London expects switch to LED streetlights will pay for itself in six to seven years

London’s major roads are starting to look a lot brighter and the city is saving lots of cash in the bargain.

The magic letters are LED.

The city is replacing high-pressure sodium bulbs with new light emitting diode (LED) bulbs in 9,400 streetlights — just over a quarter of all streetlights in London.

The cost is $6 million but when city officials crunched the numbers it was a no-brainer.

The replacement program is eligible for $1.3 million in funding through the Ontario Power Authority.

The LED bulbs will cut annual electricity consumption by 52 per cent. Because of their solid state construction, maintenance costs will be reduced by 80 per cent and the LED bulbs last four times longer than the existing streetlights.

With all the cost-savings city officials estimate the payback on the investment will only be six or seven years.

Ed Soldo, London’s roads and transportation director, said along with the cost and environmental benefits, the LED lights simply work better. The difference is obvious on Oxford Street West where one side of the street has just been converted to LED, while the other side of the street is still high-pressure sodium, he said.

“They (LED lights) are definitely brighter. You can see the difference.”

Unlike the yellow light of the sodium bulbs, the LED bulbs cast a clean white light improving visibility for drivers and pedestrians. The LED light also is easier to direct down to the road surface, reducing light pollution.

Last September, city council contracted Realterm Energy Corp. to do the installation work.

Work on installing the LED light bulbs began in November and about 1,000 streetlights were refitted by the end of the year. The rest of the work should be competed by May.

When the first phase is complete, the annual savings will be used to install LED bulbs in the remaining 25,000 streetlights in the city.

Soldo said the installation work is being done from trucks and the impact on traffic and businesses is minor.

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London's Streetlights

  • 21,000 Cobra style (fixture on an arm extending over road)
  • 13,650 Post-top style (used on most residential streets)
  • 350 Other (pedestrian globes, wall mounted)
  • streetlights to be converted to LED (Phase 1) 9,400
  • Total streets in city: 35,000

Why LED?

  • clean white light, more even and efficient distribution
  • reduced energy consumption resulting in energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • longer lifespan and reduced maintenance costs

Good for the Environment

  • Reduces emission of greenhouse gases by about 398 metric tonnes per year — the equivalent of planting 10,000 tree seedlings for the next 10 years.

Good for the Bottom Line

  • installing 9,400 street lights in first phase will cost $6 million
  • offsetting rebate $1.3 million
  • annual energy consumption reduced by 56 per cent
  • annual budget savings $740,000 to $805,000
  • payback period six to seven years