealerships where making cars look appealing is part of their business, 80+ CRI would be a good choice.

9. Rebates are Available from Your Local Utility

Many utility companies give rebates on LED purchases and these rebates differ from company to company. You may be wondering why a utility company would offer this. The answer lies in the limited electricity generation capacities of companies.

One thing that can take the pressure off utility companies is reduced energy consumption by consumers. The benefit for consumers is a lower energy bill. Thus, the deal works well for both sides. LED lights have been a major contributor to these arrangements.

You can save up to 75% on energy bills by choosing a 100-watt LED over a 400-watt Metal Halide which is a great deal.

However, not all utility companies offer the same rebates. Each one fixes its rebated rates based on its policies. As per the Industrial and Commercial lighting standards, the DLC or Design Light Consortium assesses the efficiency of LED lights according to their testing standards.

The lights must pass these standard checks to get the DLC certification. Their two major standards include DLC and DLC Premium. The most efficient LEDs get DLC Premium certifications, and you can avail yourself of higher rebates on these fixtures.

10. Use Motion Sensors to Save Energy

Simply switching to LED lights will bring you great savings on energy bills but did you know you can save even more? Well, check out our parking light controls. These automate the power settings of lights which allow them to be turned on only when needed.

Photocells Turn Lights on at Dusk and off at Dawn.

It is commonly observed that parking lots aren’t required much in the daytime unless the weather outside is cloudy. While you may be okay with manually operating the lights, that only wastes your time and won’t prove useful in times of sudden situations.

A photocell timer works by turning the lights off during the daytime and on when it gets dark. These work year-round and have unique functions. Photocells automate light control by sensing the amount of light in the environment.

Dimming and Motion Sensors

Good lighting ensures a lot of things including safety, security, and appearance but it’s not always necessary to function at full capacity all the time. The lights don’t serve any purpose when the parking space is empty.

To optimize light usage in such situations, motion sensors are a great option. These sensors don’t always turn off the light completely but instead, they can adjust the brightness based on situations.

11. Comparing LED vs Metal Halide for Outdoor Parking Area Lighting

LED lights have lumen packages that can match the output of HID bulbs, one for one. They do so at an energy savings of 50% to 80%. Depending on the type of HID bulb, their quality of light is far superior. The long lifespan of LED lights in general, when compared to HID, means that they are far less costly to maintain.

All LEDs can be instantly turned on and off. Most can be dimmed. Those that do work well with energy-saving light controls like motion sensors. They also work well with energy-saving light controls like motion sensors. HIDs do not have this capability. There are “warm-up” periods in which they take time to reach their full brightness after being turned on.

12. Using Parking Lot Lights for Other Applications

Yes, you can. For example, you can use them to illuminate tennis courts and basketball courts. You can also invert them when needed as they also make the perfect billboard light fixture.

13. How Long Do LED Parking Lot Lights Last?

Most commercial businesses use parking lot lights, on average, 12 hours a night or 4380 hours per year. Over 10 years, that computes to 43,800 hours of life. Most quality parking lot lights should easily last 50,000 hours or more.

14. How to Estimate LED Lighting for an Outdoor Parking Lot

There is no real need to estimate LED Lighting for parking lots. Developing a lighting plan first takes the guesswork out of determining the quantity and type of lights you need. From there, we can produce an estimate that provides you with the cost of the project.

Dwayne Kula

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About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

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