Feature Article - April 2002
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Some Light Reading

Designing the best lighting for a sports field doesn’t have to be a battle or cost a bundle

By Stacy St. Clair

Saving money on indoor illumination

Indoor facilities typically don't have to worry about their lights upsetting neighbors, but they must face their own nemesis: electricity bills.

Several facilities have turned to new automatic dimmer systems to reduce their energy bills. Though the technology is being used in gymnasiums and natatoriums, it has received the warmest praise from ice rink owners who spend obscene amounts on electricity. The systems, which can reduce rinks' energy bills by 35 percent on average, pay for themselves after roughly two years of use. It also lowers refrigeration loading costs by an estimated 16 percent by lowering the heat created by lights at ice level.

The technology, which can be retro-fitted to work with a building's existing lighting, uses motion sensors to detect what can of action is taking place in facility. At an ice rink, for example, the system would dim the lights to 50-percent power when no one is in the arena. Upon a person's entrance, the lighting is restored to appropriate levels.

When hockey players take the ice for practice, the skaters' speed tells the system to illuminate the rink to 75-percent power, more than enough light for drills but still saving money. Once the players leave the ice, the censors automatically dim the lights to 50 percent. As soon as anyone enters, the detectors instantly bring up the lights. If the patrons are basic skaters such as parent-and-tot class participants, the lamps would dim to a maintenance level—62 percent power—because recreational programming does not require as much light as hockey.

In the end, an ice arena spending $17,844 annually on its electricity bills could save $7,719 per year by reducing light and refrigeration loading costs.