Floodlighting stadiums for the world of televised sports may be glamorous but not many of us are lucky enough to have the opportunity.
Hopefully, this review is more useful. We compare floodlights that you can use for small and medium-sized sports grounds. These floodlights can also be used for multi-use games areas, or MUGAs to use the jargon.
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.
The big difference is that sports floodlights need to have better optical control. The uniformity of illumination required on a sports pitch is often 60 to 70 per cent whereas car parks and other open areas may only require 25 per cent. Also, the optical system on a sports floodlight mustn’t produce any hot spots or bands of light.
Similarly, sports pitches usually have much higher levels of illumination. It’s not uncommon for a sports pitch to have 10 times the illumination of a nearby car park. Any rear or upward spill light from the floodlight must therefore be severely restricted because there is so much more light output. This can be done by having a tightly controlled optical system or using visors, baffles, beam-shaping lenses, louvres etc. These options may not be available on ordinary floodlights. The sports floodlights may also be required to minimise glare or intensity towards residential housing.
It is not uncommon for a sports pitch to have ten times the illumination of a nearby car park. Any rear or upward spill light from the floodlight must therefore be severely restricted because there is so much more light output.
Another 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. This produces less glare 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 and upward light spill (because of the higher upward tilt). Low mounting heights also often produce more forward spill light and often the light spreads 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 the Institution of Lighting Professionals. Often, the particular sport’s association 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 colour temperature of around 5700K or even higher. However, many outdoor lighting experts recommend much warmer colour temperatures of less than 4000K and some even recommend < 3000K.
One reason that cool light sources were recommended was that they used to product a lot more light output (lumens) per Watt than warm sources. However, there is little difference nowadays and so that justification is no longer valid. You may decide that environmental or ecological considerations should take preference over the achieving the absolutely lowest energy consumption.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that two globally-known sports lighting companies, Abacus and Thorn, were unable to submit samples for our review. This is because their sports floodlights were mainly based on high power metal halide lamps (the 2kW was one of my favourite lamps). These floodlights are being completely re-engineered with LED sources and when they’re ready, we’ll benchtest them and add them here.
This is a slim floodlight; the 200W version we saw was less than 300m wide and 550mm long. It is a “flat glass” type with little rearward light and, apart from the visible LEDs, the floodlight is very similar in appearance to a conventional HID unit.
Unlike most LED luminaires which use lenses, the Armadillo uses a simple facetted aluminium reflector to control the beam. However, the plain, side reflectors mean that more light is directed sideways than is necessary.
There is the option of a top visor and horizontal louvres to further limit the beam spread.
Lux rating: Unobtrusive
CU Phosco FL800R
CU Phosco is renowned for its highly engineered floodlights with precision optics and this is no exception. The FL800R has been specifically designed for critical areas such as sports lighting, airports, multi-layer traffic junctions and ports. The maximum output is over 67,000 lm.
The LED modules can be arranged in one to four groups, each with its own optical distribution and range of elevation angles. Five different beam distributions are available.
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.
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 to 50C so it can be used anywhere in the world no matter what the sport or application.
The standard light source is 5700K with a CRI > 70.
Lux rating: Where you need everything to be right
The main characteristic of this floodlight is that it is designed so that, when installed and in use, the front lens is horizontal. These are often called ‘flat glass’ floodlights and their advantage is that no light – or very little – is emitted upwards.
In addition, the LEDs are mounted vertically in the reflector modules and this means that there is no rearward light. This is ideal where the sports pitch has housing nearby.
Like some other manufacturers, it has a modular construction so that different quantities of LED modules can be incorporated in to the three different body sizes. There are two ranges of optical systems available. Some are for dedicated sports lighting and others are for illuminating roads and highways. I counted eight different distributions but there may be more. Some are specifically designed to minimise rearward light spill.
The standard light source is 4000K with a CRI > 70.
Lux rating: Good light control
Philips ClearFlood BVP650
A review of sports lighting that didn’t include Philips wouldn’t be complete. They have floodlights for lighting Olympic stadiums all the way to the local tennis club.
The ClearFlood range is aimed at small-to-medium-sized sports installations. There are five different light distributions for sports lighting. There are also louvres to reduce spill light and other optical distributions for roadlighting.
There is a wide range available from 44W to 270W and 5,350 to 43,950 lm. There is also a larger model (BVP651) at 520W and 76,100 lm.
As you might expect from a Philips luminaire, the ClearFlood has a high degree of connectivity and control. A neat feature which makes this floodlight different from the others is the ‘Service tag’. This is QR code on the floodlight which enables you to read installation instructions, part numbers, a trouble shooting guide etc.
The standard light source is 4000K with a CRI > 70.
- Lux rating: Suitable for any installation
This is a newly-launched floodlight range in three sizes with asymmetric or double-asymmetric light distribution. It ranges from 40 to 240W and 4,800 to 29,000lm.
It is an attractive unit with a die-cast aluminium body with curved fins on the rear, all finished in grey. The LEDs are set in a central white panel behind a clear, flat glass lens.
4000K LEDs with a CRI >80 are standard which makes this floodlight ideal for car parks and area lighting. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of rearward light emitted and there are no beam control accessories so it is less suited to sports lighting.
- Lux rating: A good looking floodlight
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