LED lights might brighten Waseca - Waseca MN: News

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LED lights might brighten Waseca

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Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:12 pm, Thu Jan 3, 2013.

If the streetlights at Seventh Avenue near Loon Lake Park look a little brighter, there’s a reason.

The Waseca Utilities Department last spring installed LED streetlights in the area to see what feedback they would get from residents.

Light-emitting diodes (LED) are the white — and sometimes blue-looking — lights that are becoming more frequent and popular across the nation. They’re used in vehicle headlights, televisions and lamps, to name a few items.

Research suggests LED lights have advantages over incandescent or fluorescent light as they consume less energy and have a longer life. Also, they don’t burn out or flicker, but fade out.

Waseca director of utilities, Carl Sonnenberg, decided to put them up without any publicity because he wanted to get reaction without drawing attention to them.

At first they installed LED lights in a residential area, but Sonneberg said he didn’t care for the traditional lights mixed in with the LED lights. He was looking for an area that was fairly heavily traveled but also where a starting point was obvious.

One of the things Sonnenberg is looking at is the potential use of LED lights at the roadways coming in and out of Waseca – not replacing all street lights throughout the city, or residentially.

“Pricing is coming down on the LED lights but citywide they’re not cost effective,” Sonnenberg said. “But as we look at updating them throughout the main corridors, it’s an option we’ll be looking at on a case-by-case basis.”

On average, Sonnenberg said, the LED lights save 40 to 60 percent of the total energy over traditional streetlights. The LED lights are about three times as expensive compared to the traditional lights – but it’s the life cycle costs that make the lights a cost-saving option.

Some estimates suggest LED streetlights may give off the same amount of light as high pressure sodium lights, but use half the electricity and last longer.

The lifespan of an LED light is about five times as long as the traditional light – but it’s a theoretical lifespan, according to Sonnenberg.

“This generation of LED lights hasn’t been around long enough to say it’s going to last 15 to 20 years,” Sonnenberg said. “The companies make projections so one of the cautions is how much should be invested with a first-generation product.”

A two-year pilot project is also underway in West St. Paul. The city is replacing more than 500 traditional high-pressure sodium streetlights with LED lights.

The goal of the project, a partnership with Xcel, “is to gather information to develop a LED street light rate and fixture option,” according to Xcel’s website. “The data we collect will allow us to better understand maintenance requirements and costs, reliability, energy consumption and light output. We will monitor and evaluate performance, customer feedback and explore both potential benefits and concerns with the new technology.”

In Waseca, Sonnenberg said, all the feedback he’s received as been positive.

Reach reporter Jennifer Holt at 837-5446, or follow her on Twitter at @WCNjennifer

© 2014 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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