Typical, street lights use highly inefficient HID lamps that drain the grid of electricity and cost untold millions of dollars a year to power and maintain. Obviously street lights are needed for the safety of travelers at night, but why does so much money need to be wasted by powering these inefficient old standards of lighting? Instead, high performance, energy efficient LED lights should replace energy hogging HID street lights and become the new street lighting standard.
LED street lights provide better lighting in numerous ways:
LEDs consume much less energy because LEDs produce more Lumens per Watt than HID lights. LEDs provide around 100+ Lumens per Watt and put the light on the ground instead of wasting light pushing it in all directions.
With specialized optics, LEDs are able to direct the light precisely where it is needed. This means the light can be spread out where it is required using distribution patterns or NEMA ratings.
LEDs provide a whiter light that promotes better visual acuity; i.e. things are more clear and easier to see. This provides less eye strain when trying to decipher between objects at night.
LED's last a very long time, upwards of 15-20 years before needing to be replaced. Some LEDs have a longer life span and do not degrade as fast as traditional lamps.
LED fixtures are also dimmable for lower power consumption for times when the streets are not in high use, reducing further the power requirements.
LEDs are an "instant on" and do not require a warm up time or "restrike" waiting time.
Now add solar to the mix for a solar powered LED street light and you have even better efficiency with no grid power being used. LEDs use one-fifth the power of incandescent lighting, a third of HID or metal halide lamps, and half of fluorescent lamps.
LEDs run directly off the DC power provided by the solar power system, making them operate more efficiently without standard AC power losses. Moreover, solar powered street lights operate completely independent of the electric grid, which lowers the carbon footprint and promotes a more sustainable future.
Changing a single standard street light to an efficient solar powered LED street lighting system helps, but imagine this on a larger scale. What does it cost to power all those lights on the roads? Not just financially, but in the carbon footprint that these lights have. Now remove all these lights from the grid and power them by solar and it turns to zero. That's a huge impact on our future!
While local and intermediate streets are now capable of being illuminated with solar LED street lights, the light levels needed on major highways are still beyond the reach of solar powered street lights for most areas. None the less, rapidly advancing LED technology will one day make it possible to change every street light in America over to energy efficient solar powered LED street light. The likes of which will save untold millions in energy costs and promote a sustainable future by completely removing all the lighting needed from the grid.
What other ways can we impact our carbon footprint and provide better lighting?
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.