Now that the clocks have gone back and the nights are getting longer, you’ve probably noticed the street lights in your area coming on earlier. But have you ever wondered how much energy they use?
Luckily, I live in an area with the new super low-energy LED bulbs, so my walk home from work is brighter and safer than it used to be. But the new lights also save my council money, energy and carbon.
We crunched the numbers and found that if all street lights were switched to LED, over £200 million a year could be saved. Councils could use this money for nearly half a million children to have free school meals each year, or to provide an extra 12 million hours of social care support for older and disabled people in their own homes. That would be money much better spent than on keeping old, wasteful bulbs in our lamp posts.
And it’s not just the money. LEDs can help us beat climate change. Compared to conventional street lighting, LEDs can save up to 50-80% of the energy used by old bulbs. A full switch of all streetlights to LED would prevent over 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. That’s the equivalent of taking over 400,000 cars off the road.
LEDs are versatile and adaptable. When they are switched on, they come up to full brightness straight away, unlike older bulbs that need a few minutes to warm up. That means LED street lamps can use sensors or remote controllers so they can come on when they are needed, and switch off or dim when they are not.
Light from LEDs is also directional - it only lights the area you point it at. So that means they can help combat light pollution, so we can see more stars at night. They also reduce waste and maintenance costs, since they last four times longer than old bulbs.
Despite all this, councils have been slow to switch. By 2014, only 10% of councils had switched to LED street lights, and it’s probably only at 20% today.
We’ve just launched Lighten Up - the LED campaign, to get more councils to switch their street lights to LED.
Use our new tool to find out if your neighbourhood has gone LED and email your councillors to get them to pledge to go fully LED in the next five years.