Brooklyn Park residents complain LED bulbs are too dim

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 13, 2009 - 8:02 PM

Some people in Brooklyn Park say the energy-saving streetlights now being tested aren't such a bright idea.

After four months of testing energy-saving streetlights on a few blocks in Brooklyn Park, some residents are not impressed.

Five residents who called the city complained that the new LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs were not as bright or didn't shine as far as the sodium bulbs that they replaced, said Steve Nauer, street maintenance superintendent.

"Xcel said that is not unusual because there is a change in color," Nauer said.

But he tended to agree with the residents: "They didn't seem as bright," he said. "It is definitely a different light. Maybe it takes getting used to."

The experiment started in September, when Xcel Energy workers installed LED bulbs in nine streetlights near 71st Avenue and Florida Avenue N. The experiment will last a year, and Xcel plans to survey residents living near the lights in the spring, Nauer said.

Among homeowners unhappy with the LED lights are Rodney and Doris Willms.

Doris Willms said many elderly people live in the area and find it hard to see people at night until they get under the streetlight. "It is so dim. I don't feel safe to walk," she said. Willms, who recently retired, said she and neighbors have tried unsuccessfully to get the city and Xcel to return to the old bulbs.

The LEDs use about half as much electricity and are said to last about three times as long as the high-pressure sodium bulbs. But they currently cost more than four times as much as a $200 sodium light fixture, Nauer said.

Meanwhile, the city has tried another energy saver, induction lights, on light poles in a city parking lot near the maintenance garage. "I was impressed with how bright they are," Nauer said.

Eden Prairie installed about a dozen LED lights last summer in its City Hall parking lot, said public works director Eugene Dietz, who finds that they are brighter than sodium lights. A city consultant said the energy savings would pay for the new lights in 16 years, Dietz said.

Brooklyn Park, St. Paul and Minneapolis already use LED bulbs in many traffic lights, said Gary Brown, Brooklyn Park's engineering director. He said the LED traffic lights use only 10 percent as much energy as old traffic lights.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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