Outdoor Lighting Maintenance Costs

Maintenance Costs HID Fixtures v. LED Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor Lighting Maintenance using a Bucket Truck

Outdoor lighting systems need to be regularly maintained. In traditional lighting, blubs burn out, the electrical components such as ballasts, are subject to heat and cold, thus breaking down and wearing out. There are two approaches to replacing outdoor lamps, either spot replacements or group re-lamping. Most studies show that group re-lamping provides for better economics and better services to the user of the parking lot, garage or other outdoor lighted area. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) recommends group re-lamping at 70% of the rated life of the lamp..

It is not untypical to be using commodity grade metal halide lamps which have a life of 15,000 hours or 1.7 years in 24 hours by 365 days use. The most advanced High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps last 30,000 hours, or a little over 3.4 years in 24 hour operations. The IES recommendation for HID group re-lamping maintenance carries substantial costs, year in, year out.

Maintenance Cost per Fixture – US DOE

The US Department of Energy has documented the actual costs to maintain outdoor lighting in several projects. From the Gateway Report, for the T.J. Maxx Plaza, they reported :

“According to service records, the T.J.Maxx Plaza has been paying an average of $11,000 per year for spot relamping, or $400 per luminaire per year in maintenance. Industry estimates range from $150 to $300 per luminaire per relamp cycle for group relamping. A more typical maintenance cost of $215 was used”

In another Gateway report, a demonstration was completed in a supermarket parking lot containing 16 pole-mounted 320-watt Metal Halide dropped-lens, cobra head-style fixtures, they reported maintenance costs and lifetimes of:

“The host customer in this demonstration contracts with a private lighting contractor for maintenance of the parking lot lighting. As a result, maintenance costs for MH were based on the reported annual maintenance costs of $200 to $215 per luminaire per year. As a conservative estimate, the low end of this range ($200) was used. This estimate includes materials, maintenance, 3-year scheduled re-lamping and periodic spot re-lamping provided by a lighting contractor. It should be noted that, according to a company employee, they were “lucky to get two years” of operation out of their previous MH lamps, despite a more typical lifetime ranging between 12-18 months”

These costs are most usually part of the ongoing operations, and not shown on its own budget line. Thus the electrician is called, they use a bucket truck with a couple of workers, for six to eight hours in a service call, and a bill is rendered for $2,000 to $3,000 for these regular maintenance activities. This service happens a few times per year, and after four years or so, a $40,000 plus cost is has been paid for in the operating budget.

Lighting – Changes in Primary Costs Since 2002

Over the past ten years, costs for the primary resources to maintain outdoor lighting systems have grown substantially. It takes skilled labor, vehicles, and electrical components to do the required routine maintenance. Since 2002, these underlying costs have increased.

  • Electrician Labor +19.16% ($41,290 to $49,320, Median Wage US Dept. of Labor)
  • Standard Mileage Rates +54.17% ($0,36 to $0.555 IRS Rates)
  • Electrical Apparatus +34.30% (Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index 148.7 to 199.7)
  • Electric Power +38.63% (Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index 134.1 to 197.4)

Another way of looking at this, a $100 of labor in 2002, is now $119.16, the $30 dollar ballast in 2002, is now $40.20 for the same component. Thus, a retrofit project that cost $130.00 in 2002 is going $159.36 in 2012.

Electric Cost Changes

Even more critical in terms of impact to the operating budget, is the changing electric costs for the outdoor lamp. In 2002, if a kilowatt cost was 10 cents, it now would cost 13.8 cents. At 175 watts for one high intensity discharge (HID) lamp, the cost per year in a parking garage, changed from $153.30 per year to $211.55 in these ten years, a net increase of $58.25.

Outdoor Lighting and Budget

All these maintenance costs eat away at the operating budget and the profitability in a commercial operation or requires more funding from an institutions operations. None these costs show up at once, and are therefore somewhat hidden. But these costs add substantially to the cost basis over time for operations that are squeezed by many other factors. Reducing these costs can be one of highest returns on investment (ROI) for facilities operations. Upgrades to lighting, have the highest cost-benefit ratio in many studies, and needs to be the first place to look to reduce costs.

DOE Gateway Studies on Outdoor Lighting

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