Home Energy and Environment Is Your Community Still Wasting Money on Inefficient Streetlights?

Is Your Community Still Wasting Money on Inefficient Streetlights?


Ops-center-induction-lights-install_24Streetlights can be a surprisingly big drain on a community’s budget, but thanks to new technology, cities & counties can slash their energy bills & carbon footprints. San Diego alone is saving millions:

The city is replacing its old low-pressure sodium lights – a common streetlight – with induction bulbs that use about 40 percent less energy. 16,500 have already been converted, and officials expect the transition to be finished by next spring. Before the conversion, the city had been paying about $4.7 million a year to light its streets. When all 35,000 lights are replaced, that cost will drop to about $2.8 million a year, according to Tom Blair, deputy environmental services director for the City of San Diego.

And it’s not just energy costs that will go down. The old sodium bulbs typically had to be replaced every 3 or 4 years, while the new induction bulbs can last more than a decade. Blair says a set of induction bulbs were installed in downtown San Diego about 12 years ago and have yet to need replacement. “That’s a significant savings,” Blair says.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” says Marty Turock, a program manager at CleanTECH San Diego. “Virtually every city, at least within San Diego County, recognized that doing the street lighting retrofits was one of the biggest impacts and one of the biggest payback energy efficiency projects they could take on.”

Another leader – Ann Arbor, MI, projected to save $100,000 a year by installing new LED streetlights with motion detectors (unlike older streetlight bulbs that need a few minutes to power up to full intensity, LEDs can fire up instantly).

  • RossPatterson

    One of the other bad aspects of sodium-vapor streetlights is their color.  The light from these lamps is unusually narrow-spectrum, leading to what lots of us know from trying to find our parked cars late at night – most colors look like similar shades of gray.  It will be awfully nice to be able to see normally on a city street again.  Now, here’s hoping the towns and cities keep the brightness down near the sodium-vapor levels – one of the original goals of those lamps was to lower light pollution levels while maintaining visibility.

  • ir003436

    Another difference between the new style lights described here and old street lights goes beyond the type of bulb and electrical savings.  The new lights are also much more astronomer-friendly.

    As all astronomers (amateur and professional) can attest, cities and towns and other population centers with their row upon row of “security lights” are deadly for our hobby.   The light from traditional street lighting shines up into the sky almost as much as it shines down onto the ground, thereby all but blinding telescopes.

    I live in Northumberland County where the Potomac River joins the Chesapeake Bay and we are blessed with dark skies.  I can see with my naked eye or binoculars objects that I can’t find with a telescope from an urban area.  You can’t appreciate the difference until you view the sky from an urban center then get WAY, WAY, FAR OUT OF TOWN and look up.

    Not that these lights will turn San Diego into astronomy paradise, but, it’s a step in the right direction.