Article
Photocontrols have long been a feature on exterior street and area 
lighting. These devices help ensure that outdoor fixtures only operate 
when they’re needed. And, unlike time clocks or other centralized 
control systems, photocontrols allow each fixture to respond to its 
unique surrounding environment, including the presence of shade or 
existing illumination from an adjacent building or event.

Electronic Photocontrols Provide Service to Match Exterior LED Lighting

Chuck Ross
Photocontrols have long been a feature on exterior street and area lighting. These devices help ensure that outdoor fixtures only operate when they’re needed. And, unlike time clocks or other centralized control systems, photocontrols allow each fixture to respond to its unique surrounding environment, including the presence of shade or existing illumination from an adjacent building or event. Now, as more municipalities and facility managers are shifting exterior lighting to LED sources, from traditional high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, they might want to consider a move to electronic controls designed to match LED technology’s unique operating conditions.

With their exceptionally long lifespans, LED lamps now generally last at least twice as long as traditional thermal photocontrols – and, in some cases much longer, says Jimmy Adjunta, segment marketing manager at Intermatic, which manufactures both traditional and electronic devices. “Traditional photocontrols have a 3- to 5-year lifespan, which matches the life expectancy of traditional HID, fluorescent and tungsten fixtures, but not the long life of LEDs,” he says. “There will need to be at least one extra photocontrol replacement during the 8- to 15-year lifespan of the LED fixture.”

Lifespan isn’t the only reason to consider a switch to electronic control devices when transitioning to LED lighting. LED drivers create high inrush currents when fixtures first turn on, which thermal photocontrols aren’t designed to handle. This can lead to premature failure, which could raise maintenance requirements even further.

“By choosing photocontrols specifically designed to support LEDs, building owners can align maintenance schedules so that the fixture and compatible photocontrol only need to be replaced every 15 years or so,” Adjunta says. “This reduces long-term costs and eliminates nuisance service visits.”
Photo courtesy of Intermatic
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