Outdoor Lighting

While sometimes overlooked, upgrading the outdoor lights on a building or lot can save large amounts of both energy and money on your monthly electricity bill. Ensuring that outdoor lighting is held up to the same energy standards as indoor lighting is imperative for achieving an energy efficient space.

The most common types of outdoor lighting include:

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

For more information on each of these lighting types, refer to the Common Lighting Types Toolkit on the MREP website.

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. Since outdoor lights often rely on high wattages to provide enough light, switching to LEDs can have huge savings.

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

Upgrading to newer, 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 soak in 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 adding to your electric bill at all.

Lighting Controls:

Another way to reduce energy use on your outdoor lighting is to install or update lighting controls. Lighting controls ensure lights are only coming on when the space needs it. Below are a few of the most common types of outdoor lighting controls:

Daylight sensors:

Operated through use of photocells, daylight sensors and dimmers can control lighting levels in exterior light fixtures depending on the amount of available natural daylight 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, such as setting lights to come on at dusk and turn off at dawn.


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 depending on 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. It can also be a great way to enhance security of an area without running up the electric bill. Motion sensors can often reduce energy by 30% per fixture.


Dimming controls are a technology 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 at times when they are rarely used. This usually spans from 12 am – 5 am on streets and highways, parks, and other municipal areas. Dimmers can adjust outdoor lights to just 20% of their total energy use and brighten them when motion is detected or timing presets designate.  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.