Inside Self-Storage is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Making the Transition to LED Lighting: Options and a Retrofit Plan for Self-Storage Facilities

The benefits of LED lights are well-known. Still, some self-storage operators are hesitant to make the switch. Planning your light retrofit and understanding your options can help ease the decision and transition.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the self-storage industry about LED lighting. There are many products available on the market, and more and more operators are considering a retrofit of their facilities. Still, some are reluctant to make the swich.

Some reasons to upgrade are to reduce costs, save energy, be green, take advantage of rebates and tax credits, and improve safety and visibility. Before beginning the transition, however, proper planning and research are crucial. Fully understanding your options is vital to business efficiency, today and into the future.


There’s no disputing that LEDs outlast and outperform other types of lighting. They save energy and help your pocketbook, which increases the overall return on investment. Some experts estimate that LED lighting consumes 80 percent less energy. As lighting accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of global electricity use, making the switch to LED makes economic sense.

Inefficient lighting produces “heat waste,” or “heat gain.” Retrofitting with a professionally designed LED plan will reduce a building’s heat gain, which in turn reduces its cooling requirement. In laymen’s terms, LEDs don’t run as hot, allowing your climate-controlled facility to rely less on its HVAC system. This comprehensive approach saves energy and increases the bottom line.

According to, “Lighting consumes close to 35 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings in the United States, and affects other building systems through its electrical requirements and the heat waste that it produces. Upgrading lighting systems with efficient light sources, fixtures and controls can reduce lighting energy use, improve the visual environment, and affect the sizing of HVAC and electrical systems.”

Despite these benefits, some owners haven’t upgraded because of the perceived expense. However, there are many ways to alleviate the potential financial burden. One solution is to stagger the retrofit, starting with only a portion of your property. This is a great way to see how well LEDs work and how much they can save. Those savings can be applied to the next phase of the retrofit plan.

In addition, utility rebates can often cover some or most of the cost of LEDs. Some lenders also offer low-cost financing for projects that save energy.


Proper planning for a lighting upgrade should include photometrics and 3D renderings from a professional designer. This advanced technology creates depictions that mimic and predict lighting outcomes in various scenarios, visually and numerically. The reports allow for the evaluation of lighting efficiency, luminaire performance, glare and color temperature. Photometric renderings give the ability to analyze whether energy is being wasted or more is needed, and if lighting targets are being met.

For instance, two seemingly similar fixtures can produce completely different reults. Example A is a 40-watt 4000 Lumen Wall Pack that, once installed, becomes a glare bomb because of exposed diodes. It might only last three years because it wasn’t listed by the DesignLights Consortium (DLC), a nonprofit that offers tools and resouces to the lighting market. Example B, a DLC-listed luminaire using the proper optics, turns that similar 40-watt 4000 Lumen Wall Pack into a high-performing fixture that has quality-tested components and can last for more than 10 years.

As light pollution continues to be a serious concern in many areas, renderings can also ensure lighting is compliant with a city’s dark-sky requirements. These mandates usually include restrictions on the amount of output (lumens) allowed as well as light-trespass boundaries, along with foot-candle and color-temperature maximums. Professional design can even help a project pass the city’s certification process. These rules apply to new and existing facilities.

Product Options

When choosing LEDs, purchase quality, tested products, ideally with a warranty. Those marked with Underwriters Laboratories or ETL Mark have passed standardized safety and performance tests. Checking with DLC to verify part numbers is the best way to ensure you’re purchasing a quality product. There are more than 500,000 products listed at The list is consistently updated.

With LEDs, it’s now a simple process to increase lighting efficiency while decreasing energy costs. Interior hallways using LED strip fixtures with lower wattage will lower your utility bill and won’t flicker or buzz like the outdated fluorescent lights. Occupancy sensors control when lights turn on and for how long. Use them in areas of your self-storage facility people visit only occasionally, such as a restroom or the maintenance unit, to ensure lights turn off when no one is present.

For maximum efficiency, you can place occupancy sensors so they light up only a single hallway when a person enters it. To avoid lights turning on and off as tenants walk down a hallway, set the sensors to light up the whole floor or space at the same time.

Here are three common sensor types and three popular mounting styles:

  • Passive infrared (IR) sensor: Uses body heat to detect occupancy; can be inhibited by obstructions such as doors or shelves
  • Ultrasonic sensor: Emits an ultrasonic wave to detect occupancy (similar to bat vision or radar); can be inhibited by HVAC, doors opening and closing, and other false triggers
  • Dual tech sensor: Combines both the above options 
  • Wall-mount: Most commonly used in restrooms, breakrooms and smaller offices
  • Corner-mount: Ideal for long hallways, with most having a range of 65 feet
  • Ceiling-mount (two-way or 360 degrees): Two-way is good for hallways while the other is good for open settings; must be mounted below other fixtures or anything that can impede its view

Safety and Security

State-of-the-art LED lighting helps self-storage operators increase facility safety and security and create an inviting, worry-free experience for tenants. You need ample lighting, not only to comfort customers but to prevent accidents and discourage criminal activity or loitering. Lighting is key when renters are choosing one facility over another. It can attract them or drive them away.

An inadequately illuminated facility not only feels unsafe, it is unsafe. Low visibility transforms normal pathways into tripping hazards and your parking lots into danger zones. Not only do you need a sufficient lighting, fixtures must be properly positioned and even. If you have alternating areas of brightness and dark, it’ll create night blindness.

For added energy savings and security, position motion detectors around the perimeter of your buildings in tandem with your surveillance cameras. They’ll trigger the lights to turn on whenever there’s movement, allowing the cameras to record vital information.

As a self-storage operator, it’s critical that you stay current on the latest lighting-design trends and technology. When building a new site or retrofitting an existing one, consult with a professional to create a plan that’ll save money and energy while improving visibility, safety and security.

Dan Hengstler is the director of national accounts for Priority Lighting, a national distributor of light bulbs, ballasts and fixtures to self-storage and other industries. He has more than 10 years of lighting-industry experience and speaks at conferences on innovative lighting solutions. Priority specializes in energy efficiencies in LED and other newly refined products. For more information, call 800.709.1119; e-mail [email protected]; visit

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.