Wall pack light fixtures or luminaires are exterior-grade light fixtures that are ideal for illuminating walkways, streets, and driveways adjacent to buildings. Wall packs are typically mounted on the sides of buildings, but are sometimes able to be mounted on poles, too. Beyond being functional by emitting light, many wall packs also provide aesthetic value. For instance, while two standard wall packs mounted on either side of an entrance will emit light, a custom-colored, stylized wall pack would provide the light and be a potential conversation piece, too. Wall packs distribute light in three basic patterns. Standard wall packs distribute light out and down. Semi- and full-cutoff wall packs distribute light only down. Up-down wall packs distribute light up and down. There is a lot to consider when purchasing wall packs.
What You Should Know When Deciding Which Wall Pack to Purchase
- Anatomy of a wall pack
- Types of wall packs
- Size matters
- Lighting types and technology
- Light trespass
- Special Applications
- Kelvin Temperature
Anatomy of a Great Wall Pack
Outdoor fixtures need to be durable, as they will be subjected to rain, snow, heat, and cold. Access Fixtures uses high-quality wall pack housings constructed of cast aluminum and treated with a chromate conversion coating to deter corrosion. A powdercoat finish is then applied to each wall pack to provide a durable paint covering.
The electrical components are found inside the wall pack housing. Some wall packs are built overseas with international components; others are assembled in the USA with domestic components; a third category of wall pack is assembled in the USA with international and domestic components. Depending on project goals like efficacy, budget, and performance, you may want to consider one or all of the above options.
Something else to investigate before purchasing wall packs are certifications. All products that use electricity should be rated for the application. Wall packs are no different. The three major certifications are UL, ETL, and CSA. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and CSA stands for Canadian Standards Association. ETL was originally the marking for ETL Testing Laboratories but is now a mark of Intertek Testing Services. Any of the three certifications is sufficient. The wall pack should be rated by one of the three for wet location, as the fixture will be used outdoors and may be exposed to driving rain.
Four Main Types of Wall Packs
There are four main types of wall packs: forward-throw, full cutoff, semi-cutoff, and up/down. Each type serves a purpose.
Forward Throw Wall Packs: Forward throw type wall packs are the most frequently used as they are able to emit light farther out from the wall than any other type. In fact, forward throw type wall packs are often used as area lights that are wall mounted as opposed to being on a pole. As with most designs, they come in different sizes to accommodate a range of wattages. These types of wall packs are available with various lighting technologies. Issues with forward throw type wall packs are that they are not dark sky compliant and can be a source of light trespass. The light emitted can be seen from relatively long distances and the light emitted is basically unhindered. It goes in all directions.
Semi-Cutoff Wall Packs: A semi-cutoff wall pack is a balance between a forward throw wall pack and a full cutoff wall pack. The lamp in the luminaire is somewhat shielded by a shield that comes down in front of the luminaire. These fixtures limit light pollution but are not dark sky compliant. Similar to forward throw wall packs, these are still somewhat effective as wall-mounted area lights. Semi-cutoff wall packs are available with all types of lighting technology.
Full Cutoff Wall Packs: The lamp in this kind of wall pack is fully covered except at the bottom of the luminaire; light is only emitted down. No light is emitted up and these fixtures are dark sky compliant. Full cutoff also means light trespass is reduced, if not completely eliminated. The wall on which the wall pack is mounted is washed with light.
Up and down: Up/down type wall packs are a popular form of light distribution built to create a specific lighting effect. Up and down lighting is exactly as it sounds; the light output on these fixtures is pointed up and/or down. Frequently wall packs are available in custom RAL colors.
Wall pack housings increase in size to either achieve a specific design or to allow enough room for a high-lumen system. The same wall pack design may be manufactured in different sizes to house higher-wattage, higher-lumen-emitting light systems. A larger form factor historically meant more room for bigger lamps and ballasts. The extra space also helped reduce heat, which could negatively impact the life of the unit. LEDs take up far less space and generate less heat, so larger fixtures are now used to fulfill aesthetic—not functional—goals.
Lighting Types and Technology
There are currently five types of lighting technology available for wall packs: high pressure sodium, pulse-start metal halide, compact fluorescent, induction, and LED. Each option works well in some situations and may not work as well in others. There is no best option, so choose the option that best fits your needs. For more information on lighting technologies, visit our lamp types page. There, you will get an overview of each lamp type as well as a video to help explain the differences.
Each type of wall pack has unique light distribution properties. Traditional wall packs distribute light out and everywhere, while semi-cutoff wall packs control the light down and out. Full cutoff limits light distribution to below the luminaire. Full cutoff wall packs are dark sky compliant and limit light trespass and light pollution.
When choosing your wall packs, you should consider the three components of light pollution: light glare, light trespass, and sky glow. Light glare is the harsh, uncomfortable brightness that light fixtures sometimes produce. Light trespass is the amount of light that exceeds the boundaries of a given area, such as a flood light that lights up a neighbor’s property. Sky glow is the amount of light emitted upward that illuminates the night sky.
Many regions require property owners to meet certain standards regarding light pollution, particularly in urban areas where dark sky compliance is a concern. In these situations, wall packs should be full cutoff, ensuring the light is emitted downward and only slightly forward. This prevents light from shining upward into the sky or onto surrounding properties.
Wall packs typically come standard in black, architectural bronze, and in some cases, white. All are available in custom colors, which are specified using RAL codes. RAL is a worldwide color standard used by professionals in the design and architecture industries. The RAL system has been used since 1927 and currently includes over 2,300 colors with 70 metallic shades. Every color is associated with an RAL code that allows you to easily specify custom colors when ordering your wall packs.
Vandal Resistant Wall Packs
Vandal resistant LED wall packs use traditional designs but often feature heavy-duty aluminum and tamper-resistant components. Removing vulnerable glass from the design leaves nothing to break. To accommodate the glass-free design, some vandal resistant wall packs have unique housings and form factors.
If you want a wall pack to emit a specific color light, you will need to be familiar with Kelvin temperatures, or the color temperature of the light source. The color temperature of a lamp indicates whether the lamp has a warm, midrange, or cool color appearance. Color temperatures are measured in Kelvin. Light sources are often characterized by the color temperatures available.
Available Kelvin temperatures range from 1000K to 8000K. The lower the Kelvin temperature, the warmer the light will appear. The higher the Kelvin temperature, the cooler the light will appear. A Kelvin temperature of 6500K or higher will produce a blue light similar to that of an overcast sky. Color temperatures of 3500K or lower tend to be warmer, similar to that of candle light. If you are looking for a more natural white light, a color temperature between 4100K and 5500K will provide a white light similar to that of natural daylight.
Speak to an Access Fixtures Lighting Specialist about Choosing the Right Fixture
Access Fixtures is your factory-direct source for all light fixtures needed to suitably illuminate your property. If you have a lighting question, we will be glad to discuss your project with you. We want to make sure you get the exact fixture for your needs, your budget, and your goals. We are passionate about lighting and love what we do—we’ll get you an answer. To speak with an Access Fixtures lighting specialist, call (800) 468-9925.