Car Wash Light Types: Basic Differences Between LED, Fluorescent, & Metal Halide

led lights on car wash vacuums

How do you choose between the different car wash light types? What lighting types are available and how are they different? Your car wash should consider things like budget, energy efficiency strategy, existing equipment and infrastructure, and maintenance capabilities when choosing lights. Be confident you’re getting the optimal lighting arrangement for your car wash’s needs!

LED Car Wash Lighting

led light fixture

LEDs are considered by many to be the future of commercial car wash lighting. They are highly efficient, operate at a cool temperature, and produce a bright glow that display colors very well! They can be cost-prohibitive initially, but lower energy costs help recoup that investment very quickly. Typically, LEDs are also easier to install than other lighting styles.

LEDs use semiconductor materials (elements or groups of elements that are somewhere in between an insulating material and a full conductor of electricity) mounted directly on a strip or fixture. When an electrical charge is applied, these semiconductors produce light at a relatively cool temperature compared to other forms of lighting.

Fluorescent Car Wash Lighting

fluorescent light

Fluorescent lights are efficient and produce a good color rendering. Generally, these are in the mid-level price range. Their downside is that they require special equipment like ballasts, brackets, and bulbs. Fluorescent lamps operate at slightly higher temperatures than LED, can be slow to start in cold ambient temperatures, and may have a “flickering” effect that is bothersome to eyes. Despite these issues, Fluorescent does have a cheaper up-front cost versus LED and is currently the most popular style of commercial lighting.

Fluorescent lamps ionize a small amount of mercury inside a tube. Electrons in the gas release photons at UV frequencies. The inside of the tube has a phosphor coating that converts that UV light into standard light.

Pulse and Probe Start Metal Halide Car Wash Lighting

Metal halide lighting is the most affordable and most traditional option for car wash lighting. Cons include lower efficiency, higher operating temperatures, and frequent changing of bulbs. This type of lighting uses gas-filled bulbs where the gas is ignited by electrical charge to produce light.

Probe start is the most traditional metal halide type. These lamps require three electrical contacts to ignite the gas and keep it lit. Probe start metal halide lighting is slowly phasing out, but Kleen-Rite still sells probe style bulbs and ballasts. This allows you to keep using probe start lights until you’re ready for an upgrade.

Pulse start is a step up, technology-wise, from probe style lights. This type of lamp uses an igniter with a high-voltage pulse for startup, along with two electrical connections to remain lit. Pulse start advantages over probe include: slightly better energy efficiency, less color variance with better rendition, less lumen depreciation, and less time to achieve full brightness.

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