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If you own a commercial property, then you must explore the option of switching to LED lights. These lights prove especially helpful for the parking lots and advantageous over the traditional light methods.

The lights in parking lots suffer a lot at the hands of the harsh environmental elements. This increases their maintenance needs to keep performing decently and ensure the safety of the people passing from the parking lots.

Higher saving of energy is one major advantage of using the LED lights but there is more to know. LED lights do not generate UV rays unless built otherwise. This makes the parking lots bug free and pleasanter for the pedestrians and passers.

The durability quotient of the LED lights is also higher as compared to other lighting methods that makes them low-maintenance and more damage resistant importantly. Thus, LEDs offer more than they take. What more would one need to decide to choose LED lights over others?

Now, what might come out as tricky is the method of upgrading the current light system with LED lights. You may want to know all about the process, the important factors, the right way to start, and much more. Read on as we present the complete LED Parking Lot Lights Buyer’s Guide.

Led Parking Lot Lights At Shopping Center

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 short.

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, the energy savings in the long term with their low maintenance demands will quickly offset the initial investment.

Cost of Installation

Installation of LED lights are no higher than the installation of any other traditional light sources. In fact, many new LED Fixtures are designed so that one man can safely and easily do 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, 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. Its best to check with your utility before you buy – or ask us – we can help with that.

How to make a savings estimate

1. Calculate your current fixture wattage along with the ballast draw.

You can do this calculation pretty easily. Multiply the wattage value of every bulb with 1.15 and you will have the total power consumption of every bulb.


2. Calculate the cost of electricity.

This is measured in kw/h with the common range of 0.045 to 0.30.


3.  What is the run time of your lights per day?

Three hours a day? 12 hours? Do they run the whole 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 the utility, then you can choose to switch.

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

LED Parking Lot LIghts

2. Do you already have existing lights? How are your 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 start by hiring an expert electrical contractor or any general 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:

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

3. Know about the various parking fixture mounts

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. Knowing the type of mount you need 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.


Another name used for these mounts is Yoke Mount. These mounts are mostly used for the floodlights and can be attached to walls, arms, and poles too. This remarkable flexibility of the mount helps it to be useful for various installation needs and accommodations.

Straight Arm

This mount can be attached to the light pole only and along with adapters when being attached to the circular poles. To these mounts on any pole, it is important to pre-drill them to enable them to fit with the bolt pattern.

4. How to decide the right distribution pattern for your parking lot?

We can’t overstate picking 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 in making them safe for employees and customers. Having a bright, evenly lit parking lot is ultimately the end goal you are trying to achieve. 

The answer on 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, adding poles, adding shoebox fixtures, and then calculating light levels and light distribution.

For the most part, when we do lighting plans for out customers, we use fixtures with Type 3 and Type 5 optics. 

Type III light distribution for parking lots

This distribution layout is meant for the parking spaces and general roadway areas. They are higher than Type II but shorter in width from them. Its 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 that makes it generate the same amount of light in all positions. It works great for spaces that need a lot of even lighting. Its ideal for poles mounted in the center of parking lots.

light distributon

5. Do you need to retrofit or not?

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

The new LED lights come with all the types of equipment need to change the current fixture. The set includes a light fixture with a slip fitter, trunnion, or a new arm.

However, you may have a condition where changing the light fixture altogether might not be a suitable option. If you have properly working well-maintained fixtures, then retrofitting is the best decision you must take.

Retrofitting helps you to change the previous 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.


Considerations if retrofitting makes sense

Current fixture condition

Cost estimate of the retrofit/fixture

Disposal cost

Compare retrofit vs. installation cost

Payback or rebate offer estimate

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

6. What LED wattage will be right for you?

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 amount of lumens a fixture produces instead.

Even among LED products, there is a huge variability on power consumed and lumens produced. You will always use less 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 cut sheet of the LED. If it’s not stated, divide its lumen production number with 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 of outdated technology.
Around 130 lumens/watt is a good target. Even better are lights in the 170+ lumens per watt range.
Check 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. What is the best color temperature?

For the most part, LEDs are available commercially between the color temperatures of 2700K to about 6500K. And 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. What does CRI refer to?

The quality of light is represented by CRI or Color Rendering Index. Here, understand that CRI denotes quality and Lumens denote 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 CRI ranges 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.

light bulbs cri

9. Rebates are available from your utility

Many utility companies give rebates on LED purchases and these rebates differ from company to company. However, why would a company do so you may think? The answer lays in the limited electricity generation capacities of companies.

One thing that can take off that pressure from the companies is lowered energy consumption that comes with savings of money and time of consumers too. Thus, the deal works well for both ends. LED lights have been a major facilitator of such convenience and efficiency-driven deals.

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

However, all companies don’t offer similar rebates. Every company fixes its rebated rates as per its policy. As per the Industrial and Commercial lighting standards, DLC or Design Light Consortium assesses the efficiency of LED lights as per their light testing standards.

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

10. Use Controls like Motion Sensors to save energy

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

Photocells to turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn

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

The photocell timer works by turning the lights on when it’s day and off when it gets dark. These work year-round and have unique functioning. Photocells automate the 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 they don’t need to keep functioning at their best all the time. The lights won’t really serve any purpose when the parking space is empty.

To optimize the light usage in such situations, motion sensors are a great option. These sensors don’t turn off the light just like that rather adjust the brightness based on situations. They are also great for safety tasks.

11. LED vs Metal Halide: What’s Better 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. Some can dim. Those that do work well with energy-saving light controls like motion sensors.

12. Can You Use Parking Lot Lights for other applications?

Yes, they can. We use them to light up sport courts,  tennis courts and basketball courts. We 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 Successfully Estimate LED Lighting for an Outdoor Parking Lot

There is no real need to estimate LED Lighting for parking lots. By creating a lighting plan first, it takes the guesswork out of determining how many lights you need. And what types of lights you need. From there, we can produce an estimate that provides you with a cost for the project.


Get a Free lighting plan for your parking lot

We offer free lighting plans for parking lots. This is to help you with knowing the best light distribution levels for your parking spaces or other commercial areas. Further, you become able to purchase LEDs risk-free.

Type Distributions

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.

See more posts by Dwayne Kula