The first LED lights in New Haven were installed on Newhallville’s Lilac Street in 2012, and since then, the environmentally friendly lights have been quickly spreading through the streets of New Haven.
The engineering department at city hall is partway through replacing approximately 11,000 lights across the city. The endeavor’s goals are threefold: Officials are hoping the lights will serve to reduce energy consumption, cost and crime.
“The overall goal of the program is to effectively save the city money in the long term by replacing all of our sodium alloy fixtures with LED lights,” said transit chief Doug Hausladen 04.
Sustainability project manager Giovanni Zinn ’05 said that LEDs use over 50 percent less electricity on a kilowatt-hour basis than New Haven’s former streetlights. The new lights have a 10-year warranty, further reducing the city’s maintenance costs, and are considered to be more reliable than the sodium alloy lights used before.
The total cost of the streetlight program is $2.1 million, funded in part by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. The city also received help from United Illuminating Company.
Both Hausladen and Zinn said that the new lights would pay for themselves in three years because they city will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in electricity costs.
Zinn added that the LED lights fit into Mayor Toni Harp’s plans for a 20 percent reduction in electric energy consumption by 2018.
“This is actually a decent chunk of that,” Zinn said.
According to Zinn, the lights enhance public safety because they are brighter and a higher color rendering index that enables the human eye to perceive colors without distortion.
For Jacob Anbinder ’14, the initiative is imperative to fostering trust between the city and its residents. Through New Haven Action, Anbinder and Drew Morrison ’14 presented urban planning proposals to community leaders in the Dixwell neighborhood in 2012 — one of which was LED lighting.
“New Haven needs to take steps to convince residents, particularly in neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status, that the government cares about them and they have a stake in their neighborhood,” Anbinder said. “I think LED lights do that whether or not they actually contribute to reduced crime, because they are proof that the city cares about quality of life.”
Whether LED lights truly do reduce crime is uncertain, according to some: while certain cities like Los Angeles have noted declines in crime after their own LED streetlight installations, Anbinder said an analysis from a few years ago suggests that the evidence is split.
Hausladen, however, said that the first installation of LEDs on Lilac Street significantly reduced crime over the course of a year.
The program began with Project Lighten Up, led by the Christian Community Coalition, which urged the city to install 11 street lights across Lilac to dissuade crime. The collaboration between the community group and the city government was viewed as a success, especially as New Haven realized the cost efficiency of replacing the street lamps, Zinn said.
The first phase of the initiative, which is now complete, spans some 3,600 lamps across the city, including parts of Yale’s campus.
Zinn said the feedback he receives from community members has been positive. He added that some have even requested more lights or participated in the discussion about where lights should be placed.
“Residents actually call us up and thank us for putting lights on their street because it makes the streetscape not only brighter but also more evenly lit,” Zinn said. “The quality of the lighting makes people feel safer and more secure at night.”
Los Angeles, Calif. and Portland, Ore. are currently replacing their existing street lights with LED lights as well.