How to pick the best LED garage light or canopy fixture
Posted by Greg Tellason on
From parking garages to gas stations, garage light or canopy fixtures are found in buildings across the country. These are meant to be a low-profile, cost-effective way to get a large amount of light in a space for the security of the people in the area.
Many parking garages have moved to using vapor tight strip fixtures (fluorescent or LED), but some still use the traditional HID garage canopy fixture.
As with other HID light fixtures, older garage lights are prone to decreased light levels, long warm-up times, and unsightly color-shift. This can cause concerns over security in a space and can also cause spaces to look dark and dingy.
LED garage or canopy fixtures are a simple upgrade that can dramatically improve the experience for guests, tenants, and customers and deliver a relatively quick payback. Additionally, if there are rebates in your area, your upfront cost can be dramatically reduced.
We’re walking through some of the tips and tricks for picking the best LED canopy fixtures.
How to compare LED garage and canopy fixtures
LED canopy fixtures have a few key features that need to be considered. From light output (lumens) to light distribution to controls, let’s walk through the essentials.
Wattage and color selectable versus fixed color and wattage LED canopies
It seems like we’re writing about this constantly, but “color selectable” and “wattage selectable” fixtures are not a passing trend in lighting. These fixtures simplify production and inventory for manufacturers, so they’re here to stay.
These fixtures allow you to change the wattage and/or light color with small switches located in the canopy fixture. This means a single part number can cover multiple applications and customer needs. These are a top recommendation because of the flexibility and the higher likelihood that a manufacturer has the fixtures in stock.
Wattage or color selectable configurations can impact rebate eligibility, but it seems that rebate programs are catching up on how to handle these. Make sure you do your homework if you’re hoping to claim a lighting rebate.
LED canopy fixtures and controls
Photosensors are extremely common for garage and canopy lighting. This enables the lights to turn on based on the ambient lighting needs, ensuring that the space stays well-lit and secure.
Whether you’re using a remote photocell, a timer, or you’re looking for a plug-in or integrated sensor for each fixture, controls are a critical factor in most canopy installations.
Consider the needs of your space and the benefits of some of the latest technology trends. For example, an integrated motion and photo sensor on each fixture could save you significant energy costs down the road. This is sure to be a cost increase, but it’s one that more customers are opting for.
Local code requirements for canopy fixtures
On the topic of controls, we’re seeing more local jurisdictions requiring specific areas of compliance for exterior fixtures. For example, BUG requirements or Dark Sky standards may impact the products that you’re able to install in your facility.
IP ratings for canopy fixtures
Most canopy fixtures are located in exterior, partially exposed, or dusty environments. As a result, IP ratings matter for how long your new LED lighting will last. Plus, a higher IP rating will ensure that you don’t end up with premature corrosion or reduced light output from debris in your lenses.
The IP rating on a fixture gives a sense for how protected it is from dust and moisture infiltration. We cover IP ratings for warehouse fixtures in more detail here, but this should be a factor as you’re considering any garage or canopy fixture.
Canopy fixture availability
Product availability can throw a wrench in any lighting project, so choose your options wisely — especially if you’re on a timeline for a lighting rebate.
Many manufacturers are bringing stock into the US or assembling fixtures in the US to help with shortening lead times. It’s generally best to consider looking for products where a distributor or manufacturer have available inventory in the US.
LED warranty for canopy fixtures
Reputable manufacturers generally offer warranties on fixtures in the five-to-ten-year range. In most cases, a warranty only covers the product itself and not installation labor.
Rebate eligibility with LED canopy upgrades
Utility rebates are a great way to help reduce your project cost, so make sure that you consider any requirements like the latest DLC rating, wattage requirements, and more when selecting a new LED canopy fixture.
You may also want to check with your utility on the impact of color and wattage selectable features on rebate eligibility.
It’s best to check directly with your utility company on these requirements so you don’t have any surprises, and if we’re running a project for you, our team can also help with this.
If you’re interested in exploring available rebates in your area, our team is here to help.
Fixture layout, design, and light output in garages and canopies
LED upgrades are often a one-for-one replacement, meaning you simply swap out the existing fixtures with new LED equivalents. With that said, today’s LED fixtures have advanced optics and are extremely efficient at distributing light underneath a canopy area.
Depending on this size of your upgrade, you may consider having a lighting study done on your project to see if you actually need a one-for-one replacement. As an example, a garage upgrade we completed ended up using 500 fewer fixtures than the original layout because of configuration changes and the light distribution of the new fixtures. This was a major cost savings for the customer, and the light levels were improved.
The brand and cost debate
When it comes to LED canopy fixtures, there is a sea of options. It’s easy to think that they’re all essentially the same. So, why not go with the least expensive option to get the fastest possible payback?
The challenge on the lowest LED fixtures isn’t something that’s necessarily obvious at the start. First, the materials used for the fixture may not be made to last. Whether it’s premature yellowing, clouding, or corrosion, you don’t want to be dealing with a fixture that looks 15 years old shortly after your install.
Another quality consideration is on the chips and electronics that produce the light. Many of the lowest cost products cut corners on power conditioning or chip quality that can cause serious reliability issues. We cover this in more detail in this article about LED quality.
When you’re comparing the larger, more reputable manufacturers, the differences have narrowed considerably.
If you’re looking for other lighting products and you can consolidate to a specific brand, you may be able to negotiate better pricing based on volume. Or maybe you’re trying to hit an overall fixture price or project cost which will drive you toward a specific option.
Your best bet is to work with a lighting partner who can help you evaluate options and deliver a product that meets the performance and budget needs for your project. In the end, you may be surprised to see mid-range fixtures producing better long-term financial results than the lowest cost fixtures when you factor in energy savings, controls, and warranty.
How to pick the best LED canopy fixture
Ultimately, the best LED canopy fixture will depend on your budget and facility-specific requirements. With that said, local code requirements and controls should be big factors. Finally, remember that a lighting study could help you save on the number of fixtures you need to install.
Another top recommendation is completing a mock up of a single fixture or group of fixtures to help you get a sense for the performance of a lighting upgrade.
If you’re working on a lighting retrofit, remodel, or a new construction project involving canopy or garage light fixtures, we’re here to guide you to the products that fit your needs and timeline. If you’re ready to dig into a project or you have an over-budget lighting package that you need help with, schedule a lighting consultation with our team here.