Automotive Dealerships September 30, 2015

What Light Fixtures Cost Car Dealers the Most Money?


When you have your eye on lighting every day at work, you can’t help having that same focus in your off time. When we go out to eat, or are on the daily commute, we are surrounded by sub-par lighting solutions that are in desperate need of updating.

Some of the biggest, most costly offenders in the lighting industry are car dealerships. Most car lots adopted a lighting solution before LEDs became a cost-effective. But, as the cost of LED lighting falls so do the reasons not to replace your lighting fixtures become non-existent.

This blog goes into more detail about the inadequacies of common dealership light fixtures to help owners understand how much money you’re wasting by utilizing them over LEDs.

A Common Culprit for Auto Dealerships

Metal halide lighting fixtures are among some of the most common we find on car lots. This type of fixture produces light via an electric arc through a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and compounds of metals with bromine or iodine. You might even hear these lighting fixtures referred to as high-intensity discharge, or HID, lamps. This toxic mixture is not only bad for your energy savings, but for the environment as well.

While upfront costs may be low, the total cost of ownership for these fixtures increase due to high maintenance and replacement costs. And compared to LEDs, metal halide lights require an enormous amount of energy, which drives the cost up even further.

A Car Dealership’s Vision – Realized

Recently, we did work for Champion Ford Auto located in Owensboro, Kentucky. Before our installation process began, we conducted a comprehensive survey of their lot to determine their current energy use. In the end, we were capable of saving their business hundreds of thousands of kilowatt hours, tens of thousands of dollars per year and captured over $68,000 in utility incentives and rebates.

To learn more about our lighting solution for their car dealership, follow the link at the bottom of this blog.

Calculating Your Energy Use and Cost

This math is not meant to be comprehensive, but to give you a rough estimate of your lot’s current energy use.

First, determine the wattage of each of your fixtures. On car dealership lots, it’s common to find 400 to 1000-watt metal halide lights. The wattage may vary slightly from fixture to fixture. For instance, a 400 watt metal halide may actually be running at 450 watts, but for this lesson we’ll assume they are operating at 1000 watts.

Once you’ve figured out what type of fixtures are installed on your lot, count how many there are. Champion Ford had 84 on their lot. A little simple math tells us that when all of these fixtures are on, they use 84,000 watts.

To obtain kilowatts used, simply divide again by 1000. So, the answer is 84 kilowatts.

Next, find out how many hours per day your lights are on. Most dealerships run their lights constantly, even at night, for security reasons and for window shoppers. This can be incredibly expensive, but it is standard practice.

Running your lights 24 hours a day is 8,760 hours a year. So now, we multiply that figure by 84.

84 kilowatts x 8,760 hours = 735,840 kilowatt hours (kWh).

Now you need to determine the cost per kWh from your utility provider. It’s usually around $.09 or $.10 (*9-10 cents) per kWh. For simplicity, let’s assume it is $.10/kWh.

735,840 kWh x $.10 = $73,584

Divide this number by the total number of fixtures on your lot.

$73,584 x 84 fixtures = $876 per year for each lighting fixture running 24 hours a day.

That’s not including the cost of replacing these lights or ongoing maintenance. This total cost of ownership is a massive financial burden compared to LEDs. Using nearly half the energy, requiring less maintenance, emitting better light, and having a longer lifespan makes LED technology the clear market leader.

Only Part of the Equation

Replacing each light with a one-to-one switch out is only half the solution. Pairing LED lighting with a comprehensive photometric analysis of your needs and a lighting management system turns your energy savings into revenue generation.

A monitoring and management system allows you to control your lighting with daylighting harvesting, scheduled on/off times and motion sensors. Tracking the motion on your car lot lets you know what inventory customers are looking at and what time. Antiquated fixtures like metal halide lighting just burn through money and energy.

Download our free case study on Champion Ford to learn more about the advantages of LED lighting! And, if you have other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d be proud to be a part of your next energy solution.