Fiberglass light poles, also known as composite light poles, are made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), which combines the strength of glass fibers and the flexibility of resin. Fiberglass light poles have unique advantages compared to other light pole materials, such as steel, aluminum, wood, and concrete.
The most common fiberglass light pole shape is round tapered, which can be installed as a direct burial or anchor base. Since fiberglass light poles are made by centrifugal weaving process, they can be manufactured with custom thickness, allowing them to be optimally designed for high wind-loading areas. In contrast, steel and aluminum light poles are only available with specific wall thickness from the mill, limiting their versatility regarding specific loading requirements in various locations. Fiberglass light poles, like steel and aluminum, are hollow, making wiring and future modifications such as installing surveillance cameras, wireless equipment, or additional lighting. Wood and concrete poles are solid, eliminating the possibility of field modifications. Most fiberglass light poles are installed as direct burial (embedded) since less labor and material are involved than anchor-based installation. Anchor-based installation requires reinforced concrete, equipment, and labor to install anchor bolts into the foundation. It may prove very costly if mistakes are made while setting the anchor bolts; curing time for concrete further delays the project, sometimes by weeks, due to curing time being affected by weather and humidity conditions at the project site.
Common uses for fiberglass light poles
Fiberglass light poles are used in many areas beyond lighting. In addition to lighting, fiberglass or composite light poles are commonly used for security/surveillance systems. They render themselves a top choice for security cameras because of their round, tapered shape and strength; they do not vibrate as much as aluminum or steel.
Another popular use is mounting wireless telecommunication equipment for 5G and various antennas. Since fiberglass light poles can be directly embedded, they can be transported and installed easily in remote areas using less material, equipment, and labor. Utility companies also use fiberglass poles due to their strength and durability.
Types of fiberglass poles:
You may be surprised that fiberglass poles come in many shapes or types. The most common shape is round tapered, and the most common installation method is direct burial or embedment. However, fiberglass light poles are available in as many shapes and types as other materials:
- Anchor-based fiberglass light poles
- Hinged-based fiberglass light poles
- Fiberglass light poles for utility companies
- Fiberglass street light poles
- Decorative fiberglass light poles
- Fiberglass light poles for sports lighting
How long do Fiberglass Light poles last?
Fiberglass light poles are expected to last approximately 50 years, making them the longest-lasting material among other light poles. The main reason is that they are made from composite fiber, which doesn’t interact with air or water as much as other materials. In addition, they are not typically painted, which means that the color is built into the structure, eliminating the possibility of fading or scratching.
Benefits of Fiberglass Light Poles
Fiberglass light poles are relatively new to the lighting industry but are being used more and more due to their distinct advantages listed below:
1. Strength and Flexibility
As you know, fiberglass or composite materials are gaining popularity in fields requiring high performance. For example, composite is becoming the go-to material for race cars and airplane manufacturing. For example, Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) is made of composite material instead of aluminum for the first time in airplane manufacturing history. This is one of the reasons why fiberglass is the preferred material in areas such as Florida, the Caribbean Islands, and the Pacific Islands, where hurricane-category winds may frequently push the limits of structures. Furthermore, fiberglass light poles are very flexible, meaning they may deflect in high wind conditions but take their original profile after the wind dies down. They are not brittle. In our test facility, when testing a 20-foot round tapered fiberglass light pole, we could exert close to 700 pounds of lateral force to the top before the pole succumbed to excessive lateral loading.
2. Cost-effectiveness of fiberglass light poles
Since light poles are structural elements, their material cost should be one of many costs to consider. Installation, maintenance, and labor costs are important because they may substantially increase the project’s overall cost. The advantage of fiberglass light poles is that in addition to being more competitively priced than aluminum and sometimes steel, they provide higher loading capabilities which means that fiberglass light poles can support more weight (light fixtures and brackets) at higher wind zones. During the lifetime of the light pole, fiberglass light poles do not require maintenance since their resin is pigmented with desired colors – they are resistant to scratches and are rust-proof. Also, while installing fiberglass light poles, unlike steel and aluminum, extra equipment may be unnecessary because they are lightweight. This adds considerable savings to the installation cost. If installed as a direct burial (or embedded), there are even more savings due to eliminating expenses associated with concrete foundations.
3. Low-maintenance fiberglass light poles
The most significant advantage of fiberglass light poles is that they do not corrode. In the older days, there was the perception that fiberglass light poles may be suitable only in coastal areas and were not needed in other parts of the country. This is not true. For example, salt exposure in the Midwest sometimes equals or exceeds sea salt spray in coastal areas. Many steel light poles must be replaced every 10-15 years due to the severity of corrosion. This means that fiberglass light poles can be a fantastic, money-saving, long-term solution for outdoor lighting for businesses in all states. In addition, as vandalism rates rise, since fiberglass light poles are not painted or powder-coated, they can be cleaned or maintained easier, further helping with a drastic reduction in maintenance expenses.
4. Wind Resistance
In addition to their strength, round tapered fiberglass light poles are more wind resistant since the top of the pole is much smaller than the base creating less wind surface on the top while providing a larger base at the bottom, making the light pole more stable. Round tapered fiberglass light poles are more aerodynamic and often used in high-wind regions.
Fiberglass light poles are non-conductive, making them a perfect option for areas where the public may contact light poles frequently—for example, parks where children play. If there is an electrical shortage in the pole, and the pole is metal, there may be a risk of electrocution. However, since fiberglass is nonconductive, the chance of electrocution is eliminated.
Unlike other light pole materials, fiberglass light poles can feature graphics wrapped around their surface, creating unlimited branding and display potential. For example, wireless or cell phone companies can use fiberglass light poles disguised as trees in a neighborhood where a typical industrial-looking light pole may look out of place. In addition, by changing the amount of pigmentation within the resin material, it is possible to create translucent areas within the pole, allowing internally installed LED lights to shine through the pole, similar to light towers. This option is unavailable with other materials since fiberglass can be produced with a translucent shaft.
Since fiberglass light poles can easily be modified in the field, they can be used for many purposes, even after installation. For example, the initial intention for the fiberglass light pole may be lighting, but a security camera or wireless antenna may later be added. More lights can also be installed in the middle of the pole to light up the façade of a building. Banners used for advertisements or promotions may be easily installed in the field. This illustrates how versatile fiberglass poles are to maximize their use.
Only recently, the biggest drawback of fiberglass light poles was their very long lead times. As made-to-order products, it would typically take many months to receive them after placing an order. However, Lightmart changed this by stocking the most commonly used fiberglass light poles to allow users to tap into the benefits of fiberglass light poles without delay. Additionally, given the types of fiberglass light poles mentioned above, Lightmart.com has experts that can help you select the right fiberglass light pole for your energy-efficient lighting needs.