Indirect LED lighting provides dramatic improvements.
By Jeff Gatzow, Optec LED Lighting
Indoor pools are hard on light fixtures. The exposure to a warm, humid environment is particularly challenging. Additionally, because natatorium fixtures are difficult to access, maintenance must be kept to a minimum. If any fixture’s or lamp’s glass were to fall into the pool during maintenance, the entire pool needs to be drained—an expensive and time-consuming effort.
Life safety and accident prevention are the driving forces behind natatorium lighting. Because water is a reflector, reducing the glare from the fixtures is critical. Adequate light levels and consistent uniformity are also very important. Fixtures for this application need to be at least damp-location rated, offering the highest safeguard against moisture and water-treatment-chemical vapor ingress.
The proper choice of lighting technology and placement of lights helps lower maintenance and energy costs but more importantly, the lighting design can eliminate glare and shadows cast onto and beneath the water surface. Light fixtures suspended from the ceiling and shining directly on the pool surface frequently cast dark shadows from the pool edge that darken the walls of the pool shell. Improperly placed overhead lights can also cast distracting shadows from obstructing ductwork, structural beams, and other objects. When light reaches the water surface at a lower angle than 50 deg. it creates reflection and glare and lifeguards may not see swimmers. Additionally, light fixtures have a dazzling effect on swimmers, which can be uncomfortable. In order to avoid these situations, correct planning and understanding of the best ways to illuminate a natatorium must be done in the design phase.
Making the right decisions on the lighting design can make the difference between a very successful project and a mediocre building. One way to address all of these issues is through the installation of LED luminaires and indirect illumination. Following are examples of two schools’ natatoriums that achieved the desired objectives but mounted the lights in different locations.
Waukesha South High School Natatorium
South High School is Waukesha’s oldest high school, opening in 1957. Today, the 1,460 students use a swimming pool complex that was rebuilt in 2005, replacing a smaller and much older pool, spectator, and locker-room facility. The current natatorium is larger than in most schools, measuring 23 meters by 30 meters. The oversized perimeter accommodates nearly 2,000 spectators.
The 27,000-sq.-ft natatorium is used extensively by the high school physical education department, the school’s swim team, and the Waukesha Express Swim Team.
The complex was originally designed with a metal-halide (MH) indirect lighting system to reflect light from the ceiling to minimize glare on the water’s surface. Over the years the ceiling and walls darkened due to deteriorating light levels and fixtures burning out, creating a cave- and dungeon-like atmosphere. Replacing the burned-out fixtures was so challenging, they were typically left until there were enough to warrant bringing out a lift for access.
Tom Cherone, master electrician for the Waukesha School District, knew the lighting system needed improving:
• spectators were complaining they couldn’t see the swimmers because the lights were so dim
• the low light levels were a safety issue for the lifeguards
• he was worried while conducting maintenance on the MH fixtures that if glass dropped and broke in the pool the 480,000 gal. of water would need to be drained
• MH technology requires 10 to 15 min. of “cool down to relight,” meaning that the bulbs needed to cool down enough before they could be re-lit again, which was very inconvenient.
Through Hein Electric Supply, West Allis, WI, which has a long-time relationship with Waukesha School District, Cherone learned about retrofitting the existing lighting system with LED high bay luminaires from Optec LED Lighting, Ontario, CA, to improve illumination quality, safety, and security while also reducing energy costs and consumption.
Recently, in a one-for-one replacement, 42 1,000-W MH fixtures were replaced with 240-W LED high-bay luminaires and 8 36-W florescent tubes were retrofitted with 80-W LED high-bay luminaires.
“The new lights are terrific,” said Cherone. “They strike instantly, provide more lumens than our old MH lights, will last for years, and are cost effective. When all the fixtures are on, we’re saving 70% in energy over the previous MH lights.”
Because they emit far less heat than MH fixtures, the school will be able to run the air conditioning less in the summer months, further reducing the energy bill.
Additional power savings are achieved from turning off the fixtures when not in use. The previous lights were left on continuously because they took so long to reach full brightness. These LED luminaires light immediately, eliminating the need to have them on all the time.
“At swim meets I used to apologize to the visiting teams because it was so dark,” said Blaine Carlson, CEO/head coach, Waukesha Express Swim Team. “Now, with these new lights, I think we can even attract additional meets to this facility,” Carlson continued.
Cherone is so pleased with the reduction in maintenance, energy savings, and the dramatic improvement in light quality that he’s planning to replace all of the MH lights in the district schools’ pools with LED high-bay luminaires.
Nathan Hale High School
West Allis, WI
What began in 1930 as a small junior high school in temporary wooden barracks has grown to a beautiful 65-acre campus and an enrollment of approximately 1,650 high school students. Nathan Hale High School’s natatorium contains two pools: a six-lane, 25-yard pool and a separate diving well, both used by the high school physical education department and swim team, USA Swimming Team, and Masters Swim Team.
Contending with extremely poor lighting and outdated technology, the facilities team knew the illumination needed upgrading. After researching and talking with industry experts, the facilities manager learned that installing LED luminaires from Optec LED Lighting would be the most effective and provide uniform illumination. The school turned to Nelco Electric, Germantown, WI, to help facilitate the installation. An on-site meeting at Waukesha South High School was arranged so school officials could see the results of South’s pool lighting upgrade.
Previously, Hale’s natatorium had ten 1000-W metal-halide (MH) fixtures providing only 3.5 foot candles. Creating uniform illumination was a design challenge because the new lights needed to use the existing mounting locations located on two parallel walls of the natatorium, and 10 ft. above the floor and 20 ft. lower than the ceiling. However, the complex’s acoustical 2×4-ft. paneled ceiling is ideal for reflecting light.
Thirty 300-W LED floodlights were installed—15 mounted on each wall—dramatically increasing the foot candles to 33.5 on the diving-well surface and to 35.9 on the pool surface. The installed luminaires are engineered with a flow-through design so moisture and heat aren’t trapped, ensuring longer life.
Jeff Gatzow is vice president of Optec LED Lighting, Ontario, CA. He has worked in the sign and lighting business for 29 years, the past five with Optec. He is an active member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESN).
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