City works to replace traditional stoplight bulbs with LED bulbs

Sometimes helping the environment is as simple as changing a lightbulb. The problem is, it’s a $90 lightbulb.

The city’s traffic light program is teaching city officials a thing or two about the balancing act of energy conservation. The city is about 60 percent complete with a project to replace standard light bulbs used in traffic lights through the city with special LED bulbs.

The LED bulbs use about one-sixth the electricity of a standard bulb and last about two years longer. But each red light the city replaces costs $90 compared to about one dollar for a traditional bulb.

Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, said the bulbs paid for themselves in reduced electricity costs during the five-year life of the bulbs. But the city hasn’t jumped into the program all at once. Instead the city is replacing the bulbs in phases. Soules estimated that it could be another two to three years before all the traditional bulbs are replaced.

Soules said upfront cost was the main reason. The city has about 80 intersections with traffic signals. It is not uncommon for some of the larger intersections to have 40 bulbs.

The city will cut the electric bills at an intersection by more than half with the use of LED bulbs. All the red lights, which burn the longest in the city, have been replaced, and overall about 60 percent of all the lights are replaced.

“You start to add that up, and it is a lot of money to spend on lightbulbs in a year,” Soules said.

Other areas the city continues to evaluate for potential energy savings include:

¢ Indoor lighting. The numbers are different, but the scenario is the same for lights used inside City Hall and other city buildings.

¢ Building standards. The city has informally agreed to build any new library project to standards approved by the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s not known yet how much the standards may add to the cost of the project. But city commissioners have not adopted the policy for all its buildings, and did not use the standards when designing two multimillion-dollar fire stations currently under construction. Mayor Boog Highberger, though, said city officials did direct the architect to be mindful of energy efficiency in the buildings’ designs.