Let there be 
(more-efficient) light!

Let there be 
(more-efficient) light!

Upgrading to LEDs in parking lots drives big energy savings

Today, most retail facilities managers understand the benefits of indoor LED lights – they use far less electricity than fluorescent bulbs, they don’t produce as much heat, which provides additional energy savings, and their bright, powerful light showcases a retailer’s products.

A growing number of FMs have also discovered it pays to think outside the box regarding LED lights. Using LEDs to illuminate parking lots can lead to substantial energy savings, reduced maintenance costs and enhanced security for customers and employees. 

The results from the Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) campaign illustrate the energy savings possible by using LEDs to light parking lots. The LEEP campaign was a partnership spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) between 2012 and 2018.  It provided free guidance and recognition to organizations for installing high-performance, cost-saving lighting in parking lots and garages. 

During the campaign, LEEP participants upgraded or installed energy-efficiency equipment and/or lighting controls for more than 560 million square feet of parking facilities, representing 1.7 million parking spots, and those investments quickly paid off. In 2017 alone, LEEP participants saved more than 227 million kilowatt-hours and more than $23.6 million in energy costs – enough to power 21,000 homes for one year. 

One of the leading LEEP participants was Walmart, which first installed LEDs in 2012, on a one-year trial basis, in the parking lot of a store located in Rogers, Ark. In addition to energy savings, security guards were able to see the entire parking lot better and could more accurately discern color than with the incumbent high-intensity discharge system. Now, every new Walmart store has LED parking lot lighting, and retrofits are being completed wherever feasible.

Based upon the success of parking lot LEDs Walmart quickly installed the lights at 100 new and retrofitted stores, covering 40 million square feet of parking lots and more than 100,000 parking spaces. The company is saving more than 15 million kWh each year as a result of lighting upgrades, according to a DOE case study.

John Davidson, Senior Manager for System Designs at Walmart, said the impetus for the conversion to LED lighting began in the company’s international market, which prompted the launch of a sustainability initiative in the United States. 

Walmart also was seeking to address the persistent problem of crime in its parking lots since retail stores are responsible for customer and employee safety while on store grounds. 

 “We’ve been able to realize approximately 80 percent energy savings over the HID alternative and enjoy a reduced maintenance program, in addition to the enhanced visibility,” Davidson said. 

Other LEEP participants enjoyed similar energy savings. At a T.J.Maxx in Manchester, N.H., 28 high-pressure sodium lights and six metal halide lights, each 400 watts, were replaced with 25 LED lights, each controlled by an integral occupancy sensor that switches from low to high light output depending on whether movement is detected in the parking lot. 

The store experienced a 58 percent reduction in energy usage and recouped its investment in the upgrades in three years, partially due to the high local electricity rate of 14 cents per kWh. At the lower national average rate of 10.4 cents per kWh, the payback would have taken five years.  

Similarly, a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, switched from 1,000-watt metal halide lights to 309-watt LEDs and saved 69 percent on energy costs while noticing more uniform light distribution in the parking lot and better security. 

These energy savings are typical for chains that install LED lights in parking lots. According to LEEP campaign statistics, participants were enjoying energy savings of up to 70 percent and a reduction in maintenance costs of up to 90 percent because the LED lights can last two to five times longer than traditional outdoor lights. Those statistics have many retailers looking to upgrade. According to the Department of Energy’s 2015 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization, 23 percent of outdoor commercial spaces were using LED lights in 2015, up from only 8 percent in 2010.

By: Nick Fortuna

Published: December 17, 2018