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The decade-long promise for LED has been ‘longer life and lower running expenses’. Whilst this has proved true in many industries, it certainly is not a given in sport applications.  

2kW metal halide fittings have been the industry standard for longer than anyone can remember. Loved by designers for the fantastic light distribution, hated by facilities managers who are forever having to hire a cherry-picker in order to change yellowing bulbs.  

LED certainly seemed like the answer until lighting designers complained about substandard light distribution, heavier fittings and uncertain lifespans. Unfortunately, they were right to be cynical as LED has certainly not achieved any notable success in the sport market until very recently.  

So, you are now going out to find the perfect replacement for your ageing 2kW Metal Halides. 

What do you look for and how do you know a ‘lemon’ if you see one?  

Sadly, this is not always obvious and manufacturers certainly don’t promote their weaknesses so here’s a few tips to keep you on the right side of your clubs treasurer and sports captain.

If Keeping your Old Poles, Ensure you Match Weight and Sail Area

Generally speaking, LED fittings are much heavier than Metal Halides.  

The traditional fittings are often big, but relatively light and so the poles were engineered accordingly.  Replacing 20kg lights with 30kg lights may not seem like a big deal, however, when multiplied by 6 or 8, the results can be disastrous, as some clubs can testify!  

Poles falling over due to weight overload is not uncommon and can be fatal.  

Sail area relates to wind resistance.  Many of the traditional fittings mounted flat or horizontal, giving a small sail area. 

Ideally find an LED that mounts horizontal too, as this removes another of the potential issues with overstressed poles when the wind gets up.

Check Out the Beam Pattern

For all their old age, many of the 2kW metal halide fittings (particularly Phillips MVP) have exceptional beam patterns and are really efficient.  

Do not assume that any LED fitting will be able to replace these old warriors easily!  

Get a lighting plan done by the supplier or wholesaler and make sure you will achieve ‘equal to/or better than’ results with the same or less kilowatts.  

Again, I cannot overstate, this is not a foregone conclusion and if you are basing your decision on energy savings, you may be disappointed. 

Get a ‘Guaranteed’ Lighting Plan

Many companies are willing to provide a lighting plan prior to purchase.  

Ensure that you get some performance guarantee to make sure the results are based on sound IES files.  

Many IES files are generated using optimum conditions and performance of the light and don’t accurately reflect the performance in the field.  

A relatively small error can result in really poor performance on the ground if all negative factors combine.  

In some cases council grants are subject to the facility conforming to national standards (i.e. European, Australian etc).  Non-compliance in this case could result in a grant not being given, or even withdrawn. 

Not only do you not have a compliant facility, but you have lost funding too.

Look Closely at Spill Lighting Control

Any aspect of metal halide lighting was good cut off and control of spill lighting.  

Many LED’s shine at 180 D and rely on the optic or reflector to control the beam.  This is good, provided the optic is good.  

A poor optic will put light where you don’t need it, but worse still, put light where you really don’t want it i.e. in the neighbour’s yard.  

The lighting plan should include spill light calculations so that you can verify that they comply with council requirements.

Make Sure the Lamp Mounts Horizontally

A number of the old metal halides had mastered horizontal mounting.  This reduces sail area as previously mentioned, as well as spill light, and is much better for neighbours and players alike.  

Lamps that mount at a 45-degree angle not only waste light, they cause real issues with lighting control.  

A well designed light should not need to be angled up by more than 15% off horizontal. If it does, you poles may not be high enough or the lamp itself may not be quite as good as claimed.

Conclusion

So, the summary conclusion is there are LED lights out there that can do what you need them to do, but make sure you’ve done the research as there is certainly more ways of getting it wrong than getting it right.  

Don’t ever assume that LED is better just because it’s LED.  Metal halides are great lights and proved very worthy competitors to their digital replacements.  

If you’d like to find out more on replacing metal halide lights with LED, send us an email or give us a call on +61 3 8566 6146 and chat to one of our friendly consultants.

Tennis court lighting, like most things in life, vary dramatically depending on the type of usage and personal preferences.  In principle, the ball is small and moves fast.  This usually requires a higher level of lighting than, say, a football.  The important thing to bear in mind is that it is always cheaper to do the job right the first time than to have to redo it in 2 years’ time.  Other factors will include how close are your neighbours and how much do you want to spend.

Lighting levels

This would be the first consideration as everything else will be based on the lux levels required.  For basic play and just to have enough light to see the ball a minimum of 100 lux is required.  This would be suitable for a late night fun game, however, if you are more serious and using the court for training you should really be working to 250 lux.  This will give you sufficient light for higher speeds of play and would be where many good clubs operate their lighting levels.  At the next tier up, competition courts operate at 500 lux.  These lux levels allow for high speed play and would be suitable for any class of player.  Any light levels are achievable, it just depends on where you see your style of play in relation to the budget you set.  To go from 100 lux to 500 lux would require approximately 2.5 times the poles and light modules.

Along with the overall lighting level, uniformity, or evenness of the spread of light is equally important.  It is not sufficient for a designer to quote an average lux level as this could vary from 500 lux directly under the fittings, to 100 lux in centre court.  The average may be 250 but the useableness of the light will be hampered by being patchy and uneven.  You therefore need to ensure that the uniformity factor is round 0.4.

Light Control

In order to make sure your friendly neighbours stay friendly, check the lighting plan provided by the supplier to ensure there is no spill light at ground level.  Also ensure the lights mount horizontally.  This will tend to be the more specialised lights as many of the cheaper modules will mount at an angle.  Whilst these angled units are less expensive, they can cost a lot in relationships as the glare from these lights can be literally seen for miles.

Pole Height

For domestic courts this is usually best to be kept as low as possible to minimise glare and over-spill light.  Depending on the light fitting used and the lighting levels required a height of 6m to 8m is usually feasible.  For public areas poles up to 20m are used, particularly when lighting a number of courts from a restricted number of poles.  This height make uniformity easier as the light spreads naturally when given more distance.

To compensate for the lower poles it is often necessary to use more poles.  For instance if using 10-15m poles, 4 would be sufficient to get 250 lux and good coverage.  If 6-8m is ideal then 6 poles may be required to get the same results or 8-10 poles to achieve competition lux levels.

The main problem with metal halides was that when bulbs needed to be changed, the higher the poles the bigger the hassle. With LED’s having now come into their own in terms of reliability and longevity, keeping pole height down to make servicing easier is no longer an issue.

Remember that often these poles, although galvanised to resist rusting, can be powder coated or painted to suit your environment.  Black or white are common but other options are often available on request.

Pole installation

Lighting poles are now available virtually off-the-shelf from a number of reputable suppliers.  They conform to relevant regulations and the manufacturers can provide drawings and specifications to help aid a council planning submission.  The poles are mostly supplied with a complete installation kit including a frame structure which gets concreted into the ground.  This, along with the installation instructions, makes it simple and safe for any good contractor to install the poles.

Electrical requirements

The typical current draw for a tennis court will be from 2.4kW (less than a kettle to boil water) for achieving 100+ lux up to 6kW which would provide competition level lighting with 10 poles.  The modules typically are supplied with an LED driver which can be mounted at the base of the pole or may be integrated into the design of the lamp.  Whilst the wiring up and installation is simple, ensure that a qualified electrician does the installation and that the modules are compliant with local regulations.

Conclusion

This planning work will put you in good stead to have a lot of fun for many years to come.  A cautionary note would be to use this guide to cross check what you are told by contractors.  Sometimes things that are simpler, easier and cheaper for them may not be best for you in the long term.

Good luck and enjoy the game!