Buffalo was once known as the city of lights during the Pan American Exposition. In recent years major city wide construction and renovations are happening all over the city and what better opportunity for this new updated LED lighting to be installed then when the streetscapes are also updated.
The high up-front cost of light-emitting diodes bulbs can make it hard to justify using them to replace less expensive incandescent or compact-florescent ones. For outside commercial lighting, it’s a different story. The initial expense is starting to make sense, because it’s easier to show a return on investment.
During 2011, commercial and institutional buildings and street and highway lighting consumed about 275 billion kilowatt hours for lighting or 21 percent of commercial electricity consumed, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Changing out older streetlights for LED lamps can reduce this energy use.
Outside, LED lamps have an advantage. They use less energy and also handle outdoor temperature changes and moisture better. This makes them attractive for use as outside security lights and for commercial streetlights. LEDs are more environmentally friendly than fluorescent bulbs because they contain even smaller amounts of mercury. Used outdoors, they also light the ground better and reduce light pollution because LEDs can be more easily focused on specific areas.
When light shines into the night sky, it’s a problem for astronomy centers, ecologically sensitive habitats and wildlife. It also wastes energy. Properly designed LED lamps direct the light downward, illuminating the ground more uniformly than high-pressure sodium lamps, which diffuse some of their light upward, causing light pollution.
The ability to direct and focus light is a big advantage. “Well-designed LED lamps shine light where you want it and not in bedroom windows or other places you don’t,” said David Yang, a commercial lighting account representative for McKaig-Evergreen Inc.
Currently available commercial LED streetlights offer high-quality light, durability and electricity savings in the 50 to 70 percent range. “LED streetlights can quickly show a return on investment by offsetting the high up-front expense with lower energy costs, longer life and reduced maintenance,” said Yang.
The city of Buffalo should start taking significant steps to replace all city light standards with LED technology. The numerous savings and safety benefits far outweigh the initial high cost and when available grants, low interest federal and state loans as well as shorter return on investment are factored in, residents will benefit from a safer and secure night time streetscape at no additional cost to taxpayers.