Maximizing Your Parking Facility’s Lighting Efficiency


Maximizing Your Parking Facility’s Lighting Efficiency

As anyone in the parking garage business will attest, lighting is one of their greatest concerns for both cost of operation and safety. This is especially prevalent in older parking facilities using traditional HID and T12 fluorescent technology.
Inefficient, high-maintenance lighting has a detrimental impact on profitability with most parking garages, because lighting is required 24/7, 365 days a year. The cost of lighting is one of their greatest expenses, followed by the cost of fixture maintenance.
Equally important is pedestrian safety. Poor-quality illumination and inoperable fixtures are generally the causes of preventable vehicular and pedestrian accidents and personal assaults. Studies have shown that poor lighting has a direct effect on revenue, and report that drivers will select a well-lighted, bright parking facility before they enter a dark one.
Whether building a new facility or retrofitting an existing site, you now have many choices in efficient lighting.
New pulse-start metal-halide delivers quality lighting and a reduced cost of operation compared with their older probe-start partners, but they lack instant-on capabilities.
New linear fluorescent luminaires using T5 HO and T8 lamps offer a less expensive initial cost, with low cost of operation. Their life is reasonable, but there are issues with on/off cycling, because it shortens the lamp’s life and limits use of motion or day-lighting sensors.
There are also induction sources that offer extra-long life of 100,000 hours and good reliability. However, due to the emergence of LED (light-emitting diode), induction sources are becoming a dying breed.
LED luminaires such as ValueLED Parking Garage Luminaire from Stonco are fast becoming the luminaire of choice, because they offer more operational flexibility than any of the other sources. They have a long operating life of up to 60,000 hours, have instant-on, are dimmable and require minimal maintenance.
Although LED fixtures are typically more expensive than other sources, their cost is steadily going down. Still, many parking facility owners remain hesitant to invest in LED in fear of being left behind as improved luminaires are introduced. The key is investing in LED lighting fixtures from quality manufacturers.
But lights are not as efficient if they remain on when they are not needed. Manual sensors can be included in places such as the building perimeter, but they are not nearly as efficient as they could be to take advantage of off-hour operation and daylight harvesting.
A recent development in lighting management systems has changed all that – wireless controls.
As the name implies, they require no hard wiring, saving thousands of dollars on installation. They allow greater control flexibility of the lighting system, which can translate into additional energy savings. (LED luminaires alone typically reduce energy use by up to 50%. Adding a wireless controller opens up the possibility of additional energy savings.)
Luminaires can be preinstalled with a two-way radio and motion sensor. Once the fixtures are installed, they are operational and act as normal fixtures, even if the “brains” of the control system have not been installed or the system commissioned. This prevents any delays in putting the garage in operation if so desired.
The system allows you to calibrate any fixture to whatever light output is appropriate during day or night – from 0% to 100%. It operates and controls large or small zones, an entire floor, or an entry area – or even down to a single fixture. But by controlling large zones, you eliminate the “popcorn effect” of single luminaires going on and off as you would have with fixtures controlled by individual motion or daylight sensors.
Every fixture becomes a node of the high-density mesh infrastructure that is centrally controlled. After the commissioning has been performed, the system continually monitors and adjusts light levels to desired specifications during the day and reacts immediately to motion in the evening hours.
Because a control system such as this utilizes motion and daylight sensors, energy savings can increase from 50% (with no control system) to 70% by maximizing those during the day and night time hours. Payback can be achieved in as little as three years, depending on the condition of the existing system and the price paid per KWh. An added benefit of installing a wireless controller is that it increases the LED luminaire’s life by about 30% because the fixture remains off or at reduced power longer than if no controller were installed.
A well-designed wireless system is also a great management tool. Managed and monitored via the web through a mini-computer allows for management of schedules, events, reporting, light output and maintenance – all at the fingertips of the user.
It’s ideal for owners/managers having multiple facilities because the system allows all sites to be managed from a single location. Energy consumption and traffic activity can be quickly reviewed and reported.
The system immediately reports outages as well as vandalized fixtures via the web, allowing you to react quickly on the repairs. This is an especially important feature for pedestrian safety, reducing the possibility of litigation due to improper maintenance.
Finally, a LED/wireless controller system is good for the environment. By reducing the 6.5 billion kilowatt hours wasted yearly on parking garage lighting, you can do your part by operating your facility in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.
Barret Gorman is Director of Marketing at Crescent/Stonco Supply Division, a Philips Group brand. He can be reached at
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Barret Gorman
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