Lighting up at the CARWASH

 By Mark Ellis, Xpert Solutions, LLC

One of the areas worth getting excited about right now is carwash lighting.  For years, Metal Halide has been the elite carwash lighting standard.  Wattages have gone from 400 to 380 to 360 to 320, as well as 250 and 175.  All popular. all good, usually watertight fixtures.  The problem with Metal Halide is that even with newer pulse start lights, you pay for the wattage – and don’t get to use it all.  All lighting is rated in “initial lumens” as well as “average lumens”.  Each lamp (bulb) produces a certain number of lumens (the measure of light output) at initial start.  Metal Halide loses approximately 40% of its lumen output within a matter of a few months, or less than a year on the really best new fixtures.  So if you have a 360 watt metal halide fixture whose initial lumen output is 36,000, it’s sustained lumen output (average) is 22,000.  If your lighting engineer specified the 360 watt fixture(s) at their initial lumens, within 6 months or so you are actually getting 1/3 less light from your fixtures.  But wait, you’re still paying full price, the fixture still uses its 360 watts.

So we use fluorescents.  What? Fluorescents?  Those skinny tubes that buzz and turn yellow, and get black on the ends?  That’s the old stuff.  We use and sell a new fixture, which is waterproof and dustproof.  Its IP 67 rating means that it can be submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes.  It’s smart ballast uses the same two-wire connection to 110, 240 or 277 VAC.  Our fixtures have a poured in place gasket for waterproofing, and mount to two stainless clips (no holes in the fixture body).  We recommend a 3 lamp, high ballast factor, with high lumen lamps.  The initial lumen output from our 4′ fixture with 3 T8 lamps is 9,000.  And the power usage is 113 watts.  So for the same 360 watts of energy as the Metal Halide above, we produce 27,000 lumens.  That’s 25% more than the Metal Halide, on average.  And our lamps are high on the whiteness scale (5000k) plus they last 35,000 hours (5 years) without losing any of their light output (less than 2% loss).  Our lens is water clear, easy to clean.  And our fixtures start at 0 degrees, or we can provide ballasts for 20 below.  Colder than that, you should stay in bed.

Am I the only guy who likes these fixtures?  No, your electrical utility, if it’s trying to “buy capacity” with incentives, will give you about $35 per fixture (a third) in cash incentive to replace your metal halides with these fixtures.

Some people want to sell you T5′s.  I would suggest that T5′s, while they do output more lumens per watt than T8′s, which do generate a lot of heat and too much heat to be used in a waterproof fixture.  Also, T5 lamps are perfect for warehouse height ceilings (14′and up) but awfully bright at 11-12′.

The next level will be LED lighting.  But at today’s cost, LED still has a 9-10 year payback, while T8 fluorescents can provide a 1.5 to 2.5 year payback.

So, now you go do a lighting review. It’s a home run!  I like to talk lighting so feel free to talk with me on the blog!


  1. Posh Wash says:

    Great article full of helpful information!

  2. LED Warehouse A Division of BR Industries Inc. has developed LED Lights that are affordable through optical efficiency. Through precise engineering we have been able to accumulate an immense amount of light allowing our LED’s to be one of the brightest in the industry.

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