According to some, the LED revolution is well under way. Businesses are introducing it to offices for the same reasons and home owners are just waking up to the possibilities. The majority of councils also see it as an answer to reducing the cost of town and city lighting, knocking a significant amount off their operating Budgets that can be best utilised elsewhere.
But is everyone happy with the inevitable change to LED lighting on our city streets?
What is LED Lighting?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and until recently it was an efficient way of lighting but had one major problem – bulbs didn’t emit enough light. But the fact that the lights could provide some 70-80% savings compared to incandescent bulbs and also last about 50 times longer meant they were worth further research and development. In recent years, there have been a number of breakthroughs that increased the brightness of LED bulbs and meant we could realistically start using them in our homes and offices.
LED lighting is now available in hardware stores and supermarkets and comes in the same range of fittings and styles as other bulbs. Certainly, more businesses are moving towards it as a way of significantly bringing down the costs of their fuel bills. Over the last few years too, councils across the UK have been starting to introduce it for our streets.
The Council’s Introducing LED
In Bury they are undertaking a massive operation which could see around 13,000 lights across the borough changed to LED by 2017. The council, as with many in the country, sight the increase in electricity bills over the last few years – from £594,000 in 2008 to £867,000 in 2012. They believe that installing LED lighting will save the council at least £200,000 a year compared to their existing system.
In Plymouth they are replacing almost 29,000 lights with LED over the next few years in an £8 million city wide investment. The council expect to achieve a 70% reduction in energy bills from this change, making a significant impact on their current £2 million annual bill for lighting. LED will also help to reduce the carbon footprint of the city in line with EU requirements. Plymouth council believe there are other benefits including increased visibility making it safer to walk down the street and better conditions for drivers in the city.
Salford council are not the only borough that have had to switch off lights in recent years to save on rising bills. The introduction of 2,000 LED lights in a pilot study in 2011 saved the council £80,000 in reduced electricity and maintenance costs. When they move to replace all 24,000 lights in the city they expect the savings to be in the region of £20 million over the lifespan of the LEDs.
LED Detractors – Just a Question of Taste?
If all councils do push forward with a conversion to LED then you can expect the colour of the night to change significantly. Those who have been used to the yellow tinge of our sodium lights have complained that living under LED is like walking around in a football stadium. Most of us suspect that it’s just a matter of getting used to the change and the complaints have been moderate. LED is highly directional compared to other types of light so the beam from a bulb will travel out in a straight line rather than filter out in all directions as sodium lights currently do. The brighter, ‘cleaner’, light is also thought to benefit drivers as it produces something more similar to daylight conditions.
The Future is LED
Ask most industry insiders and you may well find that the future is going to be largely LED. Production processes, greater manufacture and more competition are bringing the price down. Whilst currently a more expensive than other bulbs, they do last significantly longer and provide a greater return on investment. A normal CFL bulb may be expected to last some 10,000 hours but an LED one will typically last 50,000 and use much less electricity over that period.
Within the next 10 to 15 years, there’s no doubt that most of our street lights will be LED and many of us will have them in our own homes and offices. You can find out more about LED lighting here.