LED Lighting for Tennis – Is It Really Here?
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Perhaps you recently read where the All England Tennis Club has installed LED lighting on Center Court. It only gets used when the roof is closed but the club spent a considerable sum to replace what was a few short years ago, state of the art, HID lighting. You may also be aware that when the USTA installed the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium they went with LED lighting as well. This is all well and good for the Grand Slams where revenues are significant enough to support the investment in the quantities needed to produce professional, television caliber lighting, but what about for the average facility? Has the performance improved enough and have costs come down enough to justify the investment? I feel like I can finally say yes to that question! It will be different for each facility based on number of lights, hours of use, level of play and local tax and power company incentives but here is some analysis.
- Performance: There has been considerable development in the technology where performance is concerned. Current LED lights for tennis are now able to generate light levels consistent with, or in most cases better than, your existing Metal Halide fixture. The lights can also be directed quite easily to produce more consistent (meaning better quality) lighting.
- Costs: LED’s are now mass produced so not surprisingly, the cost of the individual LED’s has come way down. Better performance means less fixtures are required to meet or exceed your current system. Lastly, greater efficiencies reduce heat and lighten the weight of the fixtures. This is important because it means you can pull down a metal halide and replace it with an LED without replacing the pole. This is big savings!
Maintenance: Early LED systems suffered a lot of challenges. Not all LED’s were created equal and many failed. The drivers were still being refined as well and many of these failed. As with most technologies, the failure rate has come down drastically. What is so exciting about this is that now, the light loss curve on LED’s is so low that lamp replacement is all but eliminated. While no one will offer this in writing, some manufacturers believe that their LED’s can go as long as 50 years without replacement! Add on that LED’s are dimmable and have instant on off and they are definitely less expensive to operate.
Now a few disclaimers.
- The cost of an LED fixture is still more expensive than old metal halide technology so if you are buying new don’t expect to get a better price.
- Where LED is most affordable is at facilities that already have a lighting system and want to make the switch. In most cases you can now get new lights, improved performance and reduced operating costs. And many companies that sell LED’s can help you navigate the system of local and federal incentives to get a payback over time.
- Remember that not all LED’s and not all companies that sell LED fixtures are created equal! Be sure to shop with a reputable company and preferably one that understand tennis well.