Replacing halogen and metal halide bulbs and fittings with LED has been the obvious thing to do for the past 15 years.  Well, let’s say 8 years (the promises have been there for 15 but they really haven’t stacked up).  

Most of what was said was true – the lamps used less power, required less maintenance and lasted ‘a lot longer’.  Unfortunately, the original claims of 50,000 hours seldom, if ever, proved to be true and many people got burned with sub-standard product that cost 5 times as much as traditional bulbs yet barely out lasted them.  

Thankfully, however, the technology improved, and we started to get nearer to the life spans we had been promised.  All these problems did cause people to be more sceptical of wild promises and slowed the progress in some sectors.  Governments then started offering incentives and kick-started a wave of replacements which really got the momentum going in the market.

One of the industries that has been lagging behind (for very good reasons) in all this progress is sport.  Sport fields and stadiums, tennis courts, horse racing tracks and many others have struggled to see the value when weighing up against the potential down-sides of early-life failures.  With a number of companies working on this problem for the past few years, we can finally say that LED has arrived for sports applications, as a credible and genuine alternative to metal halide.  

The key benefits are as follows:

Digital Control and Pay to Play

By incorporating digital lighting into your club you can increase the simplicity of another revenue stream – pay to play.  

Apps are available to work in with a number of lighting systems which allows users to book and pay for a court or pitch on-line and turns the lights on at a specific light level for a specific time.  

This gives total control to the club and needs no on-site management as it can be done completely remotely. Having this remote control gives you the option to open up availability to non-members for added revenue and attract potential new members.

Dimmable

With LED being ‘digital’ there is much more control over the amount of light you use. Different lighting levels can be set based on the requirements of the night i.e. training vs competition.  

The lighting requirements for a given sport e.g. football, are 100 lux for training and 250 lux for a match.  This means that for any time that match-lighting is not required, a huge saving is able to be made to the electricity usage.  

Whilst this was possible with metal halide systems, it meant turning off certain lights and keeping others on, resulting in uneven deterioration of the lighting. Digital dimming can even be done from a phone for maximum flexibility.

Reduces Electrical Usage

With certain (not all) modern LED sport fittings, energy consumption can be reduced by 40-50%.  This is a combination of high efficiency LED’s and drivers, but more importantly high efficiency optics.  

The optics control where the light goes and therefore is very important to overall ‘system efficiency’.  Many lights claim high lumen/watt ratios.  This is meaningless unless you have proved this with guaranteed lux levels on the ground. 

This factor, in conjunction with the dimmable feature, significantly reduces the overall power usage.

Reduces Maintenance

One of the huge advantages of LED modules is low maintenance. 

Typically, a metal halide lamp will deteriorate to 75% within 500 hours.  For a well-frequented club, this may be only a few months usage, resulting in either under-performing lights or high maintenance bills.  

The lamps themselves are not overly expensive, but often the required equipment (scissor lifts or booms) are very costly – especially in rural areas where they may have to be obtained from many kilometres away.  

By contrast, LED’s should operate at a high efficiency for 50 000 hours, only requiring occasional cleaning of the optics.  When assessing the costs, this needs to be factored in.

Instant On

Having the lights up to full power instantly removes the need for lengthy start up periods. LED lighting is on instantly and if there is a power failure, will re-start immediately once the power is back on. 

The added benefit to this is that players appreciate the convenience and get used to having uninterrupted play, rather than the frustration of lights turning off during a game and waiting 20 minutes for them to re-start.  

Ultimately this equates to improved turnouts at games, more willing pay-to-play participants, and overall a better image for the club.

So in summary, whilst LED has had a rocky start to their big-field career, we do believe they have finally arrived for good.  The value can be proved, the technology is stable and you can set your club apart, attract new members andreduce your running expenses – all by having digital lighting.

A Word of Warning….

These benefits are still only true if you have the right lighting partner.  Do your research and make sure that what you are getting does stack up as there are still plenty of old-technology LED systems out there.

If you’d like to talk to one of our expert lighting specialists for advice on upgrading from halide to LED, contact us at Legacy Sports Lighting for a detailed consultation.