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LED traffic signals save money, time and energy

08 May 2020

Each year, more than 4 million traffic lights consume an estimated 3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Switching to energy-efficient LED lamps trims municipal budgets and lowers energy use nationwide. More than 50 percent of all traffic signals have been converted to LEDs in the U.S., even in large cities like Boston, Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego and Seattle.

LED lights only produce light in the desired colors, such as red, yellow or green, making them ideal for traffic signals. There is no need to filter the light through a lens. As a result, true colors are produced more efficiently, with minimal waste of heat energy. LED lights consume only 10 percent of the energy used by incandescent lamps (10-25 watts versus up to 150 watts, respectively). LED lights also look brighter since the light is distributed equally across the entire surface (an advantage in poor weather conditions).

LED lights also increase traffic safety as they minimize the number of signal outages and due to their low energy consumption, LEDs are more economical to use with battery back-up systems. Batteries can keep LED traffic signals functioning for up to 24 hours in the event of a power outage.

Using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs can save up to $600 at a single intersection in one year (assuming eight signals); a single large city could save a million dollars or more, depending on how many intersections they have. Changing bulbs less often saves on labor costs, as well.

Red lights are on approximately 60 percent of the time or 5,300 hours per year, and use far more energy in a traffic signal than green or yellow lights. Often, they are larger with a higher wattage, as well. On average, red lights use 85 percent of the total energy consumed by a traffic signal. Replacing a red light, such as a 150-watt red incandescent directional arrow with a 10-watt LED lamp, can achieve the greatest energy savings. The following table compares the typical power consumption of LEDs to incandescents.

LED manufacturers continue to upgrade their products. One patented, integrated traffic signal is fully compatible with the wiring and mounting hardware of existing units, eliminating the need for the assembly of LED traffic signal modules in the field. The new unit consumes less than seven watts as compared to existing LED units, which consume up to 30 watts. A replaceable power supply allows users to convert to DC voltage for enhancing public safety.

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