Retrofitting Existing Street Lights With LED Can Save Money

Newer lighting tech drastically reduces energy use and emissions

Amongst the various concerns governments and environmentalists have regarding saving energy and reducing emissions, street lighting burning electricity every evening and increasing our carbon footprint is a key concern.

An alternative lighting technology to the common and very old sodium lighting type widely used is LED, and more areas UK and world-wide are embracing it.

The energy and environmental lighting issue

The widely used sodium lighting in our towns and cities is, by modern standards, expensive and inefficient and costs many cities and towns an average of 40% of their total electricity bill.

Costs are further increased through their need to be replaced on average every three to six years so making for a hefty maintenance bill for local authorities.

Governments are setting high energy use and emissions targets that older lighting technology simply can’t meet, so LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting is seen as the way forward.

Many local authorities have moved at least part of the way over to LED with lighting conversion programmes in full swing (see below) with more to follow with street lighting specialists finding themselves being booked years ahead to do the work.

LED – cheaper and more efficient

LED lighting is becoming increasingly popular and widespread thanks to its energy efficiency and longevity; it’s becoming more common in automotive applications as more cars and other vehicles sport LED lights, and many homes and businesses now have at least some LED lighting.

LED offers a number of benefits:

  • Long life – LED lights last around 20-25 years compared to just three to six for conventional lighting so saving on replacement and maintenance costs
  • More focussed – LED lights are more focused so improving night visibility and reducing light spillage
  • Low energy consumption – saving power and emissions
  • Safer – LED lights don’t contain toxic materials such as lead and mercury
  • Vast cost savings – energy bills and maintenance costs could reduce by as much as 90%
  • More robust – LED lights are more durable and robust than older lighting types

How much can LED help save money and reduce emissions?

The short answer is ‘considerably.’ Both in the UK and worldwide significant benefits have already been seen with LED lighting conversions:

  • In Boston, USA, the city saves some $2.8 million (£2.1 million) each year in electricity having converted 40% of its street lights in 2012. When taking into account reduced maintenance costs the ‘break even’ point was reached around three years later.
  • In Portsmouth the majority of street lights are being replaced with LED; savings are expected to be around £400,000 per year with a 40% reduction in energy used.
  • In Brighton, an LED street light replacement project began in 2017 to replace 18,000 lights; the expected energy savings are in the region of £200,000 per year with a projected energy consumption and carbon emissions reduction of just over 60%.
  • In Manchester, the City Council commenced a project to replace the city’s 56,000 street lights with LED tech. When completed in 2020, the savings are likely to in the region of £1.7 million per year with emissions reductions of 7,500 tonnes.

Further savings and emissions reductions necessary

Although LED lighting clearly saves considerably on energy use and reduces emissions considerably, in itself this won’t be enough to meet strict energy consumption and emissions targets.

In order to boost savings and reduce emissions, LED lighting will combine with tech such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) to create ‘intelligent’ street lighting such as this Future Cities demonstration project in Glasgow .

This tech can control when lighting is switched on and off, when it’s dimmed, how much it’s dimmed by, and alter lights through using motion sensors to detect movement and activity and switch lighting on or brighten it when needed.

This will help not only make for more useful lighting for various situations (for example lights coming on in daylight when there’s heavy fog) but contribute to more cost savings and reduced emissions.