LED Parking Lot Lighting: The Complete Upgrade Guide

Tips and top considerations when upgrading your parking lot lighting

Are you considering making the switch to led parking lot lighting? There are major benefits including improved energy efficiency, reduced maintenance costs, and the delivery of a better first impression for your customers. This guide to LED parking lot lighting retrofits will show you why now is the time to swap out those old fixtures for LED technology.

What Lighting is Best for Parking Lots? HID vs LED

For many decades, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting technologies such as metal halide, high-pressure sodium, and mercury vapor were commonly found in parking lots and garages across the country. These parking lot light fixtures are still commonly found in shopping centers, car dealerships, and parking facilities. Is it still a quality parking lot light? Let's explore what the ideal choice is for, commercial parking lots, parking garage lighting, and general outdoor area lighting. 

Common Issues with HID Parking Lot Lights

As time goes on, the problems with HID lighting technologies have become more obvious.  The “big four” challenges include:

Energy Costs - HID lighting is very expensive to operate, especially as prices for electricity continue to rise.  

Lamp Costs - In the age of LED lighting, HID lamps and fixtures that were common years ago are now considered “legacy” products that come with higher and higher price tags.

Maintenance Costs - HID lighting fixtures need maintenance and repair much more often than LED lighting, and many times this work requires lift trucks and special equipment.  

Lighting Performance - HID lights start strong but experience lumen degradation over time, fade to a washed-out orange color or experience the blinking associated with a faulty ballast. Old bulbs struggle to provide enough light output in large areas.


Free Parking Lot Lighting Tool

Parking Lot Lighting Audit Guide

Includes a lighting audit worksheet that you can print for your team as well as a detailed bulb reference chart so you know exactly what you need for your upgrade.


Why Upgrade to LED Parking Lot Lighting?

Many property owners and managers have already decided to upgrade their exterior lighting and they have good reasons to do so.  The most obvious reasons to switch to LED parking lot fixtures and exterior wall pack lighting include:

  • Safety and Security - These issues are critical for all types of businesses.  A well-lit parking lot is a safer and more secure environment for employees and customers. Higher light levels and quality of light ensure fewer dark spots and more even light distribution.
  • Reduced Energy Consumption - Lower operating costs and energy bills are essential for every business, and energy-efficient LED parking lot lighting delivers immediate and dramatic energy savings.
  • Maintenance Cost Savings - Businesses that budget for annual parking lot lighting repair and maintenance know about high costs. LED parking lot fixtures have a considerably longer life allowing your maintenance staff to focus on other areas of need.

Considerations When Designing Your Parking Lot Lighting 

Do parking lots really need a lighting design?  Absolutely!

Parking lot lighting design does not simply involve color temperature or fixture location.  Lighting design involves everything from planning and preparation to advanced measures designed to save you money.

First of all, you’ve got to have a plan. Start by taking a complete inventory of the parking lot and adjoining areas. This inventory should list the total number of lights, the types of lamps, and the number and height of light poles. 

When you count lights, be sure to note which types of lights are used in different places. (Lights near lot entrances and doors might be different from those mounted further out in the parking areas.) 

Next, as you survey the lot, keep in mind the nature of your business, and what the lighting priorities are for your parking lot.  Remember this: more lighting does not always equal better lighting! Too much light or badly distributed lighting can cause light pollution or problems with glare.

Are other parking lots in the area well-lit? If so, how is their lighting distributed? For a parking lot the same size as yours, how many light poles are installed and how are they positioned? When thinking about a well-executed design, lighting distribution is key. Each parking space should be fairly evenly lit. 

Know the approximate square footage of your parking lot as well as the lumen output per fixture. Lumen output, not wattage, is the real indicator of lamp brightness.  Typically, there are municipal standards for total lumens, depending on the location of your business. 

Finally, the design phase is the best time to consider advanced lighting controls such as motion sensors and energy-saving timers. Most parking lots are lit for about 12 hours or more. Control systems will automatically turn lights on and off according to a schedule, letting you set up the timers and walk away.

Important considerations to keep in mind when designing your parking lot lighting include:

  • Are new installations involved, or do you only need replacement fixtures?
  • What are the replacement wattage values for each LED parking lot light?
  • Do you need to replace any existing light poles?
  • What are the lighting control options available to me?

Consider an LED Retrofit for Your Parking Lot Lighting

Every business owner understands the importance of running a tight ship. Efficiency, productivity, and cost-effective operations are all improved when you decide on an LED retrofit project for your parking lot.

How is it possible that something as simple as upgrading your lights could make that much of a difference? Consider the following: 

  • Your lights make up as much as 25% of your total energy consumption.
  • Well-lit spaces help customers and employees feel better and work better.
  • Studies show that better lighting reduces crime in businesses.
  • Reduced maintenance and repair expenses boost your balance sheet.

Can I Upgrade Lighting Myself Using an LED Conversion Kit?

For individual fixtures that are easily accessible, the DIY approach is a real possibility.  LED retrofit kits are widely available, and in fact, we offer leading brands on LED products and unparalleled customer service over at the FSG Online Store. We have lamps, fixtures, and retrofit kits for every commercial lighting application.

If your LED retrofit project is more extensive, however, or if it involves working at height, you really should consider calling a professional contractor with years of parking lot lighting experience. Parking lot pole lights are difficult to replace without proper equipment

Tech Parking lot

How to Choose LED Lighting for Parking Lots

Business owners and facility managers playing at the top of their lighting game understand that the goal of an LED retrofit project is to strike the perfect balance between lighting that is too bright or not quite bright enough.  Professional lighting suppliers like FSG understand how to deliver lighting at just the right level.

Most importantly, the intent should be to deliver uniform lighting levels across a lighting application with fixtures that use less energy.  Customers are more likely to stick around and shop when there are no dim zones or areas where the lighting is missing altogether.

Within that larger goal are many individual decisions that a lighting professional can help you make.  For instance…

What foot candle measurements apply to your parking lot?

A foot-candle is a lighting measurement that relates to the amount of light on the ground beneath a parking lot light.  This is not the output of the light, but rather the result of that output, and it can vary according to a number of environmental factors. 

Can I still get HID lumen levels with LED?

When replacing old HID parking lot lights with LED, you can get the same lumen levels using much less energy.

  • 60,000 lumens - 1500-watt metal halides vs. 450-watt LED
  • 40,000 lumens - 1000-watt metal halides vs. 300-watt LED
  • 20,000 lumens  - 400-watt metal halide vs. 150-watt LED
  • 10,000 lumens - 250-watt metal halide vs. 90-watt LED

What other characteristics make a parking lot look better?

LED's color rendering capabilities help you avoid "yellow" patches or different light colors around your lot.  Additionally, today's LED fixtures can be directed and focused like no other lights in the past, reducing light pollution and unwanted spillover for neighbors.

Work with a LED lighting expert

When you decide to work with FSG, our lighting experts will conduct an audit to determine current foot candle values, the proper placement of lighting fixtures, and the ideal lumen levels that will deliver safety and security for your customers and employees at night.


Are there Municipal Standards for Parking Lot Lighting?

Before moving forward with a parking lot lighting project, you must make sure your replacement lights are in line with municipal standards and guidelines. Municipalities around the United States have varying standards for parking lot lighting written into their municipal codes. 

These standards cover everything from the height of the fixtures themselves, to how bright they are, to rules about their usage.

Some areas require that buildings and businesses dim their lights after closing time. Others require that the light from the lot not interfere with passing traffic or adjacent properties. Virtually all codes call for a minimum foot-candle measurement

When you work with FSG, we will ensure your parking lot lighting complies with all applicable local codes and regulations.  We do this in the same way new construction projects proceed within the constraints of local building codes.

We begin every LED project by reviewing all applicable local codes and standards for outdoor lighting fixtures.  If approvals are required, we will submit the appropriate applications before proceeding with the work.

In most cases, we already know the relevant local lighting codes, and we are prepared to complete our lighting design without any questions.  Most importantly, we are always ready and able to provide you with the applicable information related to local lighting codes so that you can confidently know your lighting project falls within local government guidelines.

Request a Professional LED Lighting Assessment Today

If all you have is a question about the parking lot lighting at your place of business, we would love to help.  When you contact FSG, you will be placed in touch with local lighting experts who are familiar with your location and circumstances.

If a parking lot lighting project is in your future, take comfort in knowing that ​​our expert lighting designers and technicians are not limited to any one product line or service offering.  We are uniquely positioned to offer the lighting solution that works best for your specific application.  

Let us know if you have any questions about your parking lot lighting. Our lighting team can take care of the design, municipal guidelines, and handle the entire project turn-key while you focus on your business. Contact our team today at (877) 574-0353.

Free Parking Lot Lighting Tool

Parking Lot Lighting Audit Guide

Includes a lighting audit worksheet that you can print for your team as well as a detailed bulb reference chart so you know exactly what you need for your upgrade.


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