Los Angeles County replacing thousands of red lights to save energy

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Los Angeles County replacing thousands of red lights to save energy The Associated Press 2/4/01 4:36 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In light of California's energy crisis, Los Angeles County will replace 5,000 red lights in traffic signals with new equipment that consumes far less electricity.

The signals' red incandescent bulbs will be taken out in favor of longer-lasting light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

Although they cost much more -- LEDS can run $75 and up, while an ordinary bulb goes for just a dollar or two -- the diodes use less power. A standard 8-inch stoplight uses 69 watts, while the new lights use about seven watts.

Smaller LEDs are commonly used for such things as the tiny red lights that alert people that their stereos are on.

County officials say they are only replacing the red bulbs because the technology for red LEDs has been around for years, leading to cheaper prices, and because red lights are used more. The red bulbs in traffic signals are lit 59 percent of the time, compared with 38 percent for green lights.

Many cities have experimented with the technology, but interest is surging now because of the state's power problems, said Virginia Lew of the California Energy Commission.

"We should have been doing this, even without the electricity crisis," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who pushed for the change. "It's a very good deal for us, and it also saves electricity, which is the name of the game."

County officials expect to recoup within two years the $700,000 it will cost to install the new equipment, mostly through lower electricity bills. Since the high-tech units last about five times as long as ordinary bulbs, labor costs may drop because work crews won't have to change burned-out lights so often.

The county will begin installing them by the end of the year, said Mike Nagao, a civil engineer for the county.

According to the energy commission, if the entire state swapped its 4 million traffic lights for light-emitting diodes, California would save almost $95 million each year.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 04, 2001

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