Why Your Neighborhood Should Invest in LED Street Light Solutions

Roundabout illuminated by an LED street lightLED street lights have many advantages. Not only do they use less energy, but they have a longer cycle between replacements and allow light to be directed more precisely. This allows clear visibility while reducing light pollution and glare. An LED street light also provides a better color spectrum to enhance visibility.

However, many jurisdictions struggle with the high upfront cost. It can be hard to justify when there are so many other budget priorities. Because of the importance of lighting uniformity, street light replacement generally has to be done by the neighborhood. So, what can jurisdictions and neighborhoods do?

The Advantages of LED Street Lights

The specific advantages of LED street lights make them a worthwhile investment. These include:

  1. Significant reduction in energy use. Replacing all of the street lights in the U.S. with LED equivalents would save $ billion a year.
  2. Longer life span. Typically, LED luminaires last at least four times as long as traditional bulbs. This frees up maintenance time and budget for other projects.
  3. Reduced light pollution. Because LED lighting can be directed precisely where it is needed, it can be designed to meet dark sky requirements, reducing waste and providing psychological benefits to residents.
  4. Reduced glare. For similar reasons, LED lighting reduces potentially dangerous glare.
  5. Improved overall visibility, especially when compared to older yellow lights. The more natural color makes navigating easier. Contrary to fears, these lights do not produce excessive blue light (which can affect sleep cycles).
  6. Smart LED lighting can give even more advantages, including monitoring traffic and adjusting lighting accordingly. Systems are also now in use which dim lighting late at night when few people are around, offering further savings.

The biggest disadvantage is the capital outlay. However, there are ways to get around this, including state-level subsidies and partnering with utility companies.

How Municipalities Can Afford and Justify the Investment

For most municipalities, juggling various budgetary priorities is extremely complicated. The significant capital investment involved may pay for itself rapidly, but officials have to explain this to their constituents and taxpayers. Some states, such as Minnesota, have provided assistance for upgrading the lighting in certain areas.

A common approach is to work with the utility company. These partnerships have allowed the conversion of street lighting in many communities without tax increases, although residents may still foot the bill through their utility rates. Utilities may offer grants or substantial rebates to encourage conversion. This is also an option if the utility is publicly owned. One of the more common approaches is for a municipality to work with an Energy Savings Performance Contractor (ESCO) in a contracting arrangement called an Energy Performance Contract, which outsources much of the risk. Typically the ESCO negotiates with the utility on behalf of the municipality to purchase the street lights as part of a program that ultimately provides new LED street lights, financing and guaranteed savings. Smaller municipalities may find they can get a better deal through regional partnerships to increase economies of scale.

In some areas, financial responsibility for street lights directly falls on the property owners who benefit from them. HOAs may also install and maintain street lights. This places the upgrade burden on property owners directly. Street light upgrades often result in an increase in property taxes.

How To Get LED Streetlights in Your Neighborhood?

Given the numerous advantages of LED street lights, property owners may want them installed, even if they have to bear all or part of the cost.

If you live in an HOA, then you will need to petition the board. Bear in mind that this might result in an unpopular special assessment. It’s best to get as many of your neighbors as possible involved.

Otherwise, sometimes there is a mechanism for requesting additional or upgraded lighting outside your home. Although neighborhood-wide upgrades are better, sometimes a single LED street light installation can get the ball rolling and people interested in pursuing larger-scale improvements. A neighborhood petition, done correctly, will help local governments see the level of support for community-wide upgrades. This is particularly important if upgrades require voter approval.

What Kind of Light Do LED Street Lights Produce?

An often-voiced fear is that LED lights produce substantially more blue light. However, while it is true that LED lighting is generally cooler, in some cases by a lot, this is counterbalanced by the fact that LED lights produce less light in general. Because the light can be more precisely directed, and there is less waste, you only need to produce about 50% of the light to gain the same visibility.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of LED street lights and advice on how to get your community upgraded, contact Envocore today. We have made it our mission to help municipalities and large facilities reduce energy consumption and control costs.

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