How to convert conventional sports field lighting to LED?

how to convert sports lighting to led

LED lights have moved past the “early adopter” phase and are just about industry standard for sports fields. Before much longer, any sports complex – indoor or outdoor – that is still using conventional halide lamps will be an outlier, the kind that people avoid. 

LED lighting systems can replace conventional lighting systems during a broad overhaul of a sports facility (e.g., field or court resurfacing, stadium expansion) or as part of a targeted upgrade of the lighting system. Organizations planning a lighting system upgrade should start from the premise that their new lights will be LED, and then build their budgets and plans around that core.

Why should I replace my lights with LED?

Conventional lighting systems have a single advantage over LED lights, and that advantage expires even quicker than a halide lamp: upfront product and installation costs. If your only concern is how much the lights will cost you over the first few months of operation, then you can make the case for a halide system. But obviously, no one thinks over such a small timeframe. 

Conventional light bulbs start declining as soon as you turn them on for the first time. It’s like the value of a new car: it drops as soon as you drive it off the lot. 

The lifespan of a conventional lamp is how long until it no longer produces any light. But no one keeps a light bulb in the socket until it’s completely out: not at home, and certainly not at a sports field. Halide lamps are replaced when they decline to about 70% of the original, max illumination. This can happen within the first 15,000 hours of operation. On the other hand, LED lights decline less than 5% over 10x as many hours of on-time. That means you would replace a conventional lamp 10 times – paying for parts and labor – before you replace an LED lamp once. So much for those upfront savings.

 

Over the course of that abbreviated lifetime, conventional lamps require more power to produce a given amount of light. Less of each lamp’s light would reach the field because halide lamps scatter light far more than LED lamps do. Therefore, you would also need more lamps to produce a given amount of luminance across your field. More lamps, consuming more power per lamp, wasting more light per lamp, therefore requiring more power across the system to do the same job as an LED system. Again, so much for those upfront savings.

Then what do you do with the defunct lamps? Throw them in the dumpster? Um, no, you really don’t want to do that. 

Halide lamps contain mercury, which is a toxic metal that can leach into water supplies and soil if not properly disposed of. LED lamps are better for the environment both during and after their operations: less energy usage and emissions to turn them on, less environmentally damaging waste in their afterlife.

And the light quality is just not as good from the conventional systems as from the LEDs. LED lamps allow you to adjust the intensity of the light (like a dimmer switch) and the warmth of the light. As a result you can program the appropriate lighting for practices, scrimmage games, competitive games and games that will be livestreamed and therefore need the highest quality lighting.

The operational savings of LED lights can reach up to 75% when you account for power usage, maintenance, repair and replacement. Over their years of operation, LED lights provide significantly lower costs for a superior product, one that increases revenue opportunities given the improved player and fan experience. 

Conventional lighting systems have a single advantage over LED lights, and that advantage expires even quicker than a halide lamp: upfront product and installation costs. If your only concern is how much the lights will cost you over the first few months of operation, then you can make the case for a halide system. But obviously, no one thinks over such a small timeframe. 

Conventional light bulbs start declining as soon as you turn them on for the first time. It’s like the value of a new car: it drops as soon as you drive it off the lot. 

Longer lifespan

The lifespan of a conventional lamp is how long until it no longer produces any light. But no one keeps a light bulb in the socket until it’s completely out: not at home, and certainly not at a sports field. Halide lamps are replaced when they decline to about 70% of the original, max illumination. This can happen within the first 15,000 hours of operation. On the other hand, LED lights decline less than 5% over 10x as many hours of on-time. That means you would replace a conventional lamp 10 times – paying for parts and labor – before you replace an LED lamp once. So much for those upfront savings.

Energy efficiency

Over the course of that abbreviated lifetime, conventional lamps require more power to produce a given amount of light. Less of each lamp’s light would reach the field because halide lamps scatter light far more than LED lamps do. Therefore, you would also need more lamps to produce a given amount of luminance across your field. More lamps, consuming more power per lamp, wasting more light per lamp, therefore requiring more power across the system to do the same job as an LED system. Again, so much for those upfront savings.

Sustainable lighting

Then what do you do with the defunct lamps? Throw them in the dumpster? Um, no, you really don’t want to do that. 

Halide lamps contain mercury, which is a toxic metal that can leach into water supplies and soil if not properly disposed of. LED lamps are better for the environment both during and after their operations: less energy usage and emissions to turn them on, less environmentally damaging waste in their afterlife.

Lighting quality

And the light quality is just not as good from the conventional systems as from the LEDs. LED lamps allow you to adjust the intensity of the light (like a dimmer switch) and the warmth of the light. As a result you can program the appropriate lighting for practices, scrimmage games, competitive games and games that will be livestreamed and therefore need the highest quality lighting.

Operational savings

The operational savings of LED lights can reach up to 75% when you account for power usage, maintenance, repair and replacement. Over their years of operation, LED lights provide significantly lower costs for a superior product, one that increases revenue opportunities given the improved player and fan experience. 

Quite a worthwhile return on those upfront costs.

led retrofitting

What is LED retrofitting?

Depending on your current lighting system, you may be able to retrofit some of your existing fixtures for an LED system. This will bring down the installation costs, because instead of paying for the entire infrastructure you are only paying for some adaptations to what you already have.

A lighting specialist will inspect your light poles, lamp mounts, fixtures and electrical infrastructure to determine how much can be adapted for an LED system. If any of the components are particularly old or worn-down, the cost of a retrofit may be quite close to the cost of an entirely new system. There are also some features of system control that may not be available with a retrofit, and you’ll need to decide how important those features are and if they would be worth the additional cost of a new system.

Should I retrofit LEDs or install new LED fixtures?

The main advantages of doing a retrofit are reduced cost and time. If you have a limited amount of time to do the work – for example, the few weeks between the finals of a tournament and the beginning of preseason; or if you have two tournaments scheduled a short time apart – the retrofit may be a better option. Likewise, if your lighting budget can’t support a full overhaul, a retrofit will allow you to gain most of the benefits of an LED system without the full cost.

How does the retrofitting process look like?

Once your lighting designer or contractor determines how much of your existing system can be preserved, they’ll present you with several options for retrofitting or installing new lighting. 

If you opt for a retrofit, the first stage of the work is removing the old system. They then move on to converting the fixtures to support the LED systems. This may entail replacing the ballast, upgrading the electrical system to support variable control and improving the communication system so you can control the lights remotely. More advanced LED lights even communicate with the facility, providing regular status reports via Wi-Fi so you can monitor usage patterns and the health of your system. 

Once the system is fully installed, the last step is making it ready for gameday. The installers will position and calibrate the lights to ensure uniform illumination across the field. They will also program the main operating patterns to give you ease of control. While the system will always be fully flexible and under your control, coaches and facility staff will appreciate being able to select “practice,” “game” or “community event” from the control panel.

How to finance an LED lighting retrofit investment?

Whether you are planning to install brand new LED fixtures or retrofit them in your existing lighting system, the cost of installing sports field lighting can be significant. 

Because of the advantages LED lights offer in terms of energy efficiency, performance, safety, revenue, environmental sustainability and community relations, a lot of public and private institutions want to help sports organizations make the switch. 

Non-profits, including some connected to professional sports leagues, offer grants for lighting system upgrades; while local and state governments may offer rebates or tax credits for institutions that install LED lighting and can demonstrate a reduction in their annual energy usage. These can help defray the cost and, by doing so, win buy-in from your organization’s stakeholders who may be on the fence about the lighting project.

Calculate the costs of your LED retrofitting or replacement project at an early stage

The lighting system affects every part of a sports facility’s operation, from business development to day-to-day operations to player safety and satisfaction. Sports field lighting design and engineering is an industry unto itself, and we’ve just presented the top layer of what goes into the costs.

Our cost calculator will bring some more clarity to your planning and budgeting process by giving you price quotes based on the project info you already have. With the quote in hand, we can connect you to the leading providers in the industry. They will help you put a spotlight on each aspect of the process so you can develop the best plan to convert your facility’s lighting system to LED.