REVIEWED Large sports lights

Traditionally, sports floodlights used metal halide lamps because of their good colour rendering and crisp white light. Unfortunately, in our last review we had to omit some major sports lighting suppliers because their whole sports lighting range was being updated to LED. However, we can now confidently say that the 2kW metal halide lamp is officially dead!

Most of the floodlights here would be used for medium to large areas and stadiums. It is important to realise that although sports floodlights can also be used for general area lighting such as car parks, an off-the-shelf, general purpose floodlight is almost certainly not suitable for sports lighting.

Sports floodlights need to produce much better uniformity and much less spill light. Any rear or upward light from the floodlight must be severely restricted because illumination levels are so much higher.

A sports pitch might have 10 times the illumination of a nearby car park. Any spill light would therefore be correspondingly higher.

Similarly, the uniformity of illumination required on a sports pitch is often 60 to 70 per cent whereas other open spaces may only require 25 per cent. Furthermore, the optical system on a sports floodlight mustn’t produce any hot spots or lines of light.

Sports floodlighting is a large but specialised market sector. As a consequence, all the floodlights here are well made and designed to do a good job.

An important consideration is the mounting height of the floodlights. Obviously, the higher the floodlight, the more it can be tilted downwards and this achieves greater horizontal illumination.

It also produces less glare to spectators and less upward light. However, tall columns may not be visually acceptable especially because of their daytime appearance.

Lower mounting heights are often more acceptable visually but often lead to more glare towards the players, spectators and residents in nearby housing.

Lower mounting heights often produce more upward light spill because of the higher tilt of the floodlights. Low mounting heights also often produce more over light spill beyond the other side of the pitch. This is more common than you might think.

Guidance on what illumination and uniformity is required can be found from national professional lighting bodies such as the IESNA, the Society of Light and Lighting, and Institution of Lighting Professionals. Often, the individual sport’s ruling body will give recommendations on lighting.

One aspect that is becoming more important is the colour temperature of the light source. A lot of sports lighting companies supply floodlights which have a correlated colour temperature (CCT) of around 5700K or even higher. However, many outdoor lighting experts recommend much warmer CCTs of less than 4000K and some even recommend less than 3000K. However, television broadcasters often prefer 5700K.

Depending on the sport being played, colour rendering may or may not be important. Unless the event is being televised or photographed for publishing, a colour rendering index (CRI) of 70 is usually sufficient.

Related to this, there are often separate or additional standards for televised sports.  A commonly mentioned standard is the Television Lighting Consistency Index, TLCI. This also specifies different levels of colour rendering depending on the requirements.

Finally, times change and one aspect that I miss with the move to LED floodlights is the curved flowing shape of the luminaire body produced by the elliptical and parabolic reflectors used with discharge lamps.

Modern, LED projectors which use individual lenses are much more rectangular and chunky. And a lot more efficient!


CU Phosco FL800R

We gave this floodlight five stars in our last review and since then, it has been improved. It now has almost 10 per cent more light output than last year and the maximum is over 75,000 lumens. To control the light, there are visors on the side and the top cowl has a cut-off 5 degrees below the horizontal so there is no upward light emitted.  There is also an incremental improvement to the design of the stirrup so it is easier to aim on site.

From an environmental aspect, as well as the precise beam control, the FL800 is also available in 4000K and 3000K which is often preferred in sensitive areas. As before, a great deal of attention has been given to cooling the LEDs and keeping them at their optimum temperature. As a result, the FL800R will operate in temperatures from -40C (-40F) to +50C (122F) so it can be used anywhere in the world no matter what the sport or application.

One final point (which I wish all manufacturers would follow) is that data sheet give correction factors for the lumen output at different ambient temperatures. These range from 5C to 50C. It also tells you how to calculate losses due to the accumulation of dust due to factors such as atmospheric pollution, mounting height and the frequency of cleaning.




EasyLED Bubo

The Bubo is designed for lighting large areas and tough environments. The floodlight comprises of up to three modules and each module can run at 500 mA to 1,400 mA which gives a range of light from 26,300 lumens to 58,000 lumens. Thus at its maximum, the three-module floodlight can emit 173,000 lm while running at 1.5kW.

It will operate in ambient temperatures from -40C (-40 F) to +60C (140F) and 95 per cent relative humidity, has a toughened glass lens, stainless steel frame, optional surge protection to 20kV and is IP66. All combined, this makes it a really resilient floodlight.

The standard colour rendering options are either CRI greater than 70 or CRI greater than 80. However, a CRI of greater than 90 is available as an option. The Bubo is available with a Television Lighting Consistency Index, TLCI, or over 90. EasyLED claim flicker-free dimming down to 140 mA or using pulse-width modulation down to 15 mA (400 to 50Hz).

Dali control is fitted as standard and the drivers can easily be adapted to suit other intelligent control gear methods. There are four symmetrical beam options plus a wide asymmetrical beam with a sharp cut-off beam (to minimise spill light) available.



EWO R-System

Ewo is most probably best known for airport apron lighting but these areas have many things in common and similar design constraints to sports lighting.

The R-System can be grouped as up to six individual LED modules. The smallest and lowest power is just 23,600 lm and 195W. The high power, six module system is over 200,000 lm, almost 2kW and weighs 49kg (over 100 lbs) without the driver.

Ewo offers 10 choices of optic although only about three or four might be used for sports lighting. Interestingly, they have an asymmetric left and right lens which one could use for corner tower lighting systems. There is also a visor to ensure that no upward light is emitted.

The system is easily upgradeable and it is good to see that the sales literature actually mentions components such as the optics, PCBs, ventilation gaskets, glass lens etc which can be changed. The company will keep spare parts for 10 years and also makes its own driver with a claimed life of over 100,000 hours.

An unusual feature is that the IP67-rated driver is mounted directly over the cooling fins. Ewo claims a maximum ambient operating temperature of 50C so this construction should be OK for most applications.



Philips Lighting ClearFlood

A review of sports lighting that didn’t include Philips Lighting (now called Signify) wouldn’t be complete. The company has been lighting world class and televised sports events for decades.

For major sports stadiums and high definition TV applications, the company’s top of the range luminaire is the OptiVision LED. However, for other large area applications such as sports and major transportation hubs, the ClearFlood would be the first choice. There are also two other ranges with lower light output.

There are two major features that distinguish the ClearFlood from its competitors. The first is the choice of optics. Including roadway and civic applications, there are over 20 light distributions to choose from. It can also be fitted with internal louvres.

The other major advantage is connectivity and control. Apart from Dali and 1-10V, the ClearFlood  can also connect to the software-based Interact lighting systems such as Interact Sports and Interact City. The Interact City lighting management system is the successor to the well-known Philips CityTouch system.

The ClearFlood has integral control gear and there are two versions; up to 44,000 lumens and up to 80,000 lumens. The larger one is 800 x 600 x 80 mm deep (2’7” x 2’ x 3”) and weighs 15kg (33 lbs). It is available in 5700K, 4000K and 3000K with a choice of colour renderings such as CRI from 70 to 90 and a TLCI of 90.

As you would expect from Signify, the ClearFlood can be dimmed to suit any television requirements.



Schreder OMNI Blast

Like some other manufacturers, Schreder has designed the OMNI Blast as a modular system consisting of one to three banks of LEDs. Depending on the drive current/wattage, it means that the most powerful arrangement of three banks and a CRI 70, can actually deliver almost 200,000 lumens. This last arrangement consumes almost 1.5kW.

The control gear must be mounted remotely but one advantage of this system is that it can be up to 200m away. Control can be 1-10V, Dali or DMX so you can easily achieve effects such a dimming, light waves, strobe etc.

There is a very wide range of beam spreads available both symmetric and asymmetric. There are also internal and external louvres, both horizontal and vertical, as well as visors and baffles. Combined, these should give excellent light control with little or no light pollution.




Thorn Altis

Thorn has a long history of lighting sports stadiums using metal halide lamps and its sports luminaires have recently been completely redesigned and adapted for LEDs. Like many other floodlights, the Altis is modular comprising of up to three separate sections with remote control gear.

For environmentally sensitive areas, the Altis can be used as a flat-glass unit so that no light is emitted upwards. What I particularly like is that this version is available in a narrow, medium and wide beam.

You can also fit internal or external louvres to control the light where side or rearward spill might be an issue.

For most applications, you can have a version with a colour rendering index of CRI 70 or 80. For premier installations, a 5700K unit is available with CRI of 90 and a TLCI of 95. Having a flicker of less than 1 per cent means you can have slow motion replays up to 1,000 frames per second.

Another useful feature is that the drivers are remote and can be mounted up to 200m away.

Designing a sports floodlight is no easy matter. The new LED Altis is a worthy successor to their previously highly successful metal halide range.



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