It certainly looked odd. It was just a few nights ago and there was this truck parked out in the street. It looked like one of those bucket trucks that the electric company has to make repairs. My first thought was that the power must be out somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t out at our house.
Doing what most people would do, I dodged some raindrops to investigate further. I found a team of two gentlemen replacing the street light next to the house. I found that a bit strange. The all-radiant glow of the previous street light seemed to work fine. It came on at dark, went out during the day. In terms of what was expected from a street light, it certainly did the job.
But alas, time marches on. The world of street lights has moved with warp speed into the 21st century. The two-man team informed me that they were putting in new LED street lights. The one guy pointed down the street, “Look, we just replaced that one down the block.” Before I knew it, the new street lamp burned a cool blue glow.
From the very beginning, I could tell these lights were a lot different from the yellow-tinged bulbs that have been burning from our little corner of the world. The light not only had a different color, it was brighter, much brighter. The brightness illuminated the side of the house and the house across the street. There were many times that evening, I had to do a double take out the window wondering if someone left their car lights on.
From the little research I have done on these lights, the LED street lights have some major advantages. First off, these lights are going to last a long time. Metal halide lights might last 10,000 hours. Fluorescent lights last 25,000 hours. These LED lights are expected to go 100,000 hours. If the average LED light is on 12 hours a day, that means that light will last approximately 22 years and 10 months. So, sometime around September 2039, that street light will finally give out and will need to be replaced.
Another positive aspect of these LED street lights is that they are much cheaper to operate. These lights take just a fraction of what traditional bulbs need to use energy wise. This good stewardship of energy not only keeps our collective electric bills down, but it also has a positive impact on the environment. In fact, it is estimated that installation of energy efficient street lighting in the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. could reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 212,000 vehicles off the road, and save at least $90 million annually in electricity costs.
But perhaps the greatest benefit to these lights was something that I noticed on a clear night a few days later. As I was walking around the neighborhood, my eyes went to heavens and I noticed something I haven’t seen in the city sky for a long time; stars.
There were stars all over the eastern sky and I am sure there were constellations that I have never seen firsthand. I was so excited about my newfound discovery, I immediately told my wife. I prodded her outside and she too, seemed to be impressed by the amount of twinkling happening in the evening sky.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not sure who should get the credit for calling the shots on changing out these light fixtures. Maybe it’s our city leaders, maybe it’s the folks with the electric company. I don’t know.
But, I do know whoever it is, they deserve a hearty thank you. Street lights may seem so insignificant, but they play a critical role in keeping our streets and our community safe. They are certainly something we all take for granted, but they are a critical part of our community infrastructure.
Whomever is responsible for these improvements, I certainly thank you. Perhaps we will see you again in 2039 when it’s time to change out that light fixture.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]