Guide to High Mast Lighting



Outdoor areas with a lot of activity like airports, shipping ports, highways, merging expressways, transportation terminals, and sports fields usually need high mast lighting because they require extra safety and security. High mast lighting is very cost-effective and is the best way to illuminate large outdoor spaces that need high-quality light.




What Is High Mast Lighting?

High mast lights are tall lighting poles with light fixtures attached at the top pointing downwards to the ground. The lighting poles are typically 30 meters tall and the lighting fixtures are usually mounted at a height of 60-120 feet. A single lighting pole may have 4, 6, or 8 lighting fixtures. In some instances, the lighting poles may have between 10 and 16 lights.

Illuminating large areas isn't easy and high masts usually require very powerful lights. In days gone by, most high mast lights featured high pressure sodium bulbs. But these lights have high maintenance costs (because of their short lifespans), consume a lot of electricity, and take a long time to warm up and cool down. This is why LEDs were such a welcome change. They completely transformed the way high masts light up large spaces.

Here are some things you should always keep in mind when it comes to high mast lighting.

Point the Light to the Right Place

No question about it, illuminating a large area requires a lot of precision. The most important thing to consider when lighting a large outdoor space is not the amount of light produced by the bulbs but where the light goes. There's no need to install lights with a high lumen output if most of the light will go into the sky and the ground below will be poorly lit.

LEDs are directional lights, which means they generate light in a specific range and do not disperse it all over the place like high intensity discharge lamps. They have numerous diodes with individual optics and discharge light evenly across surfaces. Because HID lights are omni-directional, they have to be used with reflectors which direct the light where it is needed. However, reflectors are never 100% efficient and up to 30% lumens can be lost during the reflective process.

LED lights do not cause glare and their optics focus the light produced by the LED chips where it is needed. Optics control the illumination pattern by delivering narrower beam angles.

If your high masts use traditional lighting systems, you may have to tilt them to direct the light to a specific place. Traditional lights also have the tendency to cause glare as they create very bright spots directly beneath them.

Gradually, LEDs are replacing conventional lights in high masts used in large applications such as industrial sites and parking zones. They are also replacing the old lighting systems used in sports fields –which require lights with high lux levels and no flicker in order for TV cameras to capture everything clearly.

Color Temperature Is Important

Color Temperature is a number that specifies the color of light emitted by a light source. Low numbers are used for warm lights with red and orange shades (2700K-3000K) while high numbers are used for cool lights with white and blue shades (3000K-5500K and above).

Traditional lighting systems have low color temperatures and emit light with an orange glow which makes it difficult for people to recognize the details of cars in a parking zone, containers in a shipping port, or foreign object debris (FOD) in an airport. LEDs have high color temperatures and give off bright white light which reveals the true colors of objects. The light they produce does not cause eye strain and enables people to carry out their tasks with ease.

Think of Light Maintenance

One of the biggest downsides of HID mast lights is that they need a lot of maintenance. The lights have a lifespan of 15,000-25,000 hours, which means electricians must replace them frequently – a procedure that can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, considering how high the lights usually are. In most instances, when HID lights are being replaced the ballasts must also be replaced, which adds to the overall maintenance costs.

HIDs also have a very high rate of lumen depreciation and lose most of their lumens before they get to the end of their lifespans. In fact, by the time they reach half of their lifetimes, they may have lost half of their lumens. Their degradation process is also not a straightforward one as they start to shift colors as they reach the end of their lifespans. Electricians usually have to change out the bulbs as soon as their efficiency decreases as most outdoor areas with high mast lights need maximum illumination.

LEDs have long lifespans (50,000 to 100,000 hours), maintain 70% of their lumens for their entire lifetimes, do not use ballasts, and don’t shift colors as they age. The lights are basically maintenance-free, the only maintenance that may have to be done is dusting the fixtures.

The Lighting Controls to Be Paired With the Lights

One important thing we often forget is how much electricity we can save by simply dimming lights or turning them off when they are not needed.

High intensity discharge lamps do not work with most lighting controls as they take a lot of time to warm up. In case of a power outage, you have to give them time to cool down before you can switch them on again.  On the other hand, LEDs work well with dimmers, motion sensors, photo-sensors, occupancy sensors, as well as timer switches. You can pair your LED high masts with lighting controls to switch them on and off or dim them according to the need.

New generation LEDs come with separate controls and are suitable for large areas where high-powered lights with controls are needed. LED controllers give you the freedom to control the brightness, the lighting effects, and the color levels of LED lighting. One place where LED high mast lights with controls can be installed is in airport tarmacs. The lights can be installed between two tarmacs and a controller can be used to turn on the lights for the specific tarmac being used.

Cut Costs by Switching to LED

If you own or manage an area with high mast lights, you should seriously consider upgrading to LED. LED bulbs can be easily installed on the existing fixtures and instantly reduce energy consumption. They will also offer many other benefits and help you to get back the money you invested in a short period of time.

The great thing about LEDs is that you can spread their weight evenly on a mast and their lenses will focus the light exactly where it needs to go. However, conventional luminaries may have to be placed on one side of a mast to illuminate a specific area – which may create an unequal load.

MyLEDLightingGuide has a variety of LED HighMast Lighting Solutions that are suitable for different types of high masts. We also offer different combinations based on the lighting requirements of your outdoor space. We encourage you to use the pointers we've provided in this post to choose the best lighting solution for your space

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