A lot of things are changing in the self-storage industry. Technologies advance, design styles become more sophisticated, and costs increase. But one thing that remains constant is operators’ desire to ensure happy, loyal customers. Site safety and security play a large role in that outcome, which means your facility must have proper lighting.
Poorly lit exteriors and dark hallways not only make a poor impression, they open your business to crime and accidents, leave staff and tenants feeling vulnerable, and drive prospects running to your competitors. Bright lighting, on the other hand, is a great way to outshine other self-storage facilities in the area (literally and figuratively) and ensure your operation thrives. A properly illuminated property reduces the risk of trips and falls and ensures you meet the requirements set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In fact, failing to meet these standards could result in fines.
So, it’s clear that your self-storage facility needs good lighting, but it isn’t enough to simply install it. You must properly maintain it over time to ensure it functions well and accomplishes the things you expect: improving visibility and safety, deterring crime, and contributing to positive curb appeal. Following is guidance for upkeep, plus some insight to equipment replacement and upgrades.
The easiest way to ensure your self-storage facility is properly lit is to conduct regular inspections. I recommend a monthly walk-through of the interior and exterior. Create a document or Excel spreadsheet on which you can log the date and time of each review, then add notes regarding light condition and any necessary repairs. Look for bulbs that are dimming or burned out, dirty or broken covers, and signs of pest tampering. Consider using a map to identify the areas in question, and take photos of items that need attention.
If the job requires a simple lightbulb swap, you can likely handle that yourself, but here’s an expert tip: When installing linear fluorescent, ensure the ends are properly seated—screwed in and making a connection—onto the tombstone or socket. Lamps will often fail due to improper installation. If the connection points aren’t touching metal-to-metal, this creates an arc, which can cause the lamp to burn up or even catch fire. Whatever products you use, it’s important that they’re listed by Underwriters Laboratory, which designates items that meet required safety and other regulatory requirements.
Any time you see exposed wires when installing a new fixture, or replacing a ballast, motion sensor or time switch, it’s best to hire a licensed electrical contractor. When talking with vendors, ask for the hourly rate for one person and whether the fee includes proper recycling (disposal). For high-reach areas—above 10 feet—a lift may be required and will carry additional costs. National rates for a licensed electrician average $75 to $95 an hour. Expect the rate to exceed $125 an hour for a two-man crew. A light fixture typically takes less than an hour to replace.
Replacing a simple day-to-day lightbulb or swapping in a new light fixture can be more cost-effective if you have a wholesale account with a national lighting supplier. If you’re a single-site self-storage owner, you might do business with a local electrical-wholesale supplier. For larger accounts, you want everything to be streamlined, with all your locations using the same type of lighting. This consistency allows for a more concise record of what’s been purchased in case you ever change management.
Commonly used light fixtures for self-storage hallways—a standard 4-foot T8 fluorescent—start at $2 to $3 each. You can now purchase the same lamp and buy the LED version, which consumes half the energy, produces more light and lasts twice as long, for around $8.
If you already have LED lighting, it may be under warranty. The average lifespan of a fixture or lamp is five years, though some last longer. If one fails within the warranty the period, the manufacturer should replace it at no charge to you. Some may even include a labor allowance at partial or full reimbursement for the installer fee. Some lights could also be out due to sensors, switches or outdated time schedules, so these should be inspected as well.
Some self-storage facilities are still using dated fluorescent lighting, which is common in hallways, or high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, frequently found in wallpacks as well as area, flood and street lights. But many are now converting to LEDs. Not only are they more efficient, they cost less to operate. In fact, you can save up to 70% on light energy consumption. They can also last up to 10 times longer than traditional light sources, heavily reducing your maintenance needs. If you’re interested in an update, consider the following:
- Ask your supplier or installer to review your light timers and controls. This is another way to save energy, but it also keeps your facility current with market standards.
- Use a licensed contractor vs. a handyman for large projects. You want to ensure the installation is safe and tidy and that the materials are properly disposed or recycled.
- Ask your supplier, installer and utility company if there are any incentives or rebates for switching to LEDs. Often, you can be reimbursed for some costs after inspection or installation of newer products.
- When disposing of fluorescent or HID products that contain mercury, do not throw them in your dumpster. In fact, you should have a certificate of recycle. This’ll ensure you aren’t fined. There are typically extra costs to properly recycle these types of lights.
- Finally, make sure your LED products are certified by the DesignLights Consortium, a standards organization for commercial and industrial lighting. There are many companies that claim their products have passed testing, but you could discover that they aren’t actually on a certified list. To verify, visit www.designlights.org/qpl and type in the part number.
Maintaining your self-storage lighting is critical to ensuring a safe environment and successful business. Create a plan to regularly inspect bulbs and fixtures and replace them as needed. If you’re interested in better performance, less maintenance and lower costs, consider an upgrade to LEDs.
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 or email [email protected].