Lighting The Way: 3 Common Misconceptions About Outdoor LED Lighting

October 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm  •  Posted in Construction, Product Highlight  •  0 Comments

When it comes to longevity and efficiency, standard light bulbs and fluorescents can’t hold a candle to LEDs. But there’s so much more to LED lighting than reduced energy and simplified maintenance.

In this Graybar G2 Talk, Karyn Gayle, Vice President of Healthcare at Acuity Brands Lighting, demystifies common misconceptions about outdoor LED lighting in healthcare applications. If you’re looking to break into the healthcare market, now’s the time to give outdoor LED lighting a second look.

Watch the full Graybar G2 Talk or keep reading for the gist of it.

Misconception #1. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

It turns out your mom was wrong: what’s on the outside matters just as much as what’s on the inside. All joking aside, contractors should look beyond what’s on “the inside,” because disregarding outdoor lighting means walking right past a lot of opportunities.

Low-Hanging Fruit

When pitching lighting retrofits to healthcare customers, contractors often walk right through the garage, parking lot, and lobby, and focus on how they can save energy inside the building. But a full interior re-light can be disruptive, especially in healthcare facilities with around-the-clock care. “Now’s the time to take a second look at outdoor lighting,” Karyn says. “That’s your low-hanging fruit.”

Faster Payback

In the past, outdoor LEDs offered a payback of about five to seven years, which didn’t knock anybody’s socks off. But LED technology has become more efficient, the price has come down, and we’re seeing much faster paybacks. According to Karyn, paybacks of three years or less are becoming more common.

Improved Perception

A lot of times, patient perception is shaped by outdoor lighting. According to Karyn, healthcare environments are notorious for being “large, cluttered, alien, and non-intuitive.” Patients and visitors expect garage signs and parking areas to be properly illuminated. Superior outdoor lighting can do wonders to enhance visitor and patient perception—even before they enter the facility.

Misconception #2. Light is light, regardless of the source.

According to Karyn, this is another area of confusion. Comparing multiple sources of light at different lumens is, in Karyn’s words, “an apples-to-kumquats scenario.” Here’s what you should know about maintained lumens and uniformity:

Maintained Lumens

Contractors don’t have to become lighting designers overnight, but they should have a base level of knowledge around maintained lumens and what each type of light source offers. Back in the old days, we’d specify outdoor lighting in terms of wattage. But with LEDs, you can’t use wattage and, in some cases, lumens don’t tell the entire story.

If you’re looking for something that’s equivalent to a 400-watt wall pack, you may not be getting exactly what you’re looking for. The lumens for a particular fixture may have been measured in the vertical position, for example.

So when you put the lamp in a horizontal orientation, you’re losing some of that light. Out of that initial 400-watt metal halide light with 36,000 hours, you end up with 16,000 maintained lumens. LEDs maintain their lumens better, which is really important.


Uniformity is often overlooked when we’re thinking about LED technology. To demonstrate this concept, Karyn uses an analogy of watering your lawn. “When you think about watering a lawn, is it better to take your hose and soak spots periodically, or is it better to use a sprinkler instead?” Karyn asks.

This analogy holds true for exterior lighting. “If you have lots of contrast, bright spots, and dark spots, that’s a problem,” Karyn says. “With HID sources, it takes a lot of physics, reflectors, and acrobatics to direct light where it’s needed. But LEDs deliver light more efficiently and uniformly, which really matters.”

Misconception #3. Reduced energy and maintenance are the only reasons to re-light.

Saving energy and reducing maintenance are the quantitative, “business case” items for a lighting retrofit. But there are other valid reasons to do an exterior re-light, including safety, security, and aesthetics.

Greater Safety & Security

We often use safety and security interchangeably, but they’re different. To Karyn, one is about safe passage and the other is about protection from the “bad guys.” With inefficient light sources, patients and visitors may have trouble seeing certain areas clearly at night—unless they have superhuman vision. (But I’m pretty sure Superman doesn’t need medical care like the rest of us.)

Improved Wayfinding

Healthcare facilities often use different colors for wayfinding. If you have a light source that also renders color, it helps people find their way. Uniformity also matters. With other light sources, you may get “hot spots,” which makes it tough for people to see clearly. With a good level of uniformity, it’s easier for people to traverse the parking lot safely and confidently.

Heightened Surveillance

When it comes to security, light can be a very effective deterrent; it also makes people feel safer because they can see their surroundings. Uniform lighting is also really important when you have fences. Plus, with better lighting, surveillance images are crisper, and you can make out faces and vehicles more clearly.

Enhanced Aesthetics

A hospital or healthcare facility isn’t just any old building—it’s part of the community. Aesthetics matter, particularly in healthcare facilities. When hospital directors and management care to light their facilities in the right way, it sends a message to patients, family members, staff, and the community as a whole. When it comes to aesthetics, outdoor LEDs have a lot to offer.

There you have it, folks: what’s on the outside matters, not all lighting is created equally, and reduced energy and maintenance aren’t the only reasons to re-light.

Watch the full Graybar G2 talk.

Over to You

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Todd Reed, National Market ManagerAbout The Author
Todd Reed, National Market Manager

As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.

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