How to Choose Exterior Self Storage Lighting

How to Choose Exterior Self Storage Lighting

January 7, 2020 Steve Hajewski

In this post I’m going to cover the basics of what you are looking for when choosing wallpack lighting for your self-storage facility.

Aerial night photo.

In this photo you can see the staggered lighting. If you look carefully you’ll also notice that the warm glow of the 3000K recessed entry lighting does not match the color temperature of the 4000K wall packs.

To start, let’s be clear: Trachte does not sell exterior lighting. However, almost everyone who buys a self-storage building is going to need it. And for the purposes of this article, I am discussing the typical mounting pattern of lights mounted every 40’ at the top of a door jamb. We suggest staggering lights on both sides of driveways, so that there is actually a light every 20’ on alternating sides. While there are many lighting types available, LED has become hands down the only type you should be looking at. No sodium lights, no CFL, no incandescent. With that said, here are the factors you should be looking at to evaluate the lighting for your property:

Lumens: Lumens are the measure of light output. I would consider 1900 lumens to be at the low end of what’s acceptable and have found that 3900 lumens are plenty.

Color temperature: LED lighting is available in a variety of color “temperatures.” For a warm feel, 3000k is like an incandescent bulb. On the cooler side is 5000k which has a daylight feel to it. My preference is 4000k lighting which is a more neutral color, however 5000k tends to be brighter light for working. My suggestion is to choose 4000 or 5000 based on your own preference or fixture availability. But once you choose the color temperature, make sure ALL lights on the mini-storage facility have the same temperature for best appearance.

Fixture size: Trachte customers normally mount the lights centered on the upper surface of the door jambs. This is an area that is 12” wide, and if you wish to stay above the top of the door opening, about 12” tall. So, the fixture should be smaller than that area. The fixture should protrude into the driveway as little as possible to minimize the chances of being hit by tall trailers or trucks.

Light dispersion: Your community may require “cutoff”, or “Dark Sky Compliant” lights. These are lights that are designed to cast the light towards the ground rather than up or excessively outward. These work well for self-storage and there is little to no functional penalty for using these fixtures.

Watts: LED fixtures within the range of 30 to 40 watts will generally provide the needed lumens. While LED lights are highly efficient, you will have plenty of them that are on for a significant amount of time.

Wall mounted LED light on self-storage building

This fixture is about 11″ wide and fits within the door jamb surface. (This particular fixture is no longer available)

Mounting height: On a typical Trachte eave height of 8’4” the lights will be installed just above the tops of the 7’ tall door openings. The spec sheet for your lighting will list a recommended height for that fixture. The fixture’s reflector is designed to work best at that height, so if your application is not consistent, you might not get the correct light dispersion.

Does it need a junction box? This is an easy one to miss… Trachte buildings are built from thick 18ga steel. It’s a lot easier to drill a small hole for a conduit rather than a large hole for a junction box. We suggest strongly that your fixture should have an integrated space for the electric junction. This eliminates the need for big holes for recessed boxes and eliminates ugly surface mount boxes behind the fixture.

Lighting control: For ease of maintenance and the best look, I prefer a central photo cell to turn all the lighting on and off together, or at least one single control on each building. Compared to individual photo cells on each light, this will be easier to maintain and trouble shoot in the event of a fixture failure. Some communities may require lights to become motion activated after a certain time. Your local electrician can help you select these controls if needed.

DLC Certification: Some utility companies offer incentives for installation of more efficient fixtures. To qualify, look for lights that the DLC “Designlights consortium” certified.

If you or your contractor are choosing a fixture that you have not seen at night at an existing self-storage facility, it’s a good idea to buy a sample and test it out first. If possible, mount and connect it outside at your home and make sure you are pleased with the light output and mounting/junction method before you order 40 of them. When you do order your lights, order some extra ones. Lighting manufacturers tend to discontinue models frequently, and you’ll be glad you have some spares if you need to replace or repair any of them.

For more information on best practices for electric and lighting layout, register for a user account or log in to view our “Electrical, Lighting and Cameras” in the photo portfolio directory of our web site.

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