Market estimates of annual sales for the outdoor commercial lighting segment range from $875 million to $2 billion, including street and bridge lighting. The desire for expanded security and the development of new lighting technologies offer electrical contractors an opportunity to gain an increased share of this large market.

Light sources

Over the past decade, the industry has experienced a move toward using metal halide light sources in outdoor commercial lighting applications, according to Steve Morelli, vice president of marketing at Ruud Lighting Inc., Racine, Wis. “The trend has been driven by people’s preference for the white light generated by metal halide,” he explained. The white light and improved color rendition offered by metal halide lights are particularly important for commercial applications such as parking lots and automobile dealership lots. “Metal halide’s white light enables people to better differentiate between colors,” Morelli added.

The second generation of metal halide lamps being used more often in outdoor commercial lighting applications are pulse-start lights, even though some of the benefits of this technology are lost when used in applications where lights are turned on and off more often.

“Pulse-start metal halide lamps were originally developed for use in industrial and warehouse applications where the lights burn almost constantly. However, because pulse-start technology is a recent innovation and customers are constantly searching for ways to upgrade their lighting systems, pulse-start metal halide lights have found their way into the outdoor commercial lighting market,” said Bill Peel, specification sales manager for Lithonia Lighting, Conyers, Ga.

Manufacturers are also developing new compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that operate at higher wattages and provide higher lumens, brighter light and improved color rendition, according to Phil Henry, director of marketing for Union, N.J.-based Stonco Lighting, a part of the GenLyte Thomas Group. “A major advantage of CFLs is that they turn on immediately, making them particularly flexible in applications that use motion sensors,” Henry said.

Market trends

In today’s lighting arena, with the concerns over light pollution, glare and light trespass, the layout of lighting fixtures in outdoor commercial applications is very important. “There must be a clear and crisp definition between the property being lit and the adjoining areas, as well as the elimination of shadows and dark spots on the property itself,” said Morelli.

One of the major drivers of the trend to reduce or eliminate light pollution and glare has been the International Dark Sky Association. “The organization’s goal is to eliminate uplighting from both pole- and building-mounted fixtures, which will better enable observatories and people to see the night sky,” Morelli added. The added benefit of reduced uplighting is lessened energy costs for the commercial property. “Any light source that goes beyond the fixtures into the atmosphere is wasted light and a drain on energy resources.”

In addition, bi- and tri-level dimming technology is increasingly being demanded by customers for use with high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp sources in outdoor lighting applications because it allows the lamps to be controlled at lower wattages when areas are not being lit. “For example, although the property owners will want lot lights burning all night for safety reasons, dimming technology allows the lights to be lowered somewhat after high-traffic hours, allowing the owner to save energy and reduce costs while still providing security,” Henry said.

Lighting the future

Morelli predicts that electrical contractors will be asked more often to install pulse-start metal halide lamps in outdoor commercial applications. “It is a better lamp in terms of performance, including improved lumen maintenance and increased energy efficiency and light output,” he said.

Peel believes that the future will bring an increased use of dimming controls for late night operation of lighting systems. “People will want to receive the same benefits controls provide for indoor applications, such as reduced energy consumption and costs and increased fixture life,” he said. Peel predicts full market use of lighting controls in outdoor applications within the next decade.

Finally, manufacturers will continue to develop new fixtures that better control light direction as more ordinances are passed that require commercial property owners to limit light pollution and trespass. “In addition, manufacturers will begin to concentrate more on fixture aesthetics in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition,” Henry predicted. EC

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.