NOW:53214:USA01012
http://widgets.journalinteractive.com/cache/JIResponseCacher.ashx?duration=5&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdata.wp.myweather.net%2FeWxII%2F%3Fdata%3D*USA01012
50°
H 50° L 50°
Partly Cloudy | 6MPH

West Allis gradually switches to LED streetlights

New lights more energy efficient than old sodium lights

The corner of Washington and 57th streets illustrates the difference between the existing street lights (left) used throughout West Allis and new LED street lights (right). The new lights have been installed on 56th Street north of National Avenue and small portion of the Walker, Washington and Madison cross streets.

The corner of Washington and 57th streets illustrates the difference between the existing street lights (left) used throughout West Allis and new LED street lights (right). The new lights have been installed on 56th Street north of National Avenue and small portion of the Walker, Washington and Madison cross streets. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Feb. 26, 2013

West Allis - Lots of people remember how, decades ago, bright white streetlights chased the dark away from city streets.

Then along came the big switch to the warmer glow of the yellowish-pink, sodium-vapor, energy-efficient streetlights. And the streets had a more colorful nighttime look.

And now we are coming around full circle, back to new white LED lights that save even more energy than the sodium lights. In fact, they use about half as much energy as the sodium lights do, said Michael Lewis, director of the West Allis department of public works.

That's why residents will start seeing more and more of them as the city starts the slow process of switching over to LEDs. Not only do the LEDs use less energy but they last far longer, he said - 10 years, at least, compared with two or three years for the sodium.

"It means a lot in terms of efficiency and a lot in terms of maintenance," Lewis said.

Gradual transition

After a pilot project, the city started installing the white LEDs at least two years ago, he said.

Last year, 56th Street around National Avenue got them, as did streets in the Orchard Hills area, he said.

This year, 76th Street from Beloit Road to Oklahoma Avenue will be among the thoroughfares getting back to white nights.

In fact, 76th will get the first LED bulbs that Lewis managed to land at bargain basement prices.

The state Department of Transportation bought a bunch of LED bulbs but found they weren't bright enough to meet its standards for lighting busy main streets.

"But they meet our standards," said Lewis, who snapped up the 68 lights for a mere $21,000, saving $10,000 in the bargain.

"These things aren't cheap," he acknowledged.

Lights rewired

The changeover to more energy-efficient bulbs dovetails with the city's need to rewire its street lights because the type of cabling needed for the lights is getting harder to obtain, Lewis said.

That's because the cabling needed is designed for hooking up lights in series like Christmas tree lights used to be. And just like those old Christmas light strings, if one bulb goes out, the entire light string doesn't light, so entire blocks are affected if one light is dying. The expiring light draws power and a whole block can start to pulsate, he said.

Years ago, Lewis went out to Lincoln Avenue near Highway 100 one night to check out unbelievable complaints he was getting about lights flickering and making weird noises.

"I said I've got to see for myself," Lewis said.

What he found were pulsating streetlights and a sound like Martians landing, he said.

"It was pretty much the first time in my experience," said Lewis, who noted that most communities already had streetlights hooked up in parallel circuitry, where a bulb can burn out without affecting the others.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.


Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Local Crime Map

CONNECT    

Advertisement

Latest Photo Galleries