Let it shine: LED streetlight-test tour in West Seattle (and beyond)

(WSB photos and video by Cliff DesPeaux)
Under one of the LED streetlights that are being tested on a few blocks in the Genesee-Schmitz area, that’s City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, leading a tour last night to talk about the new lights, as the city moves ahead with plans to swap out all streetlights for energy-/money-saving LEDs within 5 years. Click ahead for more details, including a quick video demonstration of the difference between the new lights and the “old” ones, plus information on when they’ll be shining along your street:

The tour began with a presentation at Lighting Design Lab, including the new-vs.-old demonstration in that clip. The goal: To show the difference between the light cast by the streetlights widely in use now and the future LEDs. The city has tested the lights in several other areas of town, including Capitol Hill and South Park, according to Seattle City Light streetlight-engineering manager Ed Smalley, whose presentation follows opening comments by Councilmember Harrell in this clip:

The city will replace all 40,000 streetlights with LED lamps between now and the end of 2014, and City Light’s Scott Thomsen tells WSB our area will be covered in 2012-2013 – much of West Seattle just got new conventional streetlights a few years ago, so there’s no sense tossing those out immediately. They’ll be installed this summer in Ballard, South Green Lake, Eastlake and the U-District. For now, if you want to go see them in action in West Seattle, check out the area visited during last night’s tour – 53rd and 54th SW, between Charlestown and Dakota (map) – where you can see new/old side by side here:

Other cities installing LED streetlights, Harrell says, include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Anchorage.

27 Replies to "Let it shine: LED streetlight-test tour in West Seattle (and beyond)"

  • seaview April 14, 2010 (12:18 pm)

    I’ve heard LED traffic signals were dangerous with snow accumulation. The lights don’t emit heat and therefore doesn’t melt snow. Many car/pedestrian accidents resulted.

  • Brandon April 14, 2010 (12:39 pm)

    Is it me or in the video did the LED’s create more shadows? I feel as if the current ones I could see all the object very well, yes everything was orange but with LED’s some of the objects were less visisble.

  • Dave April 14, 2010 (1:00 pm)

    Wow, there are guys standing in the street under lights! What an earth breaking story!

  • KBear April 14, 2010 (1:00 pm)

    That’s very interesting, Seaview, but this article appears to be about street lights, not traffic signals.

  • Sean April 14, 2010 (1:21 pm)

    It’s true that traffic signals that were converted to LEDs did have problems with snow accumulation. The Chicago Tribune can confirm this.

    A few things mitigate that here in Seattle for street lamps:
    1. The LED traffic lights were in the MidWest, where large snow storms can be counted on. While Seattle does get occasional snow, it isn’t nearly as significant.
    2. Traffic lights largely had Incandescent or Halogen Bulbs, which burn hot. Street lamps actually use High Pressure Sodium lighting, which gives the orange-pink glow we’re used to. These are efficient (though not as much as LEDs) and aren’t as warm, so street lamps don’t melt much snow these days anyway (see a photo here).

  • Carson April 14, 2010 (1:27 pm)

    I have also never seen snow accumulate UNDER an open light before either, that whole gravity thingy comes into play.

  • Jim April 14, 2010 (1:29 pm)

    Wow, just goes to show you some are brighter than others!

  • clark5080 April 14, 2010 (1:37 pm)

    Are they truly money and energy saving? I know they use less energy but probably cost more. I just have a hard time believing the cost estimates. Remember the new Green City Hall was supposed to save money and I think it actually costs a fair amount more than the old City hall did.


  • seaview April 14, 2010 (1:37 pm)

    My apologies, I guess I should have prefaced by 1st comment with, “Also interesting about LED lights…as reported by the NYT…”

    Its a blog, relax about getting an errant comment or two.

  • cjboffoli April 14, 2010 (1:54 pm)

    The LED streetlights do indeed have a higher up-front cost. But they save money in the long-term because their energy use is dramatically lower (at the same time that they give off a higher-quality light) and they have a 12-15 year replacement cycle versus the 4-6 year lifespan of high pressure sodium (HPS) lights. Not to mention the Federal Government, through a Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, is helping the City to defray the costs. I think this improvement is a no-brainer and will help Seattle to reach its goal of 20% reduction in power use over current levels.

  • W April 14, 2010 (2:39 pm)

    I’d just be happy if they’d replace the burnt out lights with ones that work- anything is an improvement over darkness.

  • WSB April 14, 2010 (3:10 pm)

    As we noted in the preview yesterday (which is linked in the story above), the city estimates that when all 40,000 streetlights are replaced, operational costs will be reduced by more than $2 million/year – TR

  • Steph in WS April 14, 2010 (4:08 pm)

    Much better with the LED’s. Do it now!

  • Left Turner April 14, 2010 (4:35 pm)

    Looks like they throw off less wasted light above the fixtures as well – less light pollution would be rad!

  • Under Achiever April 14, 2010 (5:07 pm)

    No matter the type of light bulb the fixture generates the same amount of lighting power — same amount of light pollution, too.

  • nmb April 14, 2010 (5:23 pm)

    I know LEDs are much more energy-efficient than high-pressure sodium, but it would be nice to have actual energy usage statistics per light (in watts) to see exactly what the difference is. Also would be nice to see the lumen output for each light.

  • outdoor April 14, 2010 (6:02 pm)

    For health and energy savings night needs to look more like night. Even in the city it is important to have a connection to the natural world…seeing stars and having our circadian rythms working. To achive this and a goal of using less energy, fewer lights could be used. Those that are used could be the high efficency LEDs. The street lights that use LEDs could easily use fewer bulbs so there is less contrast which is hard for eyes to adjust to creating a less safe situation. Look at a very bright light and then away…your sight is compromized. Summary: It would be great to lead the way creating a healthier environment by allowing more night sky and strategically placed new technology LEDs that are less bright, avoiding significant contrast.

  • pigeonmom April 14, 2010 (7:02 pm)

    Here’s an interesting bit on light pollution.

  • david April 14, 2010 (8:01 pm)

    Changing the subject slightly, but maybe the savings in light costs could be used to replace some street signs in this neighborhood. Some appear so old that they are no longer legible, especially at night.

  • miws April 14, 2010 (8:57 pm)

    david, I don’t remember the timeline off the top of my head, but that project is already underway.


    I believe they are doing/have done the major arterials first. For example, they did along California Av, and along Fauntleroy Way around last Spring or Summer. (Probably 35th too.)


    I don’t recall hearing of any delays or postponement in the project. But, yeah, some of them are pretty bad.



  • Keith April 14, 2010 (11:48 pm)

    I’m all for energy efficiency, but the light put out by the LED streetlamps I’ve seen can be harsh and creates this ugly/spooky high-contrast “Night of the Living Dead” look. I wish they’d tone them down a bit.

  • HomeInWS April 15, 2010 (4:53 pm)

    When you figure out who “they” are, would you let us all know?

  • Fred April 15, 2010 (5:09 pm)

    I heard that the LED lights emit radiation. I don’t want this in my neighborhood.

    • WSB April 15, 2010 (5:23 pm)

      I just researched that and cannot find any reference to that effect – where did you “hear” it?

  • Chris April 16, 2010 (8:41 am)

    Most of the HPS (old streetlights) are 400watts lamps, the LED at most are 180watts, huge savings.HPS lamps last around 24,000 hours, LED around 50,000. Also when LED’s burn out they are out. When HPS start going bad they can cycle on and off randomly so if you call City Light and tell them it’s out, when they drive by it might be on so they don’t change it. And LED’s do not emit radiation.

  • rich April 17, 2010 (1:16 am)

    i read an article about snow blowing onto traffic control lights in chicago. i don’t think these lights will have the same issue since they are directted down and will probably not be directly exposed

  • Pat April 17, 2010 (1:52 pm)

    >I heard that the LED lights emit radiation. I don’t want this in my neighborhood.

    Fred- LEDs emit light (electromagnetic radiation) over a very limited range of wavelengths within the visible region. This “radiation” is not harmful. White LEDs do not emit harmful high energy radiation (e.g., UV rays or x-rays).

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