Lower Your Parking Facility Operational Costs and Save the Planet

Parking structures are significant users of electrical energy for lighting and can be a political, hot-potato because they are, typically illuminated 24 hours a day and, due to their open nature, are quite visible to the public.
Due to the visibility and long operational hours, conservation of energy for lighting systems can contribute to both a savings in operating costs and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the power plants which generate the power to operate these lighting systems as well as tax deductions and rebates from local utilities for lighting retrofits.

Conservation of energy for parking garage lighting systems involves the use of energy efficient light sources and the use of automated controls to turn off lights when they are not needed. Automatic controls to detect daylight contributions can turn off the lights on the perimeter of the garage or, if adequate daylighting penetrates the garage, turn them entirely off to save energy. Motion sensors may be used to turn the parking garage lights to full output when cars or people enter the garage and will automatically turn off or turn down the lights when the garage is not occupied. Photocells may be used for the top decks of the parking garage to turn the upper garage lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Reducing the lights to 50% of their nominal lighting output when the facility is unoccupied could save 25 to 40% on lighting operational costs. For above-ground, open parking garages (20% of perimeter wall area is open at each level), lights near perimeter wall openings could turn off when there is adequate daylight infiltration. Computer calculations of daylight infiltration indicate that light fixtures within 30 feet of a perimeter wall opening could be turned off entirely, even on cloudy days. Light fixtures in the area of 30 to 60 feet from a perimeter wall opening could be turned off if a photocell mounted on an interior column at 5 feet above the floor measures adequate daylight infiltration (more than 20 footcandles). Those lights would turn back on if the daylight infiltration fell below 5 footcandles. Motion sensors are not practical for completely extinguishing metal halide or high pressure sodium lamps because they take 10 to 20 minutes to restrike, but they may be used to dial down the light output by approximately 50% when the space is unoccupied.

Parking structures are typically lighted 24 hours per day, 7 days a week or 8,760 hours per year, which makes the electrical utility cost the first or second largest expense for parking structure operation.. The typical parking facility lighting system consists of a 150-watt metal halide or high pressure sodium fixtures with a total input wattage of approximately 190 watts per fixture including the ballast power consumption. These metal halide fixtures may be placed on a spacing of approximately 30 feet by 30 feet (one every 900 SF). A 1,000-car parking structure will have approximately 360 light fixtures in the general parking areas. The total annual power consumption for this sample parking facility would then be approximately 600,000 Kilowatt-hours. With Grand Junction, CO Parking Structure an energy cost of 8 cents per KwH, the annual utility cost would be about $48,000 and could vary considerably in areas where the energy costs are higher such as areas on the East and West coasts where utility costs are approximately double the national average..

Substituting more energy efficient light sources can also save on lighting operational costs. A light fixture with 4, 4-ft long T8 lamps or 2, T5HO lamps will have nearly equivalent maintained illuminance as a 150-watt metal halide (MH) or high pressure sodium (HPS) fixture. The energy consumption of the fluorescent fixture is 112 watts for the T8 fixture or 123 watts for the T5HO fixture compared to 190 watts for the MH or HPS fixture. Therefore there is a 41% energy savings for the T8 fixture or 35% savings for the T5HO fixture. However, fluorescent lamps lose light output in cold weather and may
only be utilized in enclosed fixtures equipped with low temperature ballasts, where the temperature is frequently below freezing. LED light fixtures are not impacted by cold weather and use 128 input watts resulting in an energy cost savings of approximately 33% compared to 150-watt MH or HPS fixtures, but the unit cost of LED fixtures is 3 to 4 times the cost of an HID fixture which generally precludes their widespread use.

Retrofitting parking structure lighting with automatic controls and more energy-efficient light sources not only reduces parking facility operational costs, but it also minimizes the need to expand power plants that contribute to global warming.

Author biography

Donald R. Monahan is a registered Professional Engineer and Vice President with Walker Parking Consultants/Engineers, Inc. of Denver, Colorado. Don has 31 years experience in parking facility design with specialized expertise regarding lighting, safety, and security of multi-level parking structures. He is past Chairman of the Off-Roadway Lighting sub-committee of the Illuminating Engineering Society and was a contributing author of the IES publication RP-20-98 Lighting for Parking Facilities. He is past Chairman of the Parking Consultants Council of the National Parking Association, and a member of the PCI Parking Structures committee. He has lectured at numerous parking industry conventions, seminars and local association conferences. He is also co-author of PARKING STRUCTURES: PLANNING, DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, MAINTENANCE & REPAIR, THIRD EDITION by Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MA. In October 1996, Don received the Bernard Dutch Memorial Award for Outstanding and Dedicated Service from the National Parking Association.
  • Join our community for FREE today!

  • Create and share your own profile

  • Join the discussions

  • Publish your own items

  • Subscription to our Weekly eNewsletter

your benefits?

Get connected with parking professionals worldwide

Create your account

Sign in with LinkedIn Close

FREE membership benefits

  • * create and share your own profile
  • * join the discussions
  • * publish your own items on parking-net.commanage news, jobs, tenders, companies, events, showcases, educations, associations and literature.
  • * subscribe to our weekly eNewsletter
Add news yourself


There are no comments yet for this item

Join the discussion

You can only add a comment when you are logged in. Click here to login