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LED conversions underway above and all around

Popping down to your local Walmart for a 40W bulb because the bathroom light has gone again is a familiar enough experience, but while many of us still spend time leafing through the available stocks of screw-ins of 40, 60 and 100 Watts on what sometimes seems an ever-more regular basis, much of the world around us is moving on - and reaping the benefits.

Last month marked the four-year anniversary of what is very possibly the world's most impressive LED conversion for street lighting to date.  Advised by the Clinton Climate Initiative, the City of Los Angeles undertook the mammoth task of refitting the U.S.'s second largest street lighting network with well over 100,000 LED fixtures.  Street lighting can account for up to 40% of a city's elecricity costs, so that, along with the logistical nightmare inherent in such a project, ensured that the decision to go through with the operation was not taken lightly.  Nevertheless, forecasts of energy savings of up to 40% meant that city planners went ahead with the undertaking and, in doing so, provided the template by which a number of other cities have followed suit (just a few examples of other cities to have invested in LED street lights include New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, Glasgow and London).

Well, four years on and we are afforded the opportunity to assess the success of L.A.'s investment, and the results are compelling.  Rather than the projected 40% in energy savings, there has been a stunning 63% saving in electricity, which in fact accounts for only part of the overall financial benefit, as costs in maintenance have also seen a dramatic fall, with the number of 'repair and maintenance events' dropping by almost 35%.  As full deployment of LED fixtures nears, though, these numbers are expected to get even more impressive; traditional street lighting saw an average failure of 10%, compared with a 0.2% failure in their LED replacements. But that's not all, feedback from residents has also been positive with a general increase in visibility being reported.  In fact, the general downturn in criminal activity has even had local police departments encouraging the shift from the old high-pressure sodium lights (HPS) to LED lamps.

Of course, one of the many other advantages of LED lighting, is its flexibility and adapatability, which means that it is not only our street lighting systems that may benefit from their installation.  Among a host of other examples, projections of huge energy and maintenance-saving costs led the Sandia & Resort Casino in Albuquerque and Diamond Jo Casino in Iowa to switch to LEDs last year.  Again, reports of improvements in light quality abound, not to mention massive 70-80% energy savings and returns on investment (ROI) of within 30 months.  Only this month, in fact, New York entertainment center Grand Prix New York also announced a conversion to LEDs, predicting energy savings of up to 80%, vastly improved lighting, and rapid payback on the investment.

So the next time your heading out of Walmart carpark, freshly stocked up on your latest supply of 60W light bulbs, spare a thought for the world around you; it's changing, and examples of ways to save on your expenses are only just around the corner - and above you, in fact; Walmart made its conversion to LED parking lot lighting back in 2011.