New LED Street Lights in DC


“Dear PoPville,

DDOT has started installing LED streetlights in the district whenever an existing high pressure sodium lamp fails. There are almost 68,000 streetlights in the district and on an average every new energy efficient LED street light will save the district 350kWh in annual energy consumption and approximately $40 in energy cost. These LED lights will have a life of 12 years which will also significantly reduce the maintenance cost of the streetlights for the the government.

Another major advantage is that the white LED street lights can also help in identifying crimes caught on camera since the white light can show the exact color of the car/shirt/person compared to orange light.

Attached is an image taken on Georgia Avenue and New Hampshire.”

29 Comment

  • I really hope they don’t put these up right outside my bedroom window. If they do, I need to start researching blackout blinds.

    • Light from LED streetlamps is usually directed more downward to the street than outward as LEDs don’t cast the glow that incandescent or HPS lamps do – they are directional meaning that they can help reduce light pollution into the night sky (and your window). If done right, they should be an improvement.

      • The LED streetlamps the district has been installing have a very wide beam that can be quite harsh for residences in adjacent homes. An example of this is the LED street lights around Sherman circle. In that case, they were not done right.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I am glad to see DC using more LED lighting. I did not think of the superior lighting for cameras as an added bonus of the whiter lights. If true, great. However, in quiet residential neighborhoods in which there is very little likelihood of any camera ever being installed, I wish they would use softer (lower color temperature) LED lights (yes, these do exist). I have one of these new energy efficient bad boys 10 feet from my bedroom window. With the old street light, I could go to sleep with my curtains partially opened so that I could have natural light without having to go open them in the morning (yeah, I know, I get up kind of late), but now with this, I had to invest in new blackout curtains and keep them closed in order to not have my bedroom fully illuminated.

    • All street lights should really be directed at the ground. There is no reason to spend money lighting up the sky or adjacent buildings.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I think these actually have somewhat better directionality than the old lights in terms of the *proportion* of light output that goes somewhere other than basically straight down (i.e., not perfect, but still better by that metric), but their light output is so much greater that the amount of illumination that reaches stuff not on the ground is greater, too.

        • Money aside, I would like to see more stars. Among all our urban ills, that’s a small thing, I know, but I miss the night sky. Street lamps are a big reason why we only see the Big Dipper and the North Star.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Yeah, me too. There are a few spots in DC where it’s significantly better (not like Montana, but significantly better). It would be nice to be able to just look up and see them without traveling to a special destination to view them from, though.

          • +10, this really irks me because it would be so easy to cut down on light pollution. I live near this intersection, and there are a ton of very, very bright omnidirectional lights that I can see from my window. How hard is it to make sure lights project about 170 degrees? It’s senseless to have completely uncovered streetlamps and spotlights.

          • MtPCarAlarmGuy

            A lack of stars is not just a small urban ill. A nightly view of the vast expanse of the stars tends to help put the stakes of the human experiment and its petty conflicts into perspective. In a town that thinks it is at the center of the universe, a more visible sky could be a nice addition.

      • I like the fact that the front of my house is pretty thoroughly illuminated by a streetlight — I think it makes my house a less attractive candidate for a break-in, and makes me less likely to be mugged while standing on the porch looking for my keys.
        I’m not thrilled about the light that makes it through my bedroom window from the sides of my (very thick) curtains, but IMO, it’s still a decent tradeoff.

        • exactly. the more light the merrier.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Sure, that’s a legitimate benefit. I have some crazy-bright LEDs on my porch, bright enough to illuminate my whole yard and high enough that a burglar would need a ladder to disable them, but positioned under an overhang so they don’t light up the second-floor bedrooms.

          • Ahh — that sounds like the ideal situation!

          • HaileUnlikely

            Yes indeed. Installed them myself, on a dawn-to-dusk timer. I’m a big DIY-er and lightbulb geek. The only big downside for me is that I spent waaaay too much money on LEDs when they were new, before the price came down.

          • I have dawn-to-dusk spotlights on the back of my house and love them. Unfortunately I can’t do any dawn-to-dusk stuff on the front of the house, since the streetlight makes the sensors think it’s light all the time.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Mine is on a timer, not a sensor, and adjusts the on- and off-times based on the the time, date, and time zone that you tell it you’re in. It doesn’t get it exactly right, but it’s consistently within a few minutes of dawn and dusk, so I’ll take it. It’s a GE SunSmart In-Wall Digital Timer, costs $30 at Home Depot. (You replace the switch with this, no sensor on light fixture. The only problem might be if the switch for your porch light is in a box with other switches or outlets – it is kind of big and you might need a bigger outlet box to make it fit – I did.)

        • I meant the upper floors of buildings, not street level. I just think that lights should point down, rather than in upper floor windows or blotting out stars.

      • Exactly. I’d love to be able to see more than a couple stars and the planets from a city.

  • I am super excited for this. The sickly yellow/orange tinge of current streetlights is really awful. This is going to be a huge improvement.

  • @Nick – These lights are much more directional unlike the previous orange lights, so the chances of lights inside your living/bedroom is fairly low to none. On a dark night if you stand in the corner of the street you can feel the difference and attest to its low light/luminous pollution.

    @Halieunlikely – I guess you are talking about the alley lights installed by the government few years ago (maybe). You can call 311 and maybe let them know about excess light in your bedroom. Maybe they can readjust the direction. No harm in trying 🙂

    • HaileUnlikely

      I don’t think so. These were installed in front of my house, not in the alley, this year. They do not look like the ones pictured in PoP’s post, though – they have a flat head with two discrete rows of LED strips, and appear to be facing straight downward. Any adjustment in the angle would exacerbate the problem for my neighbors across the street, who I suspect are already experiencing the same problem anyway. They are more directional insofar as the proportion of light that is vertically downward is smaller than the corresponding proportion with the old lights, but they are so much brighter that the actual quantity of light that escapes to the sides is still greater in absolute terms, even though it is less as a proportion of total light output.

    • west_egg

      They’re also putting them in the “DC-style” lampposts such as the ones on the left side of the picture above. There’s a much clearer view of one in today’s post on DCity Smokehouse (immediately following this one). Those things shoot light in pretty much every direction *except* down.

  • 68,000 streetlights times 350 kWh is 23.8 Gigawatts hours per year. That’s a pretty significant energy savings.

  • I remember very distinctly when the pinkish-orange lights replaced the white incandescent lights on my block as a kid. I remember bemoaning the fact that the color of the night had changed, and what a sad thing that was because I spent so many great hours playing under the old lights.

    This is an obvious improvement and the fact that they’re white light is a bonus.

  • Way to go DC!

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