Give Lumens A Checkup

Lights–by their very nature and makeup–deteriorate over time. It is a proven fact that poorly maintained lamps lose at least 10 percent light output per year. Factors such as weather, surrounding temperature and use and maintenance all play a role in the rate at which a lamp ages. Consequently, lamps lose the ability to give off the same amount of light they gave the previous day. To increase the life expectancy of lights and avoid an accumulation of dead spots on courts, several maintenance protocols should be followed.

Defining A Foot-Candle

A foot-candle is a unit of illumination used to measure the light output in candela per square foot, according to Tennis Courts: A Construction and Maintenance Manual, written by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). This unit of measurement is still used at many recreational sites to evaluate the light output of court lamps. Terms and other units of measurement–such as lux, lumen, candlepower and radiance–all help build the discussion on defining a light source, but the usual measurement is foot-candles. (While I could digress here for a moment and attempt to sort out some of the debate on the measurement of light, I will leave that discussion for another day.)

The USTA and the ASBA have recommended average levels of foot-candles for tennis courts. Recommendations are based on the type of play on the court:

· Class 1–Professional play involving broadcast television: 125+ average maintained foot-candles are recommended.

· Class 2–Non-broadcast play involving college, satellite and challenger play: 75 average maintained foot-candles are required.

· Class 3–High schools, tennis clubs and parks/recreational: 50 average maintained foot-candle level is expected.

· Class 4–High schools, tennis clubs and parks/recreational: 30 average maintained foot-candles are required.

(Note: Classes 3 and 4 are interchangeable, based on skill level and spectator requirements. In fact, parks/recreational and tennis clubs can even be found in Class 2, due in large part to the type of play on the courts.)

Another item that has an effect on tennis-court light levels is the average age of the players. Since older players require higher light levels, some suggest replacing lamps when they have reached 75 percent of their rated life-expectancy. Following this protocol will keep older players in the game.

Measuring Light Output

There are various light meters on the market to accurately measure light output. While they range in simplicity and price, all of them will ultimately give you a better understanding of your light coverage. The local utility company also may be a good resource for training and rental of these devices. I have found utility companies eager to assist with measuring and improving lighting/electrical use at parks. Another resource is the USTA, which recommends the “Light Meter Reading Diagram,” a valuable tool for taking precise measurements of lamp outputs around courts.

The depreciation of the amount of light a lamp produces is similar to the idea of driving a new car off the lot. The rate at which this takes place is called the light-loss factor (LLF). It is generally accepted by most manufacturers that a lamp will depreciate 20 to 40 percent over its life span. Factors like weather, outside temperature, use and maintenance all add to the LLF of a lamp. Keep in mind you have an effect on the rate at which lamps decrease their light output–frequently switching lamps on and off also will shorten their lifespan.

Developing A Maintenance Routine

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