Letters to the Editor

Letter: Saving energy

December 14, 2013


To the editor:

My name is Thomas White, I’m an eighth-grader and I’m writing to you concerning energy conservation. My main concern is the new parking ramp that is next to the outdoor public pool. The lights are on 24/7 and no matter what weather, or time of day, you will always be able to read a book under those lights. I believe that they should be toned down a bit and not on as long. The city could save money, reduce light pollution and save energy.

Also, I would like to congratulate the city on their excellent Christmas light display, and appreciate their use of extremely energy efficient LED lights. I have always loved this time of year and believe that they did a great job this year.


Ken Lassman 4 years, 5 months ago

Thomas, thanks for bringing up excellent points, points I hope the city engineer/garage architect can address in this comment section specifically. As an amateur astronomer, my perspective has been from a "light egress" perspective, i.e. if you are trying to light up the entrance to the parking garage, then make sure you are directing the light to the entrance area and not also lighting up someone's front yard across the street as well as the night sky. A well designed light avoids glare and light egress, and by so doing, reduces the amount of light required to meet your goals. For more information about these issues, I invite you to check out the following resource, which can lead to many additional resources: http://www.darksky.org/assets/documents/MLO/MLO_FINAL_June2011.pdf

I know what you mean by being troubled by 24 hour lighting, but I suspect that the primary reason it is on all night is for security reasons. If someone has parked their car in the garage and are returning to their car, having a well lit entrance can both reduce the risk from someone being able to hide in the shadows and "jump" that person, as well as provide enough light so that bystanders/police/security staff can see if trouble is developing or someone needs assistance.

The thought that comes to my mind, and perhaps yours, too, is: why not put a motion detector on the light so that it is only lit when someone is there needing it? Once again, I suspect that security reasons prevail, so that a police patrol can drive by and see if anyone is having any trouble at a glance without having to get out and walk. Think of someone who has had a heart attack and is laying on the ground next to the garage entrance: they are not moving enough to trigger the light activation, so they might not be seen until daylight. Indeed, the online guide I reference above makes an exemption for timed lighting in parking garages, no doubt for this reason.

Now is the light needed during the day? I will have to look at the light and see if it really provides needed light in an area that would otherwise be too dark during the day--do you know? If it is well lit enough, perhaps it could be light activated so it only turns on at dusk and turns off after dawn, like many lights along our streets. That might very well pay for itself in terms of adding a photosensitive switch to do this automatically. That's a question for the engineer who designed it.

So I think the issue comes down to: is the new light an energy efficient construction, properly "fitted" to the use: i.e. just enough light to provide enough light for safety and security, not too much so that it creates glare and light egress, and is it really necessary for it to be on during the daylight hours? Hopefully the people who designed this can answer these questions for you (and me!).

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks Mr Lassman for a practical response.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 5 months ago

I am going to have to go with Thomas because I have been in one of the buses that park across the street from the garage and have seen lights on at noon on a bright and sunny day. It is the same as having sprinklers going when it is raining. It is a total waste of natural resources and money. We can do better.

Thank you for the letter.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks, Thomas and Ken, for this article. I am a great fan of LED lights, especially the new street lights that are now in many cities throughout the country. Thomas, I see your point of view, but I also see Ken's - what happens if there is a bicycle accident or heart attack, and the light is off? In the Bay Area (San Francisco) lights are in some cases dimmed, and in other cases turned off (Golden Gate Park). It's going to take some experimentation to see what's best.

The LED lights can also be used as art - see, for example, the Bay Bridge below - and I will be commenting on that in a separate blog at a later time.

LED lights as art:


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