Floodlights in the Spotlight

February 21, 2013

From sports stadiums to driveways, floodlights provide the bright conditions necessary for nocturnal leisure or industrial activities, and can increase security for businesses and households alike.

However, with some lights powered for up to 10 hours a day, electricity and maintenance costs can really add up, as well as the inevitable environmental impact of high energy consumption and light pollution.

The most commonly used floodlight is halogen-based. They're cheap to purchase, easy to find replacement bulbs for, and provide a high luminosity output per watt. Stadium lights are more likely to be the metal halide variety, which create an extremely bright bluish light. This is fantastic for illuminating large areas, but the bulbs don't last and the light pollution is quite severe. For both halogen and metal halide bulbs, a short life span leads to regular replacements and thus high maintenance costs.

In an increasingly environmentally conscious society, there's been a growing trend toward eco-friendly LED lights. These have been developed into floodlights of a comparable brightness to the regular kind while using considerably less energy. For most consumers, the overall cost is paramount, and only by weighing up the power output, initial price, and operating costs of the different options can people make well-informed decisions.

A basic 10W LED floodlight gives off 700 lumens, slightly less bright than a 100W halogen bulb. At 30W, LEDs can reach 2,400 lumens, comparable to a 350W halogen, while a 50W LED floodlight is almost as bright as the 500W halogen alternative, creating 4,000 lumens, which is more than enough for domestic security. In comparison to metal halide, a 100W LED lamp can confidently replace the 400W counterpart. Overall, a lower wattage means lower power consumption -- a good thing for driving down costs and environmental impact.

The initial cost of an LED floodlight is its only downfall. For around $75, you can buy a 30W LED lamp, but you can get hold of a 350W halogen lamp for about $12. The 100W LED lamp will set you back up to $400, while the 400W metal halide lamp can be purchased for anywhere from $75 to $230. This seems to be a considerable disadvantage, but a quick look at the running costs reveals the true benefits of LEDs.

Every source of comparison in running costs suggests great savings associated with LED floodlights. So while a 500W halogen bulb can be found for under $15, when it's used for eight hours a day, it would not only need to be replaced every couple of months, but would cost $270 a year in electricity. The 50W LED may well cost $125 or so, but will last for up to 50,000 hours (nearly two years at eight hours per day) and cost about $27 a year to run. That would be an average of $93 per year, about a third of the halogen running cost alone.

Clearly an investment, an LED floodlight is a wise choice for economic and environmental lighting. The directional lighting reduces pollution, the instant on-off action increases efficiency, and the extremely long life span and 90 percent reduction in energy consumption will reduce overall costs. The Central New York Raceway Park was the first place to introduce LED floodlights in 2012, and it seems the UK is keen to get involved with Premier League football clubs already inquiring about making the change.

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- Emily Banham holds a 2:1 BSc Physical Geography (International) from the University of Leeds.

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