Firstly, let’s get one myth out of the way. That is the belief that LED automatically will be more efficient and longer lasting than their dinosaur relatives, metal halide. As it turns out this more frequently false than it is true. Now that’s not because LED is bad or inefficient, but in high-power applications like sport, there is a lot more science to it than most domestic or warehouse applications. The big issue is the size of the field, along with the level of lighting required, making sports lighting the holy grail of LED lighting.
So, having got that out the way let’s look at the benefits you can expect to get if you choose the right LED light for your sports club. We’ll also comment on some things to look out for to make sure you don’t end up with a red face at the next committee meeting.
One for one replacement
As it turns out the biggest expense is not the lights themselves. The poles, electricity, trenching and control systems combined are all significantly more than the lights, although the lights tend to get the attention. If you already have poles in place, look for a light that will allow you to utilise these. This involves assessing the weight and sail area (surface area) to ensure there will be no additional load that hasn’t been allowed for in the original pole design. Along with that is the beam pattern needs to be able to provide the same light as you currently have without increasing the number of fittings. If you do increase them then the gross weight and sail area still needs to be the same as the original metal halide fittings.
Power usage or energy efficiency
As mentioned above, just being LED doesn’t make a sports lamp efficient. In fact, in most studies and comparisons we have done, the LED’s required significantly more power when achieving a specific lux value than did their metal halide comparisons. Because this will vary based on the beam pattern, the safe way to do it is to get the design layout done to the required lux and then you can easily compare power usage. To be fair to LED, just make sure you are getting the new design to the same level of lighting as what you currently have, rather than what you would like to have and assume you have. This needs to be done with a lux meter such as Lux Light Meter Pro for iOS or Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android.
Low or No Maintenance
For those who are tired of replacing metal halide lamps every year, this aspect is a major bonus. Assuming you are buying an LED with a good quality driver (5 years guarantee should be normal) you should not have to do anything other than occasional cleaning, for years. The LED modules are built as a system and there is basically nothing that can be done. So for those who have had to hire cherry-pickers, scissor lifts and the like, this is a genuine saving.
With having a range of LED chips to choose from, the lighting can be customised to suit your needs and budget. If the ground is being used for training then 70 CRI is adequate. If the field is used for international games that will be televised, then 90 CRI is a must. LED gives you this flexibility but has to be thought through before purchasing as there is no quick-fix once the modules are in place.
Ever had the power cut during a game (when using metal halides) and had to wait 10 or 15 minutes for them to come on again? This can be frustrating to say the least and is another issue that is totally removed with LED. The modules start instantly and even when soft-starting, will be up to full power within 5 seconds.
Does your club accountant ever complain about electricity bills and how the lights have been left on overnight, or why do we have to use full power for training? With digital lighting, there are many apps and control systems that allow you to give access to different members via SMS codes, pre-set lighting levels for training vs games, auto-off, remote checking etc. All this gives you greater control and transparency and also opens up options of pay-to-play to help fund the running expenses. Also, being digital, there is much more that can be done with the lighting system to make it multi-functional so the facility can be used for other functions, beyond sport.
So, whilst it’s not a given that LED is going to improve your bottom line, there certainly are a lot of benefits if it’s researched properly and the right decision is made.