Thinking of Transitioning from Arc Source to LED Lighting?

The big difference, of course, between arc source and LED lighting is in the lamp hours. LED sources are essentially forever. Forever in terms of the life of the fixture.

Thinking of Transitioning from Arc Source to LED Lighting?
If you are considering a change from arc to LED, then you are looking at a substantial expense. One that is enough to allow your supplier to bring in fixtures for you to test with. A side by side comparison will allow to judge for yourself if the LED sources will be adequate for your needs.

What is an arc source, and why would we want to switch from it to an LED source?

You know what an arc source is; they’re those lamps that have been in your video projectors since like… forever. And if you’re fortunate enough to afford them, they are in your moving light/intelligent fixtures too. You can recognize them when you turn on that projector and for the first seconds no light comes out of the projector, because it first has to “strike” the lamp. And even then, you have to wait for it to come up to full brightness. That’s why some projectors exhibit a countdown timer, before turning on their output image.

The same is true for lighting fixtures that use arc lamps, but they may not be set to automatically strike on power up. They typically are struck one of two ways, based on your user settings. One choice is to strike once they see a valid DMX signal. The other is to wait until you send the right combination of settings over the DMX signal. The latter is done in your console and varies based on the console.

Why does this matter?

Well, every time you strike an arc lamp (also called discharge lamp, or High Intensity Discharge HID) you lose several hours of run time from the life of the lamp. And their life has typically been only about 1,500 to 2,000 hours! For our comparison, we’ll look at the OSRAM Sirius HRI 440W with a rated life of 1,500 hours, which is used in the Martin MAC Axiom Hybrid.

So, if you strike up your fixtures several times a week (once for rehearsal and once for Sunday morning) then you’ve lost about 200 hours in one year of operation. That’s about 13 percent of the lamp’s estimated life in one year! And they cost a few bucks too. For this one, they cost a little more than $300 each. Not too bad if you have only, say, 10 fixtures.

However, if you use your 10 fixtures for two hours of rehearsal and around four hours on Sunday, then you’re hitting that 1,500 hour mark in less than three years. Expending $3,300 after three years or so may not be too bad for you, but there are other factors we need to consider.

As that lamp ages, it gets dimmer and “browner.” This is because the color temperature of the lamp is dropping. Here’s why a change in color temperature matters.

More About Chris Tall
Chris Tall currently serves as the Lighting Designer and Assistant Tech Director for Essex Alliance Church in Essex Junction, Vt. His start in lighting came early in his freshman year of high school after he talked his way into a Maynard Ferguson concert. Since then, he has always been active in lighting and technical show production. While the work has taken him from lighting local theater to designing special effects for Universal Studios, MGM Vegas and Disney, Chris enjoys being part of a team that works to bring a production's dream to life. When Chris isn't working, he can be found making dinner for his family or flying RC planes.
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