LBWA–Let Sport Lights Shine Bright

In recent years, the sport-light industry has begun to use products that offer fewer, more focused, and efficient light fixtures and attachments that consume less power, direct the light exactly where it is needed, and provide safe, well-lit fields.  

According to Jason Briggs, lead developmental manager at Musco Lighting, substandard sports-field lighting results in “concern for player safety, less light on the field, and more light where it’s not wanted. Labor and equipment costs to correct this can be significant.” 

Briggs also notes that it is more efficient to “group” re-lamp rather than to replace individual bulbs as they burn out.  Group re-lamping involves replacing entire sectors of light fixtures as they reach the end of their life cycle, rather than waiting for them to burn out. 

“As public concern over energy conservation grows, many cities and organizations are implementing automated-lighting control systems to turn their lights on and off,” asserts Briggs. Automated, computer-controlled systems are more reliable than timers and better at accommodating last-minute changes or rainouts. Operating a lighting system only when needed saves substantial energy dollars over time, especially for multiple fields. 

The transition from older lighting systems to the newer “sustainable green” systems has begun, but there are still many departments that have not been able to make the jump to new millennium lighting—largely because of smaller staffs and budgets. One official from a major sport-lighting company estimated that, based on his experience, perhaps half of parks departments have gone to newer systems.  

With thousands of these departments burning tens of thousands of sports lights, that is still an unfathomable amount of energy use, and preserving even a small percentage would represent a large savings in both money and power. 

“A lot of sports-field managers think they don’t have enough lamps if the light levels aren’t good,” says Johnson, who also works at Hubbell Lighting. “But if they are only replacing lamps that burn out, the entire system may only be operating at 60 percent of the total potential. It is better to totally re-lamp, or, at the very least, ensure that each time you replace lamps, you clean and re-aim the entire system.” 

Cleaning and re-aiming may be easy and less-expensive fixes to lighting issues. Outdoor bulbs get dirty and simply cleaning the film off the lens can greatly increase output. High winds and other elements cause fixtures to become misaligned, even though they may look all right from the ground.  

Making The Switch

Regardless of how well-maintained a sport-field lighting system is, there comes a time when a parks department has to look at upgrading. A systematic approach is best. The project manager in charge of the upgrade has to ask the right questions, find the right resources, and be able to make studied recommendations. 

Briggs provides suggestions that can help a maintenance manager prepare for an upgrade: 

Know what to look for when purchasing a  sport-lighting system. In evaluating a lighting system that will perform effectively over the next 20 to 30 years, consider the importance of accountability from the supplier. Buyers who expect a system to provide trouble-free lighting should require the equipment supplier to meet a set of warranty criteria, which includes a written guarantee, a proven commitment to maintenance, and support after the sale. 

Seek good service. Partnering with a sport-lighting manufacturer that stands behind its products with good service will make a substantial difference in an organization’s long-term satisfaction. You are making the investment; therefore, you are in a position to develop the criteria that each manufacturer must meet, especially in a competitive-bid process. 

Following these three key guidelines will help establish a supplier’s level of commitment: 

1. Ask for a written guarantee. Manufacturers can provide a written performance guarantee that the entire system—from the foundation to the light fixtures—will meet the specifications you established. Receiving this guarantee from a single source can eliminate the headache of sorting out responsibility among multiple manufacturers or separate installation and service contractors, should a problem occur. 

2. Compare warranties. The warranty reflects a manufacturer’s confidence in the product. Some manufacturers’ warranties include routine maintenance and provide longer coverage based on their confidence in the product’s performance. 

3. Evaluate the service reputation. Ask for project references, and review the manufacturer’s service record. Determine if there are dedicated warranty and field-service personnel in your area. Find out if there will be an on-site field-performance evaluation after the installation. 

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