Boise is joining many cities across the United States in retrofitting streetlights with energy-efficient LED bulbs to cut electricity and maintenance bills, and to save energy. Stimulus money coming in to Idaho also helps. However, with LED comes a different light quality, one that has become an issue for some insomniacs in Seattle, as reported in the Seattle Stranger. With downtown Boise on deck to glow under some 725 LED bulbs, at a cost of $420,000 to $500,000, city engineer John Tensen explained the aesthetics of public lighting.
City engineers took LED for a test drive to gauge the effect on minds and eyeballs.
"We have looked from an aesthetic standpoint. We had some test case lights installed and we asked the Downtown Business Association and Capital City Development Corporation to look. The comments came back as being acceptable. I'm sure it's like anything else--it's a change and some people may not like it," said Tensen.
If you want to see for yourself, a test light is located on the west side of Fifth Street between Main and Grove near Addie's Restaurant. Another historic LED streetlight is nearby between Fourth and Fifth streets on the north side of Grove. Other LEDs, of a slightly different hue, are in Hyde Park.
According to the Stranger, when Seattle went LED, the lights placed in residential areas affected sleep patterns. The light emitted from the LEDs takes on a blue tint, reminiscent of what you'd expect on the set of a zombie flick. Recognizing the blue to signify daytime, photoreceptors in the eyes went awry for snoozing Seattle denizens and insomnia swept the neighborhoods.
"We're going to use more white light than blue," Tensen said. "Other than the people that live downtown, who will be well above the lighting, this will not be in residential areas."
Another city engineer said white light is better anyway.
"From a safety, security standpoint, a whiter light is actually better, too," said Rob Bousfield, assistant to the city engineer.
There are still minor contractual details to be worked out, but the bulbs to be used will likely come from Inovus Solar, a Boise-based manufacturer noted for designing solar powered street lights.
"You can get LED in any variety of colors. There are bright blues but we use neutral white," said Edam Lozano, director of customer solutions for Inovus.
The advantages of going LED are numerous, as the engineers will tell you. "It's a national trend. We think we're going to save over half of the current power. We also think the bulbs will last longer than the standard high-pressure sodium bulb. These should last 10 to 15 years. Time will tell," Tensen said.