Outdoor Lighting Toolkit

Outdoor lighting is often overlooked during an energy-efficiency upgrade, but since it can consume a significant amount of energy, it makes sense to give it the same consideration as indoor lighting. Upgrading the outdoor lights on a building or lot can save large amounts of both energy and money on your monthly electricity bill. They also last longer and even increase the safety and security of your property.

The most common types of outdoor lighting are:

  • High Intensity Discharge
  • Incandescent
  • Induction
  • Linear Fluorescent
  • Compact Fluorescent
  • LED

To learn more about each of these lighting types, refer to the Common Lighting Types Toolkit.

Upgrading to LED Lamps and Fixtures:

Similar to indoor lighting upgrades, outdoor fixtures, such as wall packs and streetlamps, can be upgraded to newer LED versions. In fact, each of the common outdoor lighting types listed above has an energy-saving, LED substitute. Since outdoor lights often rely on high wattages to provide sufficient lighting levels, switching to LEDs can result in significant savings.

For example, switching from a 100-watt metal halide wall pack to a 30-watt equivalent LED corn bulb that runs for 10 hours each night would save 358 kWh in one year. Assuming an electric cost of $0.08/kWh, you would see nearly $30 in savings every year for each wall pack you replace.

Upgrading to newer, more energy-efficient lights also has other perks. Upgraded fixtures typically have a longer lifespan, work better in extreme cold environments, provide a better quality of light, and can reduce light pollution by focusing light more where it needs to be – on the ground.

Solar-powered fixtures:

Fixtures that don’t require as much high-output light, such as pathway lights or bollards, can be replaced with solar-powered versions. Usually fitted with a daylight sensor, these lamps absorb energy from the sun during the day and use that energy to illuminate walkways at night. This is a great way to safely light a walkway or area without increasing your electric bill.

Lighting Controls:

Another way to reduce energy use on your outdoor lighting is to install or update lighting controls. Lighting controls automatically adjust lighting in a space as required. Below are a few of the most common types:

Daylight sensors: Operated through use of photocells, daylight sensors and dimmers can control lighting levels in exterior light fixtures according to the amount of natural daylight available at the time. Settings can be adjusted so that lights automatically turn on or off when natural lighting levels fall below or above certain thresholds - on at dusk and off at dawn, for example.

Timers: Similar to daylight sensors, timers can be set to control the operation of outdoor lighting. Rather than sensing daylight levels, timers simply control when a light turns on or off, according to pre-determined times set by the user. Make sure to account for seasonal shifts in daylight levels by updating set points for what’s appropriate for your area.

Motion sensors: Motion sensors can be built in or added to one or several outdoor lighting fixtures. They can be set to turn on lights when motion is detected, and turn off after a certain amount of time. These work great for areas where outdoor lighting is needed, but not necessarily all the time. Motion sensors are also a great way to enhance security of an area without increasing the electric bill, since they can often reduce energy consumption by 30% per fixture.

Dimmers: Dimming controls are being implemented in many towns across the world. They typically work in accordance with motion sensors or run off a preset timer to dim outdoor lights on streets and highways, parks, and other municipal areas at times when they are rarely used, such as from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Dimmers can adjust outdoor lights to just 20% of their total energy use and brighten them when motion is detected or timing presets dictate. These setting can save energy, money, and promote safety in a community.

Utility rebates may exist in your area for upgrading lights and installing lighting controls. Check with your local utility company for details.