Cities around the world are switching to LED street lights in a bid to save energy and money. LED lighting is now being rolled out as an effective method of illuminating our streets, replacing old and inefficient lights of the past.

According to Justin Gerdes from Forbes magazine, results from a global trial of LED street lights confirm that they can deliver electricity savings of up to 85% a year over traditional methods. The two and a half year pilot, “LightSavers” tested 533 LED lamps in 15 trials in 12 cities around the world, including New York, London, Hong Kong, Toronto and Sydney.

As well as this, the LED street lights trialled showed a lifespan ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 hours. A much longer lifespan than traditional street lights, this decreases the amount of time and money spent replacing and maintaining the bulbs.

Although LED light bulbs have a higher initial cost than other types of bulbs, their longer running time and energy efficiency gives them a high return on investment and will save money in the long run.

Major cities switching to LED street lights

Many towns and cities are now seeing the benefits of LED lighting, thanks to major cities taking the lead. According to Forbes magazine, last year, Los Angeles began a city-wide role out of LED street lights, making it the world’s largest LED street light replacement project.

LA replaced its high pressure sodium street lights with new blue tinted LEDs. Sodium street lights are known for their distinctive yellow hue, so switching to LED’s has given the city a whole new look. This has caused some controversy about how the new blue tinted lighting will affect the look of Hollywood films. The yellow glow was synonymous with movies set in LA, but due to the bright light of LED, this will now be a thing of the past.

Other US cities have taken LA’s lead in the LED street lighting revolution. In March 2013, the City of Las Vegas replaced 42,000 street lights with LEDs. Texas also announced plans to install 35,000 LED street lights and New York City will replace 250,000 high pressure sodium street lights with LEDs by 2017.

Many UK cities and towns are also making the switch to LED street lighting. London is set to invest in modernising street lighting, in a move that aims to reduce energy consumption by 40%. According to Business Green, around 35,000 of the city’s 52,000 street lights will be replaced with LED lighting by 2016.

In the north of England, BBC News reported that Cumbria plan to invest £7.6 million to replace high wattage street lamps with more energy efficient and effective LED lights. This will also offer more flexible levels of lighting in the summer months.

Saving money with LED lighting

The major benefit of LED lighting is that it uses much less energy than traditional methods of illumination, therefore it is much cheaper to run.

According to Eric Woods at the Navigant Research blog, street lighting can account for up to 40% of a city’s electricity bill. The City of Los Angeles estimates it will save around $7 million in energy and $2.5 million in maintenance costs every year by switching to LED lighting. When Mayor Bloomberg announced the switch over to LED in New York City, he estimated that the city would save $6 million in energy costs and $8 million on maintenance.

In the UK, Salford City Council saw that energy bills were rising at around 15% per year. Following an initial pilot scheme of 2000 LED street lights, Salford City Council have now approved a roll out of a further 24,000 street lights. According to, this is expected to save the council around £20 million in energy savings over a 20 year life span.

Benefits of switching to LED

Apart from the obvious benefits of a hugely increased lifespan, less maintenance and up to 85% in energy savings, towns and cities have been seeing other benefits of LED street lights.

Because LED lights produce a directional beam of light rather than a diffused all round glow like traditional lamps, LEDs cut down on light pollution because there is less light leakage into the sky. Another benefit of this directional glow is that street lights will no longer shine into people’s homes.

According to Phillips, LEDs are highly adaptable, allowing designers to create flexible ambiances and innovative effects. For example, street lights that could change with the weather of the season, or provide an extra festive colour on public holidays. Some cities have used LED’s to produce clever effects, such as increasing brightness when someone walks by, or integrating systems that alerts officials when they need to be replaced.

As was seen in Los Angeles, LEDs generally produce a bright white light, which many people consider an improvement on the unnatural yellow glow of sodium lamps.

Switching to LED lighting also helps a town or city to become more eco-friendly and increase it’s environmental credentials.

How do LED lights work?

So, how do these smart little lights save so much energy and money?

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. Unlike traditional bulbs, Light Emitting Diodes don’t produce much heat. Instead of creating light from heat, they create light using electrons and a semi conductor. As a result, LED lights produce more light for the amount of energy used, with less energy lost as wasted heat. LED lights are much longer lasting than traditional bulbs, because they don’t include a filament that can burn out quickly.

This makes them much more energy efficient, long lasting and cost effective than traditional methods of lighting such as incandescent bulbs and sodium lamps.

The future of LED is bright

LED lighting is certainly the future of lighting, with LED becoming increasingly popular over alternatives such as incandescent, fluorescent and sodium. The switch to LED street lighting is happening all over the world, and cities are already seeing the benefit of LED lights.

However, it’s not just street lighting that can benefit from using LED technology. Buckingham Place and Times Square's New Years Ball are now lit by LED’s, which shows that LED lighting is becoming a viable solution to every type of lighting need. LED lighting is becoming popular in retail environments, as it allows retailers to set the right type of mood to encourage shoppers to buy.

Many people are also starting to see the benefits of switching to LED in the home. LED lighting in the home can drastically cut home energy bills, which in today’s budget conscious economy, is an important consideration.

For more information on LED lights for the home, take a look at Litecraft’s range of energy saving LED light bulbs. If you want to learn more about switching to LED lights, take a look at our Guide to LED Lighting.