Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and Pagosa Springs will save about $180,000 a year in electricity costs and reduce their carbon emissions by about 3 million pounds a year by switching from 2,500 high-pressure sodium lights to LED lights.
The numbers came from Ray Pierotti, a retired lighting specialist with La Plata Electric Association, who made a presentation to the Green Business Roundtable on Wednesday at the Henry Strater Theatre in downtown Durango. About 100 people attended the talk.
“Why would we do this?” Pierotti asked. “You’re going to see 70 to 80 percent energy savings with very little maintenance, and it’s environmentally responsible,” he said.
In addition, Pierotti estimates replacing the lights will save about 1,900,000 kilowatt hours annually. The average U.S. residential utility customer used 10,766 kWH in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
High-pressure sodium lights light bulbs are two to three times cheaper than LEDs, Pierotti said, but the cost savings through reduced electricity usage makes the payback for replacing incandescents with LEDs anywhere from five to seven years.
Another savings, he said, comes in maintenance costs. Incandescents must be replaced about every two years, but the LEDs that replace them are certified for 15 years, and after 15 years, they continue to function, just not at the certified illumination.
Besides performing exactly to specifications for 15 years, Pierotti said the lights are easier to work with in reducing glare and making them compliant with dark-sky regulations.
LPEA learned the initial LEDs suggested for light replacement produced too much light and had to be scaled down for most locations in the region.
City Councilor Dick White said the city has been pushing for a switch to LEDs for sometime.
“On energy efficiency alone, this is a no-brainer,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time when you get the payback.”
White said he is appreciative of the study that went into getting the right LEDs in the right places – noting the initially recommended LEDs proved too bright for most places.
“The cheapest watt is the one you don’t have to buy,” he said.
A side benefit of switching lights was a better inventory of lights in use and who owned or leased the lights, Pierotti said.
Pierotti’s project was based on replacing 2,100 bulbs used for illumination in Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio and Pagosa Springs, and an additional 400 lights used for decorative purposes.
firstname.lastname@example.orgAn earlier version of this story incorrectly said existing street lights use incandescent lights. They are actually high-pressure sodium lights.