LED lighting saving energy and maintenance costs on amusement rides

Posted Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:16 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The bulbs on Kennywood's Bayern Kurve shine in a variety of hues, but they're all green to the operators of this historic amusement park on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. In a bid to see if anyone notices, the traditional incandescent lights on this ride and another at Kennywood have been replaced by LED ones, saving money on the park's hefty power bill and greatly reducing the frequency with which the bulbs burn out and need replacing.

Read more from The Baltimore Sun.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:46 AM

I think LED lighting packages are great. I think they are a lot more versatile and what they have done with them on Mickey's Fun Wheel and the wheel in Santa Monica is fantastic.

On a side note, I'm wondering if they had this technology 20 years ago if they'd have kept the lights on the Tidal Wave at Great America. I alsways thought that was a great application of lighting effects (the racing pattern would change when the ride launched) and I was very disappointed when they were removed. I can understand why though. It must have cost thousands a month for maintenance, not to mention electricity. But I fondly recall summer nights 10 miles away in the foothills where my parents lived watching the tiny Tidal Wave change color every few minutes when the ride launched.


These raced and changed to blue during the launch.

Oh, and hopefully we'll see more tracers on coasters now that LED is widely available. I really love that effect at night.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 12:12 PM

Well ask Audi, as they are the are now the big proponents of these "christmas tree" daytime running LED lights. Looks cool, especially on the R8.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 12:53 PM

While I prefer the LOOK of the older lighting (nostalgist), the environmentalist in me likes the LEDs for energy-saving...and the enthusiast in me likes the idea that more rides might be getting tracers. The Ferris Wheel at GAdv certainly looked nicer than it has in many years...

Thursday, August 6, 2009 2:56 PM

I think this is a great idea and don't understand why it hasn't come up sooner. It just seems like a natural thing to do to save money and help out a bit, no real reason not to. I could imagine the huge costs of running rides at night on lights alone. Would there be any way to generate electricity from the momentum of coasters?

Thursday, August 6, 2009 3:04 PM

It hasn't come up sooner because of the cost. Make no mistake, companies aren't jumping on any "green" bandwagon here, they're jumping on an opportunity to save money.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 3:53 PM

Sure, but I'm sure the PR folks wouldn't hesitate to point out the green-ness. ;)

Thursday, August 6, 2009 5:40 PM

Heavy trucks have been using LED's in their lighting (except headlights), for about the last 10 years. If they can stand up to that kind of abuse & vibration, installing them on a coaster should be no problem.

I can see the applications being especaly useful on hard-to reach bulbs, like the tops of coasters. or burried in the wooden structure.

Friday, August 7, 2009 4:02 AM

The trouble withy LEDs is that until recently they just were not bright enough to be practical, even for decorative lights on amusement rides. That has all changed, and now the lamps are brighter, cheaper, and better still, the ones on the Bayern Kurve are exactly the same size and shape as the sign bulbs they replaced, so the LEDs have a classic look to them. That's also new: LEDs that have the "correct" look to them. Heck, sometimes they actually look better than the lights they replaced...just look at the ones on Cedar Point's Blue Streak. I just wish they would install them on the other side as well so that they would be visible from *inside* the park...the old incandescent bulbs were suspended from the handrail, the new LEDs are fastened to the outside of the handrail.

Of course, the real trick is that the LEDs and fluorescent lamps, having no filament, can handle a lot more abuse than incandescent lights. Vibration on rides, combined with flasher circuits, mean very short lifetimes for incandescent bulbs, meaning the LEDs and certain fluorescent bulbs can last much longer, and more important can result in a lot fewer burned out lamps on a ride.

Meanwhile, at Kings Island, on Diamondback, they are slowly learning the hard way that compact fluorescent bulbs burn out very quickly if you use them in a base-up configuration, as several of the lamps in the station have already failed. Oops. Yeah, I learned that lesson too, which is why I've gone back to incandescents in my basement...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Friday, August 7, 2009 7:34 AM

I assume that's a heat-related problem, Dave?

Friday, August 7, 2009 8:16 AM

If it means parks will use/keep more colorful lighting on the rides I'm all for it. I just don't like the ones that have plastic casing like alot of the ones I saw at Hersheypark and Dutch Wonderland. Are they all like that or do some have a glass shell? Just think the plastic looks tacky and cheap. What are the ones on Bayurne Kurve like?

Friday, August 7, 2009 9:55 AM

djDaemon: Yes, it's a heat issue. I had a CFL in a totally open ceramic fixture hanging from the ceiling, and it failed in a month and a half because the electronics cooked themselves. On the other hand, I have a fully enclosed fixture at the top of the basement stairs where the CFL is mounted sideways, and it's been going for two years now. All of the lights on the Diamondback platform are pendant lights with the lamps mounted base-up, and KI has installed CFLs in all of them; several were burned out when I was there last weekend.

scraperguy99: I presume the lenses are plastic, but the key is that the outer surface is smooth (although the inner surface is faceted) and instead of looking like a Turbolite, it looks like a frosted S14 sign bulb. Except for the greater color saturation and slightly lower light output, the Bayern Kurve lights really look just like the original Schwarzkopf lighting package.

The LEDs on the Volcano (Huss Enterprise) look more like Turbolites.

The LEDs on the Blue Streak look like those stick-anywhere battery operated tap-lights you see on TV, except that they are only about an inch in diameter.

The new lights on a couple of Cedar Point's Hampton rides appear to be frosted LED, and except for some differences in color, are virtually indistinguishable from the original incandescent lamps; in fact...I forget which ride it is, but there is a Hampton kiddie ride (big rotating umbrella...) at Cedar Point that has both incandescent and LED lights on it. On that one, I wonder if they had to leave some incandescents in place because the LEDs don't draw enough current to operate the flasher...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Friday, August 7, 2009 10:57 AM

Perhaps you have crappy lights? ;) I put a CFL in a few places, including my garage, inverted, years ago. They're still working.

Friday, August 7, 2009 11:29 AM

BGWs "green" initiative has been going strong for several years, especially when it comes to power savings. They have replaced incandescent for fluorescent, and now to LEDs in some areas, which due to the fact they bunch dozens of LEDs into a circle, give nearly the same effective lighting as either of the aformentioned bulbs with less power usage.

Big problem is cost for LEDs, while they have come down through the years, its still pricy so its definitely an over a short time savings.

Other cool power savings Busch has is using solar cells to charge their Golf carts used to ferry Team Members.

You would be amazed the level of "green" BGW is.

Friday, August 7, 2009 4:12 PM

The bulbs on the Enterprise and Kurve are the same, BTW. Just different colors.

Saturday, August 8, 2009 2:01 AM

I stand corrected. I didn't get as good a look at the Enterprise lamps, but I thought they looked more like the big round, flat Turbos. Must have been the angle.

Personally, I am surprised that Aero 360 wasn't at the top of the list for LED lights...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 10:29 PM

I've got to wonder how long it will be until ride tracer lights are solar powered. Look at the garden lights that you can buy for home. Those are mostly solar powered, and the most recent set was $10.00 for 8 lamps. That would make the operating costs on some of these things go to almost zero.

Monday, August 10, 2009 9:44 AM

Your average CFL that you buy at Home Depot or Lowes does not like being hung upside down, nor does it last very long in a "chase" circuit. I actually had to set up a test rig at work to see how long one of these would last in that application. I recall that it was about five hours. Now, I have a set of dimmable CFL's that are still going strong in an exhibit after a year of abuse. These lamps are being turned on and off several thousand times in the course of a nine to twelve hour day. Now they cost twenty five bucks a piece up front, but they paid for themselves in the first month, not to mention the much reduced e waste problem.

Monday, August 10, 2009 11:49 AM

Walt S: Already being done. Pacific Park recently replaced their Ferris wheel, and the new Wheel is solar powered, including the decorative LED lighting.

Dutchman: Are those, perhance, the itty bitty "sign light"-size CFLs like the ones chasing around the Casino building at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk? THOSE are pretty impressive: instant turn on/off, handles chasing, looks like an incandescent lamp with the "neon" tube looking a lot like a filament. I think Magic Mountain also has them on their Yo-Yo.

Yeah, the cheap CFLs don't like being upside down, they don't like short cycles, they don't like electronic switches, they don't like dimmers, they don't like cold weather, and they wreak havoc with infrared remote controls. In short, they're basically garbage.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, August 10, 2009 3:33 PM

They are the standard size twist style CFL. They are energy star rated and fully dimmable(Grainger #1TGJ7). They are used in a science museum exhibit about electric energy and conservation.


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