Archive for Monday, February 19, 2018

Lawrence City Commission to decide whether to shift to warmer-colored LEDs; cost still unclear

An LED streetlight with a color temperature of 4,000 kelvins and no shields installed is pictured at dusk on Nov. 30, 2017, in the 1600 block of Lindenwood Lane.

An LED streetlight with a color temperature of 4,000 kelvins and no shields installed is pictured at dusk on Nov. 30, 2017, in the 1600 block of Lindenwood Lane.

February 19, 2018


The debate about whether the city should follow health recommendations regarding the color of LED bulbs it uses for its streetlights will come to a head Tuesday.

At its meeting, the Lawrence City Commission will consider a city staff recommendation to continue using a type of LEDs that emit a blue-rich white light. Some studies have shown that nighttime exposure to blue light is unhealthy, but city staff states that the issue is complex and unresolved, and it is recommending the city follow lighting industry standards said to be safest for traffic. The cost of shifting to warmer-colored LEDs will also be a key discussion topic.

The Lawrence Alliance for Responsible Lighting is asking the city to reconsider its choice of LED. Specifically, the alliance is asking that, going forward, the city-owned streetlights and those provided via the city’s contract with Westar Energy use bulbs with a color temperature less than 3,000 kelvins.

Adrian Melott, emeritus professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, is a member of the alliance. He noted the lower color temperature bulbs are now about the same price as the type used throughout Lawrence, which are 4,000 kelvins, with only a slight difference in efficiency.

“It varies from one lighting manufacturer to another but it’s typically about 3 percent,” Melott said. “So, to sacrifice the environment, human health and wildlife health for a 3 percent difference is to me not a very good idea.”

The alliance has pointed to a recommendation from the American Medical Association, based on multiple studies, that specifically warns against light with a color temperature higher than 3,000 kelvins because it can disrupt human sleep and disorient some animal species. Advocates for reducing light pollution, such as the International Dark-Sky Association, also recommend color temperatures below 3,000 kelvins.

Melott said the AMA does not make recommendations based on weak evidence, and he doesn’t understand why the city, Westar and the lighting industry oppose the request to use warmer-colored bulbs going forward.

In its memo to the commission, city staff members state they do not refute the AMA recommendation but noted that the pubic health and scientific issues are complex, and that research and debate about human circadian systems and photosensitivity are ongoing.

"(The alliance’s) request would arbitrarily restrict the city’s application of internationally accepted best management practices for outdoor and roadway lighting," the memo states.

The majority of the city’s streetlights are owned by Westar, and the memo states that the city cannot force Westar to change its standards and rates. The city spent $850,000 on street lighting service in 2017, and staff estimates “the potential for a significant cost impact” if the city were to follow the alliance’s request, according to the memo. The memo does not provide an actual estimate of what those costs might be.

Reid Nelson, another member of the alliance, said he thinks if the city is going to “raise the specter of cost,” there should be a better understanding of why warmer-temperature LEDs would be more expensive. He said his research has found that rates are based on wattage rather than color temperature.

The Journal-World reached out to Westar Friday afternoon regarding what it would cost if the city were to request that warmer-colored LEDs be used going forward, but was not immediately provided with a figure. In an email, Gina Penzig, a spokeswoman for Westar, did offer a “technical clarification.” Penzig said with LED streetlights, the light is embedded in the streetlight head and to change the light would require a new fixture.

Penzig also said though the unit prices of either color temperature are “virtually the same,” Westar saves money by ordering a lot of the same bulb. She said ordering a smaller quantity of 3,000-kelvin lights for one area would result in losing some of the price advantage that comes with bulk orders.

City Commissioner Matthew Herbert said Friday afternoon that he had reached out to city staff about whether the fiscal impact could be made more clear. Herbert has not decided on the matter and said he is open-minded about it. He said the economic cost of any change is a big part of the discussion.

“People are willing to make choices that improve their lives if there’s no fundamental cost to it all day,” Herbert said. “But when that financial cost becomes more than they’re willing to bear, priorities on what is important and what’s not seem to change pretty quickly.”

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Contact city reporter Rochelle Valverde
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Gene Douglas 2 months ago

Look for me at the city hall meeting with my "Dimit-Damit" shirt on. Nothing more dangerous than a 'dim-bulb not dimming headlights to oncoming traffic.....this is the same concept....a little is GOOD..a lot is NOT GOOD...get it? Here is an idea...bright led lights for parking lots up on campus and the like to retard violence....but not in residential retards sleep and the ambiance of the cosmos.....cheesh!

Bob Summers 2 months ago

Go back to gas street lamps.

For the ambiance.

There are just 1,500 gas lamps left in London, each one hand-lit by a member of a five man team every evening The 19th-century lamps offer a glimpse of the city as it would have been during the time of Charles Dickens Current team of London lamplighters are actually British Gas engineers - but their efforts go largely unsung That the gas lamps have survived is partly a tribute to English Heritage, which has protected and restored them

Louis Kannen 2 months ago

With the veritable wealth of knowledge and associated input from the University, an exceedingly well educated local population, and lest we forget, the American Medical Association to boot, your City Council would once again seem a bit OZ-ian in their collusive approach, inferring the 'subtle position', no attention to us folks behind your LarryTown Green Curtain, after all, WE and WESTAR obviously know best what's truly best for YOU'....Tuesday's Council meeting should be rip-roaring...tornados anyone??

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 2 months ago

The one on the left looks very much like the high pressure sodium lights which we now use. The led's would save electricity, and many are already used to the golden color. We live in the country and rent a HPS light from Westar, as well as having a few of our own. If I had the money to change to led lights, I would opt for the light on the right as the colors are much more true. I can see where persons living in the city would think it is too much light, however. I am anxious to see how this plays out.

Rochelle Valverde 2 months ago

Hi Charles,

The streetlight on the left was a sodium light, which emits a warm-colored light. To clarify, the group is not asking that sodium lights be put back in, but that LEDs with warmer color temperatures than the one pictured (4,000 kelvins) be used in streetlights going forward. We removed the photo of the sodium light for clarity.


Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

Why on Earth would you live in the country, and flood your property with lighting? I'm sure it's unshielded too, no consideration for any neighbors.

Bob Smith 2 months ago

Some high-priced consultant will make a packet off this issue.

Tony Peterson 2 months ago

I don't care for the new LED lights because the light is so bright and harsh I find it harder to see at night while driving because my eyes are constantly trying to adjust between the bright and dark sections since they don't illuminate evenly.

Kendall Simmons 2 months ago

I literally CANNOT drive at night anymore because of the lighting. The street lights. The headlights (anyone else hate those REALLY bright blue headlights that are occasionally out there?)

Sure. I want to be able to see when I'm driving...but these too-bright lights are making it IMPOSSIBLE for me to see. (Am I the only one who finds it next to impossible to read street name signs at night?)

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

I've driven over 30 years, and I never saw standard headlights as being deficient in safely lighting where you're going. Night driving is an ordeal now, some of the headlights out there should not be legal, there are national petitions to ban them circulating online.

Many local towns in my region have gotten absurdly carried away with LED lighting, your retinas are bombarded not only with a sea of streetlights but with huge lights mounted everywhere else, for "security". They cause glare and sky glow for miles, driving past them severely strains your eyes.

It's ridiculous such measures are even needed, but I wear sunglasses at night now, and I've removed my rear view mirror and turned down the side mirrors. That makes it a lot easier when you're being tailgated by someone with glare bomb headlights.

Kevin Kelly 2 months ago

The new lights KU installed for the parking lot at 19th and Ousdahl illuminate my daughter's bedroom two streets away. KU placed just enough dirt to raise the elevation of the lot so the lights shine over the houses adjacent to the parking lot and into the neighborhood.

Tony Peterson 2 months ago

Don't know if it applies to KU since it's State property but the City has construction codes on the books about that. It's a photometric range that's used for illumination and light can't exceed a certain range of the source.

Jake Davis 2 months ago

As long as they dont mess with the new street lights they installed in my neighborhood. Our neighbors love them as they are much brighter, illuminates the sidewalks very well, and could possibly be a criminal deterrent.

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

More crime is committed in daylight hours, tell me again how street lighting deters crime. Most findings indicate the reverse is true.

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

Where I'm at, in NWMO, light pollution in the small towns and rural areas has gotten out of control. How much longer will we tolerate glaring light in our yards, our homes, through our windows? Anyone else wear sunglasses at night to drive now, turn all your rear view mirrors down so the headlights behind you don't blind you?

Then again it seems the majority of country people have their properties lit up more than a city would, what fears and insecurities they must have. I'm watching what transpires in Lawrence closely, because here in Albany, MO, there is no group, there is only me that I know of.

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

"but city staff states that the issue is complex and unresolved, and it is recommending the city follow lighting industry standards said to be safest for traffic."

Safest for traffic? Aren't the LED headlights putting enough light on the road, or does it all go into the eyes of oncoming drivers? Those lights can't be shielded, and they are typically 6,000 Kelvins, TWICE the AMA guideline.

Think about that. What sort of dullards and imbeciles go into city management, anyway?

Bill Turner 2 months ago

Uhh... it doesn't really work like that. 6000K is not "Twice the AMA guideline". The unit of Kelvin to describe light color comes from the color of a block of carbon heated to the temperature described. The colder the temperature, the 'warmer' the color (a cooler block of carbon is orange, a very hot block of carbon is much 'whiter'). It is a very imperfect description of color, since the colors that one obtains through the heating of a block of carbon sit on a single line in a 2-d color space. But I digress, doubling the temperature does not 'double the color'.

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

6,000 is twice 3,000. I'll concede your point, if you'll concede that headlights with such blinding glare have no business being on the roads.

Bob Smith 2 months ago

Always interesting when a single-issue poster with an ax to grind pops up out of nowhere.

Bob Summers 2 months ago

The bright lights are needed for bats. Bugs love bright lights. Bats love bugs.

Do it for the bats.

Bat-city would be a cool nickname for cobalt blue Larryville.

Robert Distefano 2 months ago

Here in Topeka, Westar is installing 4000k lights with brighter watts on main streets than residential. They are not too bright or dim. 3000k would be too dim for city lights. Usually cities near observatories opt for them. Topeka installed 3000k lamps along Washburn Avenue and they turned out to be too dim. The city reverted back to 4000k. My opinion is go for the 4000k. You will be happier in the long run.

Ken Lassman 2 months ago

That's funny; the affluent KC suburb Prairie Village has decided to just the opposite of what you're recommending, for precisely the reason that is being discussed here: the AMA has concerns about the potential harmful effects on sleep cycles, etc. with the bluer lights and that folks in general like a light that is closer to what is emitted by standard incandescent light bulbs. Read about it here:

Robert Distefano 2 months ago

As far as the AMA report, I would get a second or third opinion. Most folks that I have spoken to, prefer white light over amber. If you took a comparison poll in Lawrence, I bet most will prefer 4000k.

Ken Lassman 2 months ago

Who said anything about amber? 3000K is the temperature of warm compact fluorescent and 2700K is the temperature of incandescent light bulbs, which is what most folks grew up with. 4000K is definitely bluer than what most folks are used to.

Tyler Joseph Higgins 2 months ago

The only people who want such bright lights in their neighborhoods, especially unshielded, very likely do not spend any time after dark outside of their blackout shaded, climate controlled homes. That or they're really insecure.

Bill Turner 2 months ago

Right, it doesn't work like that either. The color temperature is not related to the brightness of the bulb, only the color of it. A 3000K bulb can be brighter than a 4000K bulb, they just have different colors. The color is that of a block of carbon heated to the temperature described.

Robert Distefano 2 months ago

The color blue has been proven to have a calming effect on folks. Scotland and Japan have used blue lights as a crime deterrent and to prevent suicides. Yellow can also create feelings of frustration and anger. While it is considered a cheerful color, people are more likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms and babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms.This could be the reason that when our cities switched to amber in the 70's and 80's the crime rate went way up.

Ken Lassman 2 months ago

Wha???? That article you linked to is not science in the remotest sense. You need to actually read the AMA concerns about blue light and go to some of the actual research that its concerns are based on.

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