A light in the darkness
Article courtesy of the Ruthin & District Civic Association
How many of us take for granted the comfort offered by our street lights?
They help us to carry on our lives as safely and securely as possible. And, during daylight, have we ever looked up to notice the various street light designs still just about ‘visible’ around town.
Now might be a good time to look. Denbighshire County Council is about to conclude its 10-year plan of replacing our street lights with new LED lanterns. Examples of older types are still evident. In Ruthin, LEDs emerged about eight years ago. The plan was to convert small pockets of each town at a time, rather than to complete one in one go. Denbighshire was off the blocks near the beginning of the LED lighting revolution, thanks to an ‘invest to save’ programme that allowed the LED energy saving to repay a loan used to purchase the hardware.
The programme started with our main roads, all of which are now converted to various styles of LED lighting. Main and distributor roads have a noticeably higher LED classification than housing estates.
Parc Brynhyfryd was previously unique in carrying Ruthin’s only florescent tube lanterns, which were an emerging and early attempt at energy efficiency. They were ‘whiter’ than their counterparts elsewhere in town. They provided a reduction in wattage of about 60 per cent, to 36W each. The Council replaced these florescent tubes in October. The new LED heads bring the power rating to 9W and are the most efficient in Ruthin (previous LEDs for the same luminance run at 13W. In the last five years, LEDs, already efficient, have improved by 25 per cent). But the thing is that despite a four-fold reduction in energy, the luminosity is actually better. LED white light leaks less, is concentrated on the footway & carriageway and everything is more distinct under them.
That isn’t always welcomed, though. The clarity under a ‘whiter’ light can make some people less comfortable when walking. And, LEDs tend not to wash into front doors in quite the way traditional lanterns used to—this may or may not be a blessing. But, the clarity improves and the carbon reduction is considerable.
It’s still possible in Ruthin to experience the once familiar rheumy, grenadine glow of sodium-vapour lamps. Soon to be replaced, these orangey 60W lanterns continue to illuminate Ty’n y Parc, Porth y Dre, Bryn Coch, Bryn Glas, Y Menllis, Bryn Rhydd, Maes Cantaba, The Werns off Greenfield Road, and Castle Park.
Haulfryn is also unique. Over the previous 15 years or so, its roads are lit by ceramic metal halide lamps by Philips, somewhat akin in shape to a domestic bulb and previously offering an energy saving now overtaken by LEDs.
Glasdir’s heritage-style column heads now incorporate LEDs. When installed, they were of a high pressure sodium type. About a year ago, when the Council adopted the estate’s roads, it included the pre-conversion to LEDs. But, the unadopted car parks remain lit by sodium lanterns and this is one area where you can easily spot the grades of illuminance between the two types.
And then there’s the town centre. In the early 1990s, the town’s lamp columns and heads became similar in design to the gas lamps of yore. Finding LEDs that will fit this design has been a challenge but it won’t be long till all these are modernised (anticipated January or February 2021). Currently, the sodium lanterns operate at 100-150W and up to 250W depending upon location and it is here were the scope for carbon reduction—and improvements in luminosity—is now the greatest.
While most are pleased with their new street lights, a few find them a hindrance. It’s possible to place a ‘shield’ on an LED to concentrate their light downwards still further, as seen on this lantern on Denbigh Road.
- The drivers within LED lanterns are actually able to reduce brightness by 30 per cent during less busy periods, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This saves further energy and CO2. It’s unlikely that you will notice this reduction in light intensity.
- LEDs have an estimated 25 year life. As they get older, the LEDs can dim but the drivers within the lanterns can compensate for this by increasing the wattage slightly. This, of course, is accounted for within the energy saving and carbon reduction calculations.
- Denbighshire changes 1,500 lanterns to LEDs per annum. They started at 18-22W each and are now 9-13W each, such is the improvement in design even over a five year period.
Denbighshire’s street lighting engineers are a multi-award-winning team, having won UK performance standards almost every year for the last 12 years.