Urgent Alert

Energy-efficient exterior lighting

Date: October 02, 2023
woman working on laptop

Commercial exterior lighting is important for many businesses, yet the available technologies are often a mystery for many business owners.


Poorly designed, installed and/or maintained exterior lighting can have a damaging impact on many aspects of a business. For instance, exterior lighting can be crucial to the safety and security profile of a business, as well as its energy consumption and utility costs. And with newer, more energy efficient lighting options becoming available on a regular basis, exterior lighting presents an excellent opportunity for businesses to shed costs and improve their profile.


Tips for commercial exterior lighting

From new, energy efficient technologies to intelligent lighting practices, there are many ways a business owner or property manager can improve the exterior lighting practices at their facility.


1.  Research your options before beginning an exterior lighting project

  • Work with a lighting contractor: A qualified, experienced lighting contractor will have the expertise to provide intelligent, practical advice during the exterior lighting assessment, evaluation and installation process, including knowledge about potential lighting rebates.
  • Examine how similar businesses use exterior lighting: Survey neighboring properties and businesses to see how they use exterior lighting. Make note of what seems to work and what doesn’t. Use that research, as well as information gathered from talking to other business owners, to help plan out a course of action.
  • Think about the full scope of the project: Should it be a complete exterior lighting overhaul, or do just a few commercial lighting fixtures need to be replaced? Is more of a repair and maintenance project required, or should entirely new fixtures and bulbs be installed? Try to have a clear idea of what the finished project will look like before taking any initial steps.
  • Code requirements: What are the local lighting codes? Do they mandate energy efficiency or the use of new technologies like commercial LED lighting? Do local codes deal with things like light pollution? Know about legal obligations before investing money in a design that could end up being immediately obsolete. If a business owner is feeling overwhelmed with local bylaws and code requirements, seek out the expertise of a local utility, city planner or contractor.


2. Identify top places where exterior lighting should be installed

  • Parking areas: Commercial light-emitting diode (LED) systems for parking garages and lots are 50% more efficient than traditional parking area lighting. LEDs can also improve security because they instantly provide full brightness when motion detectors are triggered. Walkways and doorways: Pole- and wall-mounted commercial LED fixtures feature directional lighting capabilities, which enable the fixtures to cover walkways and doorways more efficiently, add appealing accents to these aesthetically important parts of a building and reduce dark spots.
  • Security lighting: Lighting controls like occupancy sensors and photosensors can improve exterior lighting efficiency while also making for a safer, more secure outdoor environment. These lighting controls react to movement and ambient light, only coming on when activated, instead of remaining on at all times
  • Accent lighting: Exterior lighting is the first thing customers will encounter in most businesses. Make sure the business shines with long-lasting bulbs, like LEDs. The lighting technology provides attractive illumination while requiring little maintenance and need for replacement.


3. Avoid light pollution

  • Be aware of light pollution: Be sure to discuss all lighting design options with a contractor in order to avoid blotting out the night sky.
  • Be considerate of neighboring businesses and residences: One way to induce a lot of headaches is to cause problems with neighbors, and excessive outdoor lighting create problems. Many LED manufacturers are now offering new optics to reduce the background light associated with “Light Trespass.”


4. Emphasize employee and customer safety and security

  • Instant on/off: Commercial LED fixtures turn on and off instantly, which produces a more secure environment for employees and customers alike.
  • Better light quality: Modern, efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs also tend to produce better quality light, changing the color of most outdoor areas from a more typical yellow-orange patina to a crisper and illuminating white light
  • Motion sensors: Occupancy sensors and similar lighting controls turn on and off in response to movement, thus alerting people nearby to potential threats
  • Wall- and pole-mounted fixtures: These fixtures can be mounted in more specific areas, particularly those places that present higher safety or security threats.


5. Consider integrated or remote sensors

  • Adaptive lighting: In areas that experience reduced traffic, adaptive lighting is a perfect way to reduce costs and energy consumption. It reduces light levels when the areas are unused, and when coupled with occupancy sensors, it illuminates an area when people are around.
  • Reduced energy use: Exterior lighting can be seen as an investment. With many newer, more efficient lighting technologies, businesses can significantly reduce their utility costs, making an exterior lighting project one that can eventually pay for itself.


6. Mesh key objectives

  • Embrace opportunity: Exterior lighting provides the chance to improve safety, reduce environmental footprint, lower costs and make a business more visually appealing.
  • Work with a lighting designer: Along with hiring a lighting contractor, it might also be advisable to work with a lighting designer in order to get the most out of any exterior lighting project.
  • What should be highlighted?: Write out a list of places that should be accentuated with exterior lighting, ranging from the most important to least important. Use that list to guide any lighting design.


7. Research lighting incentives

  • Lighting contractor: Lighting contractors with experience working within PG&E territory should have knowledge of the lighting incentives that are available.

Looking to learn more about strategic, energy efficient exterior lighting? Download PG&E’s guide "Complete Guide to Working with a Lighting or HVAC contractor."