top of page

Shedding Light: Exploring Types of Parking Lot Lights

Updated: Apr 18

Aerial shot of a parking lot with numbered spaces and a variety of parked cars.

Every commercial facility has a list of essentials that ensure safety and efficiency, and among them is none other than proper parking lot lighting. Overall, parking lot lighting not only secures the area but also enhances aspects like visibility and customer experience Not to mention the shift to LED lighting retrofit and commercial LED retrofitting offers the dual benefit of reduced energy.


For businesses in Seattle, Washington looking for commercial energy solutions, LED is key. However, there's more to parking lot lighting than just swapping out old bulbs for new ones. To help you along, below is a comprehensive review of the types of parking lot lights available so you can make informed decisions on your commercial exterior lighting.

Types of parking lot lights

Before LED technology, there two types of parking lot lights were popular due to their performance and cost-effectiveness:

1. Metal Halide Lights

Metal Halide Lights have been the staple for parking lot lighting for their intense brightness and broad-spectrum illumination, which renders colors naturally. However, they're now considered less efficient, warming up slowly to reach full luminosity and losing efficiency over time. This is also while consuming more energy than modern alternatives.

2. High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lights

Known for their distinctive amber light, High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lights offer efficiency and durability. They may cost less to operate, but the stark yellow tint has a low Color Rendering Index (CRI), making it harder to distinguish true colors, a potential safety risk under certain conditions.

Other types of parking lot lights

Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lighting has been used in various settings, including parking lots. It is more energy-efficient than metal halide and HPS lights and offers a range of color temperatures. On the downside, fluorescent lights have shorter lifespans and are sensitive to extreme temperatures, which can pose issues in outdoor environments. Furthermore, they contain mercury, which requires careful handling and disposal.

Halogen Flood Lights

Halogen floodlights have historically been a popular choice for pole lighting. Known mostly for their broad coverage, halogen lamps use a filament encased in halogen gas, which enhances light output and extends the bulb’s lifespan. While halogen floodlights emit bright white light ideal for large areas like parking lots, they've been gradually replaced by more energy-efficient technologies.

Induction Lighting

Induction lamps are famous for their long lifespan and reliability. They operate without electrodes or filaments, which means less can go wrong, leading to fewer replacements and repairs. Induction lighting offers good color rendering and a uniform light distribution. However, it's important to note that while they are more efficient than HIDs, they are not as energy-efficient as LEDs.

Why choose LED parking lot lights over traditional options?

LED lighting has become a game-changer in outdoor commercial settings, offering multiple advantages over traditional metal halide and HPS lights. LEDs significantly reduce energy consumption and have longer lifespans. In addition, They provide durable, high-quality light that can enhance the safety of parking lots by improving visibility and limiting dark zones. What options are available?


LED Floodlights

Close-up of a car tire.

LED floodlights are a staple in commercial LED retrofitting due to their broad illumination capabilities. These fixtures are critical in general area lighting, particularly in expansive parking lots. LED floodlights shine in their ability to focus light exactly where needed, minimizing energy wastage compared to traditional fixtures that disperse light in all directions. Complementing this, LED floods consume less electricity and significantly reduce maintenance due to their long-life performance. For a deeper look into directional lighting benefits, check out Energy Star or contact NetZero Energy.

LED Shoebox

With a shape reminiscent of a shoebox, LED shoebox lights provide an efficient and aesthetically pleasing lighting option, perfect for retrofitting commercial lots. Their versatility makes them adaptable to various parking lot sizes and layouts and can add high curbside value. From a benefits standpoint, LED shoeboxes have a unique design that ensures broad coverage and cradles large spaces in ideal light levels to enhance safety conditions. Even more, their adjustable nature allows you to direct light to distinct areas, whether the space is compact or expansive.

Click here to learn more about the LED lighting distribution types.


Specialty LED parking lot lights


Solar-Powered LED Lights

Solar-powered LED lighting is at the forefront of commercial LED retrofitting, exemplifying a seismic shift toward sustainability. These types of fixtures harness renewable energy from the sun, which in turn reduces the reliance on conventional power grids. Furthermore, directly leads to a reduction in energy expenditures. Businesses that adopt solar-powered LED will ultimately experience the dual benefits of lower operating costs and a reduced carbon footprint. In sum, this commercial LED retrofitting strategy doesn't cut corners on expenses and supports environmental responsibility.

Motion Sensor LED Parking Lighting

Motion sensor LED lights introduce a new standard to energy frugality. These state-of-the-art fittings light up solely upon motion detection, which can curtail the wastage of electricity. Aside from the notable energy savings, motion sensor LED lights can be instrumental in augmenting safety for pedestrians and vehicles. Their capacity to instantaneously illuminate areas of activity means immediate visibility when necessary. Consequently, this can also mitigate potential security breaches and diminish the risk of accidents in parking spaces.

What about the LED fixture types?

LED parking lot lighting comes in various fixtures. Some provide general lighting for an entire parking lot, while others are attached to posts or situated into canopies to provide visibility in specific places. Regardless of your goals, know there’s an LED solution.

Poles and Bullhorns:

Towering over parking spaces, LED pole lights cater to widespread illumination. Useful for both parking lots and garage rooftops, these fixtures can also be mounted on bullhorns for extended reach. By installing them higher, you can achieve a wider dispersal. Alternatively, positioning them closer to the ground enhances walkway visibility.


These subtle yet robust fixtures are designed to blend into the ceiling, offering a sleek look while delivering potent illumination. LED downlights are adaptable for indoor and outdoor setups, giving the impression of natural light streaming from above, a practical choice for undercover parking areas or building overhangs.

Area Lights:

Safety and visibility are the names of the game with area lighting. By casting a wide net of light, these fixtures safeguard visitors from unforeseen obstacles like signage or foliage and reduce the risk of car-related accidents. Install LED area lights to make your parking lot safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.


Bollard lighting punctuates your perimeter with strategically placed low-profile illumination. These lights stand up to four feet tall and are versatile in design. They can effectively brighten walkways, ensuring a secure and well-lit path for everyone traversing the area.


LED canopy lights hover directly overhead and are commonly found in locations requiring focused, intense brightness, like gas stations and loading zones. These high-performing lights deliver security and comfort, inviting patrons into a well-lit space that feels safe, even at night.

Design your parking lot lighting

1. Evaluation of Lighting Needs

To begin, assess the types and styles of light fixtures that will best suit your parking lot. Nowadays, LED lighting retrofit options are a standout choice because they offer numerous benefits like energy efficiency, durability, and long lifespan. Companies specializing in commercial LED retrofitting can typically provide sustainable commercial energy solutions that last long and are cost-effective. Regardless of type, also ensure that the fixtures you opt for are intended for outdoor use and are durable enough to withstand weather fluctuations typical of places like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

2. Determine The Number of Fixtures Required

The quantity of fixtures needed for your parking lot correlates directly with its size and layout. The aim should be consistent light availability, which can be achieved by spacing fixtures appropriately. Commercial LED retrofitting experts can help determine the precise number of fixtures sufficient to provide the perfect level of lighting.

3. Lumens and Wattage

How many lumens does a parking lot light need for optimal performance? Adequate lighting generally falls between 16,000 to 20,000 lumens for every 15 to 20 feet of area. For instance, a parking lot that extends over 50 feet may require approximately three light fixtures, each producing up to 20,000 lumens for the ideal brightness. Because of that, opt for bulbs offering high-lumen output with lower wattage. Modern LED solutions can produce a powerful 2,600 lumens from a mere 18-watt input, which is equivalent to a 100-watt traditional bulb.

4. Adhere to Local Foot Candle Standards

One foot-candle (1 fc) refers to the amount of light received one foot away from the light source. In Seattle, Washington, the minimum foot candle on a parking lot ground should be between 0.2 and 4fc, and for heightened security measures, the intensity can reach up to 7.5 fc. Overall, commercial energy solutions may vary, but businesses should strive to meet municipality requirements for optimal visibility, security, and compliance.

Click here to check out Seattle's lighting regulations.

Illuminating paths with smart energy solutions

In summary, selecting the right type of parking lot lights can significantly increase the functionality and safety of a commercial space. Though several types are on the market, LED lighting retrofit and commercial LED retrofitting offer the most benefits, ranging from cost-savings to reducing maintenance needs.


For businesses in Seattle, Washington, adopting these commercial energy solutions is not just a step towards better lighting, but a leap towards future-proofing operations. Whatever the goal, know that Net Zero Energy can help.

Contact NetZero Energy today for a consultation on how to transition your parking lights to efficient and sustainable LED solutions.

NetZero logo


Connect with an Expert Now!

Discuss your latest project with one of our experienced professionals

bottom of page