Bring the Outside In
Hempfield Recreation Center in Landisville, Pa.
By Rachel Tsvetanov
Hempfield Recreation Center, a 22-acre facility in Landisville, Pa., takes tennis seriously. The center's 16 courts host almost 150 traveling matches a year and support more than 5,000 members. Each court stays booked from open to close.
Like most large complexes, Hempfield offers both indoor and outdoor courts—choosing between them depends on a player's preference, their game and the season. Managers noticed another important trend in court bookings—the back indoor court building was by far the least popular.
The problems weren't just on the surface. Behind the building's dim, yellow lighting and variable temperatures (hot in the summer, cold in the winter) were energy and maintenance problems that caught the attention of Tennis Director, Wilson Pipkin.
The old, 100-watt metal halide fixtures were becoming an expensive problem. When one bulb would burn out, the maintenance team would have to close down the court to change the bulb. The players complained, schedules were interrupted and staff wasted time on maintenance.
"Not a lot of courts were using LEDs at the time," Wilson said. "We wanted an upgrade that would take care of the root problem."
The challenge was finding LED fixtures that were inverted, one of the elements of the current lighting layout that Pipkin wanted to retain. Popular in tennis courts, aquatics centers and fitness centers, inverted fixtures bounce light off the ceiling and guard against glare that blinds or disorients athletes during play.
Pipkin turned to Big Ass Solutions, a Lexington, Ky., company that manufactures, sells and installs lights, fans and controls. Representatives set up a site visit and crafted a proposal that would meet Hempfield's three goals: decreasing maintenance interruption, increasing visibility, and decreasing the center's operating expenses.
During the site visit and proposal project, representatives talked Pipkin through the differences between metal halide and LED technology, and proposed a solution for the court's climate issues.
Metal halides, developed in the 1960s, were once prized for their energy efficiency and long life span (2 to 3 years). The lights work by passing an electrical arc through a gas-filled tube, like a fluorescent bulb. Like an incandescent light, the arc itself creates bright, visible light. Almost 75 percent of the energy metal halides consume is wasted as heat.
In contrast, LED bulbs are illuminated by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, eliminating the need for a filament. Therefore, LED fixtures typically use half the power of metal halides and deliver the same amount of lumens—the total amount of visible light. High-end LED fixtures are typically rated for up to 150,000 hours of use, or 17 years of round-the-clock use. A switch between the two technologies would meet Pipkins's goals by eliminating the need to swap bulbs for decades and decreasing energy usage by 50 percent.
However, unlike metal halides, there were few inverted LED fixtures on the market, meaning the direct light from LEDs would potentially shine into the eyes of tennis players whenever they looked up to serve. In response, Big Ass Solutions created one of the first high-powered, inverted LED fixtures specifically for Hempfield and other recreational facilities.
Hempfield also purchased two fans to help keep the indoor court building comfortable in summer and winter. High-volume, low-speed fans move large volumes of air slowly, making players feel up to 10°F cooler in summer without blowing the ball off course. In winter, they push down rising hot air to reduce energy use and keep players warm.
Members now favor the back building. Because the installations were staggered, players would walk between the halide-lit courts and the upgraded courts. "The new fixtures give it a true daylight feel," Pipkin said. "The light from the LEDs is cleaner, so players can see the ball much better."
The new upgraded building mixes the best of the indoor and the outdoor court experiences—daylighting, air movement, comfort and shelter. Unlike air-conditioned buildings, which are expensive to maintain and are frequently over-cooled, the fans offer an experience more like the natural air movement that occurs outdoors.
The fixtures also helped Hempfield improve the facility's bottom line, reducing operation and maintenance costs by almost $10,000 annually, and the center earned back nearly 50 percent of the project costs through energy rebates. The staff's favorite part of the project—working with a company whose project managers, engineers and installers handle the logistics. "It was amazing," said Pipkin, "we didn't have to touch the paperwork and there were no middlemen."
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