Feature Article - October 2014
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Lighten Up

Ball Fields, Pools Get a Boost With LEDs

By Deborah L. Vence

LED Leads the Way

While halogen and incandescent lights have been the choice of lighting for many years, LEDs have become the preferred alternative for sports facilities and pools. Today, LED lighting illuminates' ball fields and pools and has become a popular topic for sports lighting.

"The technology has been around since the 1960s. Like the metal halide arc tube light source, the diode is the component of a lighting system that converts electrical energy into light energy," Rogers explained.

"Recent improvements in the diode lumen output and decrease in cost have made it a relevant option for some sports lighting applications," he said.

That is, the rate of converting electrical energy into lumens of light energy is an element that affects the end result.

"Optimizing the lighting comes from the combination of how the lumens of light are generated, how the fixture is designed to control and deliver light to the field of play, how the lighting is designed to meet the activity requirements, how the lighting impacts the playing and surrounding environments, and the cost of owning and maintaining the system over time," he explained.

Evaluation of the benefits and cost of both diode and arc tube light sources should be done in order to determine the light source option that best fits the project needs.

"Years ago, when pool lights were being selected, halogen lighting was the save-the-day kind of thing. Now, it's LED—especially in the last two or three years," added Mike Fowler, commercial marketing manager/sales for a company that specializes in commercial pool and aquatics products. "In the last two or three years LED lighting has changed the pool industry."

Different options are available in changing out pool lights, too. For one, you can change the whole fixture.

"The choice is to decide whether to replace the entire fixture and start new," Luecker said. "This requires removing the old fixture from the niche, installing the new fixture and wiring it to the junction box. This takes more time than just changing a bulb, but the benefit is you get a new, completely sealed LED light fixture," he said. "If you select to install a new LED bulb, instead of installing a completely new LED fixture, you are provided a new light lens and gasket along with the LED bulb. This is to make sure the light is sealed properly, so it will prevent any water from entering the fixture and damaging the new LED bulb."

And, "A lot of the manufacturers … are looking at white lighting," Fowler added. "Most of us have color LED lights, but we're talking about white. We have a full line of white ones. But, in general, what people are doing is taking the incandescent and replacing it with the equivalent LED."

Basically, LED technology provides longer life and uses 86 percent less energy than incandescent lights. Several different power companies are offering rebates to end users using LEDs, too.

"A typical incandescent light bulb was meant to last 3,000 hours. LEDs are capable, but certified for 30,000 hours of operation," he said.

When looking at incandescent lights in a pool, you will observe a spotlight in the pool, and then the light will disperse as you look further down from the spotlight.

"On one end, you will see the spotlight, just a few feet away. But, you will not be able to easily light the pool up everywhere," Fowler noted.

With LED lights, on the other hand, you don't see that spotlight. It's transformed into the water and is evenly lit.

"That's why pure light [offers] better lighting and is evenly distributed. Another option is a yellowish tint. The thing to ask is, was it a true LED light or a color LED light on the white? When you have the color version, it's a combination of white and red," he said, adding that another option that's fairly new to the industry is an LED replacement bulb suited to go into any incandescent lighting fixture.

"Without changing the fixture [you can change it] to an LED version, simply by taking the bulb out," Fowler said.

About a year ago, Fowler's company launched a special type of LED lamp that uses minimal electrical consumption. The LED lamp, which is sold as a kit, is a plug-and-play replacement for the company's incandescent bulbs.

The kit contains a light assembly, gasket, a light wide/narrow option glass lens and new clamp. The company's white lamps use 34 to 51 watts of power, and are available in white 300-, 400- and 500-watt incandescent light equivalencies, in 120V or 12V versions. Vibrant color-changing models also available. In addition, the lamps have a reflector design that creates more uniform light distribution; a lens that can be rotated 180 degrees to provide wide or narrow beam pattern.

"The whole thing with going to LED means better lighting, energy savings (money savings for facility), serious money. One of the things in comparing possible savings is that we did an analysis program that shows what the potential savings aspect is," he said. "Incandescent lights that were running 24 hours a day, if you had a 500-watt incandescent light, the annual cost just to electrical savings by switching … would be $593 dollars a year in energy costs. That's just one light." (The estimated life savings of that one light switch to LED would be about $9,700.)

Furthermore, Fowler suggested that facility managers consider going to a lighting manufacturer's website, once the decision to switch to LED has been made, and do a further analysis on potential savings. "You can even contact your local power company [to find out] about rebates. A lot of them are doing it," Fowler said.

Luecker added that choosing to change to LED lighting for your swimming pool saves energy, and is really an easy switch.

"The change does not make a difference whether the pool is indoor or outdoor," he said. "Many swimming pool operators are amazed at how much better their pools look, with the brighter spectrum lighting from the LED bulbs/fixtures, than the light their incandescent lights provided."

Moreover, LED lights consume 1/10th of the power of an incandescent bulb and have a longer life.

"An LED bulb can last up to 40,000 hours, which can work out to be many years as compared to an incandescent bulb that may only last one year. This saves labor cost in that the bulbs need to be changed less often," Luecker explained.