by General Manager Steve Stroshane
Polk-Burnett upgraded security lights to LEDs across our system, making your yard lights more energy efficient, longer lasting and reliable. Our LED replacement program spread costs over five years (2016-2020), as co-op linemen changed 2,359 high-pressure sodium and mercury vapor lights to LEDs.
LEDs are energy efficient, saving energy and power costs over time. LEDs also last longer, saving repair and replacement costs over time. While LEDs have an initial cost that’s more expensive than the old lights, we believe LEDs are a good investment for the co-op because of energy and maintenance savings.
Ultimately, LEDs make good business sense: they are better for the bottom line and the environment.
I’d like to share more details about our LED upgrade and our positive return on investment in this Q&A with co-op engineer Jarod Boerst.
Q. How much energy will the co-op save with LED security lights? And what is the power cost savings?
Before the upgrade, estimated energy use for all security lights across the system was about 2 million kWh annually. The new LEDs use about 70% less energy, so systemwide energy use will decrease to 600,000 kWh. It’s safe to say we will save more than 1 million kWh annually, which is more than $70,000 per year in power costs!
The energy savings are extra impactful in the winter because security lights are on when wholesale power costs are highest, from 5 to 8 p.m.
The new LEDs have onboard memory and learn the dusk-to-dawn cycle of our region. If the optical sensor on the LED fails or gets blocked, the LED will operate based on information from the previous days. This saves us from making a maintenance trip to replace a faulty sensor and prevents the light from operating all day and wasting energy.
Beyond saving energy and money, LEDs put us on a better path for sustainability by reducing the light’s contribution to carbon emissions.
Q. How long do LEDs last and how much will the co-op save in maintenance costs?
The old high-pressure sodium lights were rated for 24,000 hours of operation or 5.5 years at 12 hours a day. We expected to replace them every five years.
LEDs are rated for 100,000 hours of operation or 22 years at 12 hours per day. If everything goes as planned, we won’t have to replace your new LEDs for 15 to 20 years!
Before the upgrade, the co-op spent an average of $45,000 per year on security light maintenance. During the past five years as we worked to change the lights, maintenance dropped to $10,000 per year. Since we are no longer proactively working on the lights, we expect this cost to rise and settle near $20,000 per year over the life of the new LED. This is a savings of about $25,000 per year on maintenance.
Q. Do the new LEDs pay for themselves in cost savings?
The LED replacement program cost about $900,000 in materials and labor over five years. A little more than $33,000 was covered by energy efficiency grants, and we expect to save about $95,000 per year on power costs and maintenance. This puts the payback just under 10 years.
Q. Will the member cost change?
The co-op covered the labor and material cost up front over the five-year transition period, so we initially kept security light fees constant for members. There was no additional charge to members to upgrade security lights to LEDs.
Going forward, security light fees will be evaluated as part of our regular rate studies. As a cooperative, Polk-Burnett always sets rates to cover actual costs, not to generate profit.
LEDs improve visibility and reduce light pollution
Beyond saving energy and money, LEDs provide a white light that shines downward, improving visibility and reducing light pollution. Polk-Burnett LEDs are approved by the International Dark Sky Association and were tested by a local lake association.
Brighten your yard dusk to dawn
Energy efficient LED security lights installed on Polk-Burnett poles operate from dusk to dawn. Members are charged a monthly fee for the light and may be charged for installation. Visit our website or call for details, 800-421-0283, ext. 308.
LEDs for your home and business
We also recommend LEDs for your home and business; they are better for your pocketbook and the environment. To help you save energy and money, Polk-Burnett offers rebates on new LED bulbs for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural applications.