High Mast Lighting Explained For Beginners

What Is High Mast Lighting?

A high mast light is a tall pole with lighting fixtures attached at the top, typically used to illuminate large areas such as highways, intersections, airports, and other public spaces.

These structures are designed to provide uniform and high-intensity lighting over a wide area, making them suitable for places where conventional lighting fixtures may not provide adequate illumination.

High mast lights are usually equipped with powerful lamps, such as high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), that can efficiently illuminate large spaces from a considerable height. The height of the mast can vary, but it is typically around 30 to 150 feet, depending on the specific requirements of the location. The height allows for wider coverage and greater visibility, making them useful for enhancing visibility and safety in various outdoor settings, especially during nighttime.

These lighting structures are commonly used in applications where maintaining consistent and bright illumination over a large area is crucial for ensuring safety and security. They are often employed in transportation infrastructure, sports facilities, industrial yards, and other large outdoor spaces where maintaining proper visibility is essential for operations and public safety.

Differences between conventional and high mast lighting

Conventional Lighting

High Mast Lighting

Installation cost depends upon the nature of the application. For interchanges, it is a bit expensive than the high mast lighting but other than interchanges the initial cost of conventional lights is less than the high mast lighting.

The cost of high mast lighting for urban interchanges is much less than conventional lighting because of the small number of poles required to serve the purpose and the less complexity of the conduit and the conductor.

Mounting heights for the conventional lighting system are usually 50 feet or less.

Mounting heights for the high mast lighting system are usually 100 feet or more.

The maintenance cost of conventional lighting systems is quite high. It requires the bucket truck, road closures, signs to close the road, and sizable control of the traffic flow. Notable traffic disturbances are there during the maintenance process.

The maintenance cost of high mast lighting is much less than the conventional lighting system. For maintenance, only one or two persons are required with the pickup truck. So it reduces the risk of working of more persons near high traffic.

Applications of the high mast lighting?

High mast lighting finds diverse applications in various settings where wide-area illumination and enhanced visibility are crucial. Some common applications include:

  1. Highways and Roads: High mast lighting is widely used along highways, expressways, and major roadways to ensure adequate visibility for drivers, thus improving safety during nighttime driving.

  2. Airports: These lighting systems are essential for illuminating airport runways, taxiways, and apron areas, ensuring safe aircraft movement during takeoff, landing, and taxiing.

  3. Parking Lots: High mast lights are commonly installed in large parking lots, including those at shopping malls, stadiums, and other public venues, to ensure visibility and security for pedestrians and vehicles.

  4. Industrial Yards and Storage Facilities: They are used to provide adequate lighting for large industrial yards, construction sites, and storage areas, ensuring safe operations during nighttime activities.

  5. Sports Complexes: High mast lighting is crucial for outdoor sports facilities such as stadiums, soccer fields, and baseball fields, providing sufficient illumination for players and spectators during evening matches or events.

  6. Public Spaces and Squares: These lighting systems can be used in public parks, town squares, and other outdoor gathering spaces to ensure public safety and promote nighttime activities and events.

  7. Ports and Dockyards: High mast lighting is used to illuminate port areas, docks, and shipyards, ensuring safe navigation and operations during nighttime maritime activities.

  8. Railway Yards and Platforms: They are used in railway yards and platforms to ensure the safety of railway operations and passengers during nighttime hours.

  9. Industrial and Commercial Facilities: High mast lighting is commonly used in various industrial and commercial settings, such as warehouses, manufacturing plants, and distribution centers, to provide ample illumination for operations and security.

  10. Security and Surveillance Areas: These lighting systems are used in conjunction with security cameras to enhance visibility and surveillance capabilities in sensitive areas such as military installations, correctional facilities, and high-security zones.

Overall, high mast lighting plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety, security, and efficient operation of various outdoor spaces and facilities, especially during low-light or nighttime conditions.

Why the high mast light is so high?

High mast lights are typically installed at significant heights to provide broad and uniform illumination over large areas. Several reasons contribute to the need for high mounting heights:

  1. Wide Area Coverage: Placing the lights at considerable heights allows for a wider coverage area, ensuring that a large expanse of land, such as highways, intersections, or industrial yards, receives adequate and uniform illumination.

  2. Minimized Shadows and Glare: Mounting the lights at a sufficient height helps minimize shadows and glare, providing a more even distribution of light across the targeted area. This reduces the potential for dark spots or areas of excessive brightness, ensuring better visibility for drivers and pedestrians.

  3. Reduced Light Pollution: By elevating the light source, high mast lighting can minimize light pollution by directing the light downward and reducing the upward dispersion of light. This design helps to preserve the natural night sky and minimizes the impact on surrounding communities.

  4. Safety and Security: Placing the lights at a significant height enhances their visibility and makes them less susceptible to tampering or vandalism. Moreover, the elevated position makes it more challenging for unauthorized individuals to access or interfere with the lighting fixtures.

  5. Maintenance and Accessibility: Higher mounting heights make it easier for maintenance personnel to access and service the lighting fixtures, reducing the need for specialized equipment and ensuring the safety of the maintenance personnel during routine inspections and repairs.

  6. Long-Distance Visibility: The elevated position of high mast lights enables them to be visible from long distances, serving as landmarks or reference points for drivers and pedestrians, especially in areas with complex road networks or large industrial complexes.

Considering these factors, the significant height of high mast lights is a deliberate design choice aimed at optimizing visibility, minimizing light pollution, enhancing safety, and ensuring efficient maintenance and operation over large and expansive outdoor areas.


Why was high mast lighting installed around the urban interchange?

High mast lighting is often installed around urban interchanges, such as highway junctions, flyovers, and overpasses, for several important reasons:

  1. Improved Visibility and Safety: High mast lighting provides enhanced visibility for drivers navigating complex road networks, especially at night or during adverse weather conditions. Proper illumination around urban interchanges reduces the risk of accidents, improves lane visibility, and enhances overall road safety.

  2. Traffic Management: Illuminated urban interchanges facilitate better traffic management, allowing drivers to distinguish between different lanes, ramps, and exit points more easily. Clear visibility enables smoother navigation and reduces the likelihood of traffic congestion and related bottlenecks.

  3. Enhanced Security: Well-lit urban interchanges contribute to improved security by deterring criminal activities and enhancing the visibility of law enforcement activities. Adequate lighting discourages unlawful behavior and promotes a safer environment for commuters and pedestrians.

  4. Navigation and Wayfinding: High mast lighting assists drivers in identifying key landmarks, exits, and entrance points in urban interchanges, thereby aiding navigation and reducing the risk of missed turns or confusion. Clear visibility helps drivers make informed decisions and navigate complex road configurations more efficiently.

  5. Community Development: Illuminated urban interchanges contribute to the overall development and aesthetic appeal of the surrounding community. Well-lit and visually appealing infrastructure can enhance the perception of the area, attracting businesses, tourists, and residents, and contributing to the overall economic development of the region.

  6. Infrastructure Resilience: High mast lighting systems around urban interchanges often incorporate durable and weather-resistant designs, ensuring reliable operation in various environmental conditions. This resilience contributes to the sustainability and longevity of the lighting infrastructure, reducing the need for frequent maintenance and replacement.

Overall, the installation of high mast lighting around urban interchanges serves to enhance safety, improve traffic management, promote community development, and contribute to the overall efficiency and functionality of the transportation infrastructure within urban areas.

What is the high mast lighting maintenance procedure?

Ensure that all fixture are working
Ensure that all fixtures are working

Maintaining high mast lighting is crucial to ensure the proper functioning and longevity of the lighting system. Regular maintenance procedures can help identify and address issues before they escalate, ensuring that the lighting remains efficient and safe. Here is a general high mast lighting maintenance procedure:

  1. Scheduled Inspections:
    • Regularly schedule comprehensive inspections of the high mast lighting system to identify any potential issues, including structural damage, electrical faults, or signs of wear and tear.
    • Inspect the foundation and structure of the high mast for any signs of corrosion, cracks, or other damage that could compromise its stability and safety.
  2. Cleaning and Debris Removal:
    • Clean the lighting fixtures, lenses, and reflectors to remove dirt, dust, and other debris that may reduce the effectiveness of the lighting.
    • Remove any vegetation or obstructions that might be blocking the light or impeding the movement of the fixtures.
  3. Electrical System Check:
    • Inspect the electrical components, including wiring, connections, and control systems, for signs of damage or malfunction.
    • Test the voltage levels and ensure that the electrical connections are secure and free of corrosion.
  4. Bulb and Ballast Replacement:
    • Regularly check the bulbs for signs of dimming or failure, and replace them as necessary to maintain consistent illumination.
    • Inspect the ballasts for any signs of damage or overheating, and replace them if needed to prevent electrical issues.
  5. Lubrication and Adjustment:
    • Lubricate the moving parts of the winch and other mechanical components to ensure smooth and reliable operation.
    • Check and adjust the tilt, rotation, and height of the lighting fixtures to maintain optimal illumination coverage.
  6. Testing and Verification:
    • Conduct functional tests to ensure that the entire high mast lighting system operates as intended, including the raising and lowering mechanism and the lighting controls.
    • Verify the proper functioning of any automated or remote control systems, such as timers or motion sensors.
  7. Lighting System Alignment:
    • Verify that the lighting fixtures are correctly aligned and aimed to provide the intended coverage and minimize light pollution.
    • Adjust the direction and focus of the lights as necessary to maintain the desired lighting distribution.
  8. Record Keeping:
    • Maintain detailed records of maintenance activities, including inspection dates, repairs, and replacements, to track the history of the high mast lighting system and plan future maintenance schedules effectively.

Following these maintenance procedures can help ensure the optimal performance and longevity of high mast lighting systems, contributing to improved safety, visibility, and energy efficiency.

It is advisable to consult the specific maintenance guidelines provided by the manufacturer and consider the assistance of qualified professionals for complex maintenance tasks.

Does high mast lighting need lightning protection?

Yes, high mast lighting systems typically require lightning protection to safeguard the equipment from the damaging effects of lightning strikes.

Given their tall structures and elevated position, high mast lights are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes, which can cause severe damage to the lighting fixtures, electrical components, and the surrounding infrastructure.

With its low voltage protection level, it shields the LED mast light. According to the cable routing requirement, an additional surge arrester should be installed at the LED mast light to protect it from lightning.

Another best way to protect the high mast lighting from lightning is to bond the anchor bolts to the rebar in the foundation.

Implementing a comprehensive lightning protection system is essential to ensure the safety, longevity, and reliable operation of high mast lighting systems, especially in areas prone to frequent thunderstorms or with a high risk of lightning activity.

By incorporating these protective measures, the risk of damage from lightning strikes can be significantly reduced, thereby enhancing the overall resilience and durability of the lighting infrastructure.

Does High mast lighting need grounding?

Yes, a high mast lighting system needs grounding protection like any other electrical device. A grounding rod can be used to serve this purpose.

A copper conductor is attached to the wiring system’s metal rod and to the terminals for the ground connections. Grounding cable protects humans against electrical shock in case of a short circuit to ground fault.

Providing a low resistance path for the fault current drives the current to the earthing rod instead of passing through the human body.

Like any metallic body in an electrical system, high mast lighting poles require a good earthing connection to the grounding network. The resistance of the grounding network should be lower than 5 Ohms in general locations, and lower than 2 Ohms in oil and gas plants.

You can increase the protection level by adding an RCCB (Residual Current Circuit Breaker), this current trips in case of any earth leakage due to an earth fault. It measures the difference between the current in the phase and the neutral. In case of any difference it trips.

For more details about grounding, read my other article Grounding system in electricity

What is the winch in high mast lighting?

A winch is a device that is often used in high mast lighting systems to raise and lower the lighting fixtures attached to the top of the tall poles.

It is essentially a mechanical device that consists of a drum or a spool around which a cable or rope is wound. The winch can be operated manually or powered by an electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic motor.

In the context of high mast lighting, the winch serves as the primary mechanism for raising and lowering the lighting fixtures, allowing for easy access during installation, maintenance, and repairs.

The winch system is typically integrated into the base of the high mast and is designed to handle the weight of the lighting fixtures and associated equipment, ensuring smooth and controlled movement.

The winch mechanism enables technicians or maintenance personnel to adjust the height of the lighting fixtures based on specific requirements, such as the need for maintenance, changes in lighting conditions, or specific operational demands. This feature allows for efficient and safe servicing of the lighting system without the need for specialized equipment or complex manual labor.

The use of a winch in high mast lighting systems contributes to the overall functionality, safety, and convenience of these systems, allowing for easy maintenance and adjustments to the lighting configuration as needed.

Why does high mast lighting need a motor?

High mast lighting systems often incorporate a motorized mechanism for raising and lowering the lighting fixtures attached to the tall poles. The use of a motor serves several important purposes:

  1. Maintenance and Repairs: The motorized mechanism allows for easy access to the lighting fixtures at the top of the high mast, facilitating routine maintenance tasks such as bulb replacement, cleaning, and repairs without requiring specialized equipment or extensive manual labor.
  2. Adjustability and Flexibility: The motorized system enables the adjustment of the height of the lighting fixtures based on specific lighting requirements or changing environmental conditions. This flexibility allows for the optimization of lighting coverage and intensity as needed for different applications and situations.
  3. Energy Efficiency: By adjusting the height of the lighting fixtures, the system can optimize energy consumption by reducing the overall power output when maximum illumination is not required. Lowering the fixtures during periods of reduced activity or lower traffic can help save energy and reduce operational costs.
  4. Enhanced Safety and Security: The motorized control allows for quick adjustments in the event of maintenance or emergencies, ensuring the safety and security of maintenance personnel and providing better access for emergency services if necessary.
  5. Weather Adaptability: In adverse weather conditions, such as high winds or storms, the ability to lower the high mast lights can prevent damage to the lighting system, reducing the risk of structural damage and ensuring the longevity of the equipment.

Overall, the inclusion of a motorized mechanism in high mast lighting systems enhances their functionality, efficiency, and overall safety, allowing for easy maintenance, adaptability, and optimized energy usage.

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