Do we need to change our electrics or cabling for LED floodlights?

Enabling an organisation to retain its existing mast infrastructure, retrofit floodlight installations are an understandably popular choice for many organisations when making the upgrade to LEDs. Masts typically represent a significant cost when installing a new lighting solution, and so it makes good commercial sense to reuse them wherever possible. 

One of the key factors that makes retrofit replacements possible is that LEDs tend to be lighter than metal-halide and sodium-vapour equivalents, meaning that they put less strain on existing masts. While that’s an issue that we’ve discussed before, though, one that we haven’t yet covered is that of cabling. 

Retaining a mast is one thing, after all, but what about the wiring and electrical components within it?

Keep what you have, or rip and replace?

The question of whether an organisation needs to replace its electrics or cabling when switching from older lighting technologies to LEDs is one that we’re asked more often than most. 

In the vast majority of cases, the answer to that question is also a very simple one: “no”. By virtue of the fact that they have lower voltage requirements than the ageing luminaires that they’re replacing, LED floodlights don’t usually require any new cabling or wiring to be installed within a mast. What is already there is sufficient in the vast majority of cases.

Naturally, there are some important exceptions to that rule, and some other considerations to take into account too:

•    Damage or wear can mean that cabling does need to be replaced
While existing electrical infrastructure is unlikely to pose any problems from a voltage perspective, that doesn’t mean that other issues won’t need to be addressed. Any breakages, significant wear, or flood-related damage (most notably an issue at ports) can mean that the cabling and wiring within a mast needs to be replaced regardless of voltage.

•    A major upgrade may require new wiring to be installed
Many retrofit installations are like-for-like, old luminaires being replaced with the new on a one-to-one basis. Should there be a dramatic increase in the number of luminaires onsite – from eight to 20, for instance – then there is a strong likelihood that a full rewire will also be required. This is due to the additional voltage demands that the new lights will generate.

   Ballasts must always be replaced with drivers
Metal-halide luminaires use what is known as a ballast to regulate voltage and current. LEDs, on the other hand, use a technology known as a driver to achieve the same result. Even when the cabling within a mast can be retained in its entirety, ballasts will always need to be switched out for drivers during a retrofit installation.

•    Surge protection is a recommended defensive step
One key difference between ballasts and drivers is that the latter is an electronic power supply. Because of that, drivers can be susceptible to “dirty power” – spikes and surges in voltage. Dirty power tends to occur primarily at the edge of the electricity grid, meaning that it is mainly an issue for ports and airports.

In locations such as these, surge protectors and remote monitoring equipment can help to mitigate the risk of a power surge negatively affecting the LED driver.

While much of the focus during a lighting system upgrade goes on to the luminaires themselves, cabling and electrical components play a vital role in the effectiveness and longevity of a solution. With that in mind, the best course of action is to always seek the guidance of an experienced lighting partner, who will be able to advise on the right approach for your specific needs.

For questions about electrical infrastructure or any other lighting related issues of your own, please get in touch.

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