Beacon and Cold Spring are converting street bulbs, but are they too strong?
By Jeff Simms
An initiative to replace more than 1,400 streetlights in Beacon with energy-efficient bulbs that use Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) is underway and, upon completion next spring, should save the city around $127,000 annually.
The LEDs are expected to improve road and sidewalk lighting while using half the electricity of conventional bulbs and lasting four times longer. In addition, the city is converting traffic signals at 13 intersections.
Nationally, there has been some concern that LED bulbs are too bright, creating safety hazards and interfering with the body’s natural rhythms.
The American Medical Association warned in June that high-intensity LEDs can worsen glare, causing hazards for drivers and pedestrians. In addition, the streetlights “operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night.” The AMA cited studies that show brighter lights in residential areas are associated with “reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”
What is Kelvin?
Kelvin is a unit of measurement that describes the hue of a light source. The higher the Kelvin value, the closer the light’s color is to sunlight. Bulbs with an output of less than about 3500K will have an amber hue, mid-range bulbs (3500K to 4100K) will have a white hue and bulbs in the higher range (4,200K or more) will have a blue hue.
City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said the Beacon lights are less harsh than ones used earlier in other municipalities, which operated in the 5,000 to 6,000 Kelvin color temperature range. The streetlights being installed in Beacon rate at 4,000 Kelvin along main corridors and 3,000 Kelvin in residential areas, he said.
In addition to energy savings, LED lighting provides an effect much closer to natural light, Ruggiero said.
In Cold Spring, Deputy Mayor Marie Early said the village has replaced only a half-dozen streetlights with LED bulbs in the 4,000 Kelvin range but has already heard complaints that they’re too bright.
Central Hudson spokesperson John Maserjian said Nov. 29 that the utility will soon offer less-intense streetlights to municipalities in its eight-county region. “The light is warmer, probably more like an incandescent light in terms of color temperature, but still highly efficient,” he said. If feedback elsewhere is positive, those LEDs could be installed along Main Street in Cold Spring, Early said.
Last year we received new lights under central Hudson on East Main and First Street. The lights were too many, and too bright. I emailed City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero, who was prompt to write me back. The email was informative and helped ease my mind so I am going to share some of it.
“Central did install these LED lights prior to selling them to the City of Beacon. As of Oct. 1, the city now owns all of the lighting fixtures … I spoke to our contractor and she has informed me that the LEDs that Central Hudson installed are not the right sizes. Within the next couple of months, we will be installing the correct-sized LEDs and you should see a difference.”
A map of the progress is here.
I have been trying to get Marie Early to confirm where the alleged six streetlights are and who is complaining. Darkness on Main Street has been a major problem in the Village of Cold Spring for many years and despite promises by the current Board to do something about it, nothing has been done or looks to be done anytime in this decade.
A few years ago Central Hudson offered to replace most of the older lights for free as it phased in LEDs. This was no secret to the trustees because there used to be a Lighting Committee that was working on the issue until the current group came in and disbanded the board for political reasons.
Fast forward to December 2016, the height of the holiday shopping season and Main Street is as dark and forbidding as ever as soon as the sun sets. I don’t know what it is, but I have never seen people who hated light as much as these trustees seem to do. There is really no other explanation as to why they would do such a thing to the businesses that are trying to make a living in town.
Beacon is literally a shining example of the way that good government can make things work.