Converting airport lighting from energy hungry HID lighting to an efficient LED system can be a great business move, but LED lighting is more complicated than traditional filament lamp systems. Before purchasing a new system, which can be a large investment, it is important to understand what makes a good LED solution and thus a safe investment. Here are the important facts you should know, and important questions to ask when choosing the best LED lighting solution for your airport.
It is always important to be able to control the distribution of light from a fixture but especially important for airport applications. IES Lighting standards dictate acceptable distribution of light around the airport to prevent interference with pilots and the control tower. It is extremely important in airport lighting environments to be able to deliver light where you need it and only where you need it. A good company lighting supply company will run a free advanced photometric analysis of the site to perfectly tune the LED lighting system to your needs and requirements. Viewing the analysis you will be able to see the light distribution that they can deliver before investing a dime. Be sure to look at the smoothness of the light levels (foot-candles) on the ground and where the cutoff is to be sure they will be able to deliver the lighting you need. Do not let a lighting company feed you jargon about not needing as high of foot-candles, for any reason, with the new LED lights. This usually this means they are underselling you on light output. New LED lighting systems should be able to control the light distribution better, with minimal glare, at the same time as (if anything) increasing the light levels on the ground
2. Color Rendering (CRI)
Ramp and service areas require a high level of color rendering for both pilots and personnel on the ground. It is important for pilots to be able to see pavement markings and guides as clear as possible when guiding the aircraft to final position. Poor color rendering can make it difficult to see some guides. Personnel on the ground also require a high CRI for many functions including distinguishing between types and grades of aircraft fuel by their color. Make sure the LED lighting system you are considering has a high CRI, in the 90’s is preferable.
3. Long Life
When investing in an LED lighting system you will want to make sure that it has the longest lifespan possible to maximize return on your investment and reduce lighting maintenance as much as possible. The main enemy of an LED chips lifespan is heat. The hotter they run the sooner they will die. The best heat management systems on the market are active heat sinking systems. These units have built in fans to help dissipate heat faster; extending the life of the module and increasing light output. Modern fans used for this application run for over 100,000 hours and are IP67 rated (extremely water and dust resistant), so it is not a failure point of the system like many passively cooled manufacturers will tell you. Ask if the system employs active cooling and what the lifespan of the fans they use are as well as the standard operating temperature with the fan.
4. Control systems
Can the light be controlled with existing control systems? Will a new system be required? Good LED products will be compatible with a wide range of control systems on the market and most likely the system you already have in place. High quality systems are compatible with any “0-10 volt” control systems. 0-10V control systems range from basic style dimmers and switches to the most advanced networked control systems with real time reporting and scheduling abilities. Ask if the LED lighting system can be controlled with your system in place or if a new system is required. A new system could increase the conversion cost considerably and extend the time it takes for the lighting system to pay for itself.
5. Quality and Warranty
Every product has a failure rate in the field. Ask what the products failure rate is (during the expected life of the system, not while under warranty). You want to be able to trust that the lighting systems will last as long as they state they will. Most good LED Lighting systems are below 1% failure rate the best products have a fraction of that. Ask where the product is made. There are many horror stories of LED products being produced in China failing after a year or two. The good news is you can easily pick out the bad products by the length of their warranty. The best LED products on the market right now are produced in the USA and come with a 10-year warranty. LED products with a warranty like this will ensure a safe investment and will still be under warranty well after the units have paid for themselves (ROI).
Generally saving at least 70% on cost of lighting compared to traditional HID lamps and requiring little to no maintenance, good LED systems should pay for themselves in an airport application in about 2 years. Ask what your return will be.
7. Retrofit VS New Fixture
Many companies will up-sell you on a brand new LED fixture that is more expensive when in reality the condition of the existing fixtures is fine. Audit your current fixture housings. Chances are they are in fine operating condition. Find a good LED retrofit manufacturer. They will be able to swap out the internal components of your existing fixture with brand new LED modules. The quality of the light and distribution will be the same as with an expensive new fixture and the retrofit will cost less making your return on investment quicker. A good retrofit manufacturer will be able to retrofit any type of fixture and have just as good of a warranty on their retrofits as they do on new fixtures, so no risk taken.
8. Ask for a sample
Tell the lighting company you want to try their lights out before investing. They should have no problem with this. If they want your business they will get in there, convert a pole or two and let you test them for a month.