The Cost of Street Lights

Are you wondering; How much does a street light cost? Or even, how much does it cost to install a street light? The following article will explain all of the true LED street light costs and answer both of those questions and show you the true advantages of LED street lights.

The cost of any LED lighting system has the following components and considerations:

Material cost of bulb, poles and electrical wires and labor cost of installing the light

The cost of installing one street light pole is generally around $4000. It depends on the height of the pole, the rated power and efficiency of the light, type of foundation needed and length of wiring from the nearest source of electricity. When the nearest source of electricity is too far away as in rural communities it may be wise to install solar powered street lights instead of laying down miles of wire to energize the light. However, solar power solutions are considerably more expensive than a grid lit street light.

Cost of energy consumed by the bulb

Our 100W Retrofit Kit for  LED Street lights consumes 100 watts and produces 15,550 lumens of high quality light. By comparison the 209,000 street lights of Los Angeles use 197,000,000 kWh of electricity every year at the rate of 250 watts per hour. Cost savings in electricity costs by adapting the LED alternative is what is propelling Los Angeles and many other cities towards LED lighting systems.

Added to this is the fact that Low Pressure Sodium (LPS) lights that produce the most light per watt have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of ‘zero’. For good visibility they need to be combined with incandescent bulbs. The 5% efficiency rating of incandescent bulbs pulls down the efficiency of LPS lights as well. LPS lights are thus not suited for general purpose street lighting. Slightly better than that are High Pressure Sodium Bulbs, but those lights are typically 2700K and have a CRI between 20-40. Their light quality is terrible, and they must produce a lot of lumens to make up for the poor quality of light. Metal Halide, a brighter white light, tends to be a higher quality light source, with some bulbs approaching the CRI of LED, however, the majority of those bulbs are around 60 CRI. LED CRI typically starts at or above 70 on the scale of 0 to 100.

The function of providing security is compromised with lights with low CRI. Police forces dislike low CRI lights because they make it impossible to tell colors apart. Yellow is the only color that is reflected. If an object does not reflect yellow light it appears black. Disruptions in the road are also difficult to visualize because the road and the dents all appear yellow! Poor contrast and color rendering necessitate that more powerful lights are needed to achieve the objectives of street lighting. Powerful lights in turn lead to glare which again compromises the ability of the human eye to see objects clearly. Indeed in areas where security is important mercury and metal halide lamps are preferred despite their inefficiencies and are rapidly being replaced by LED lights that cost a fraction to operate and maintain.

A comparison of good CRI lights shows that lights offered by MyLEDLightingGuide outperform the others by a wide margin on all parameters, thus making any street light cost more plausible to put forward for more consideration to make the switch to a LED street lighting system.

  LED Street Light
Retrofit Kit
High Pressure Sodium Mercury Vapor Incandescent
Lumen 15,776 28,000 28,000 5,600
Watts 105 250 400 400
Lumens/Watt 145+ 112 70 14
Wastage % 0.00 0.50 0.50 0.50
Wasted Light 0 14000 14000 2800
Actual light availability (Lumens) 15,776 14000 14000 2800
Available Lumens/Watt 145+ 56 35 7
Hours of operation per night 10 10 10 10
Cost of electricity ($/kWh) 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.10
Annual Consumption (kWh) 383 913 1460 1460
Annual electricity charges ($) 38.3 91 146 146
Available Lumens/$ 411.9 153 96 19
Cost per 100 Lumens 0.24 0.65 1.04 5.21
Wastage (kwh) 0 456.25 730 730
Wastage ($) 0 45.625 73 73
Average Life Span (years) 20+ * 5 4 3

*rated L70 of 100,000 hrs, 3650 hours per year average use

Cost of replacing burnt out bulbs and disposal of bulbs

We may not realize it but the cost of monitoring and replacing bulbs can be very high for street lights. Los Angeles spends 42 million dollars for monitoring and maintaining 209,000 street lights. This works out to more than $200 per street light per year.  The reason for the high cost is that street lights are placed at a height that necessitates the use of a cherry picker to carry workers to the light and a U haul truck to carry the cherry picker. Christian B. Luginbuhl of the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station carried out a detailed comparison of different outdoor light options and concluded that Low Pressure Sodium lamps last 6000 hours less than HPS lamps leading to higher maintenance costs. Besides ‘zero’ color rendering ability, this is an important reason why Low Pressure Sodium lights have not become widely accepted.

Cost of replacing one bulb = Cost of replacement bulb + Salary of 2 people + rental of cherry picker + rental of truck = $800 (Assuming cost of one bulb and ballast to be around $150).

*All cost calculations are based on the data of US cities and reports by residents who have to pay directly for the replacement of street light bulbs.

Cities have found that funds available for maintenance have been frozen while expectations of service quality remain unchanged. Technology offers the only way out of the dilemma. Remote monitoring systems pare the cost of physical verification of lights while LED technology has extended the life of each light to 12 to 15 years from the current 5 years. The city of Ann Arbor had estimated that the savings in maintenance costs are higher than the savings in energy.

Environmental impact of lights

The first 3 are easy to estimate while the fourth is not. Carbon dioxide emissions, mercury and heavy metal release in the environment, cost of treating water, land and light pollution, impact on ecosystems and human health- the ramifications of the lighting decision are manifold and covering all of them here is not possible. Suffice it to say that on all of these parameters LED lighting systems outperform all others.

Consider Retrofitting Your Street Lights to LED

What if you street lights are in good condition? Well there is another option you should consider. Our street light  retrofits are designed to replace the existing bulb and ballast in your fixture with the latest high efficiency LED technology. They are ETL Listed for safety, DLC Premium Qualified to help you get the maximum rebates allowed from your utility company, and they are back with a 10 year warranty.

And be extremely careful when you look at retrofit options. They are not all the same. Few offer 10 year warranties. We do! Few offer kits that are as efficient as ours, 130 to 150 lumens/watt. And few offer the DLC Premium rebates. Some mask their inefficient retrofit kits with gimmicks like switchable watt settings. Why pay more for what you won't use? And retrofitting is less expensive than new fixture replacement.

MyLEDLightingGuide Street Lights


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