Swapping out LEDs for traditional bulbs sounds like a no-brainer. Traditional bulbs-vacuum tubes containing hot wires or gases-break, wear our quickly and need to be replaced on a regular basis. LEDs cost more, but last longer, consume less power and don't shatter.
But external factors can come into play that sometimes complicate the conversion. Many jurisdictions, for instance, have longstanding maintenance contracts with third parties that were drawn up in the pre-LED era and called for street light replacement every two years or so, according to Michael Schratz, director of marketing for Dialight.
LED-based street lights cost five to ten times as much as regular street lights, he said, so lower maintenance costs -- which account for roughly half of the savings associated with LED street lights -- are required.
"The payback is hard to justify in many places because municipalities have these contracts in place," which specialized in LEDs for hazardous and/or tricky locations like traffic signals and oil refineries.
Los Angeles is in the midst of swapping out 140,000 street lights. L.A. owns its own streetlights so the maintenance issues don't exist.
Volume discounts can also impact the decision. New York is moving forward with an LED street light plan. The megalopolis no doubt gets better pricing than Duluth, Minnesota.
While many companies have announced plans to bring LED bulbs and lamps to offices, DiaLight is going the opposite way, coming up with specialized products that have to meet certain health and safety requirements. The extra engineering effectively serves as a barrier to entry.
It goes with the heritage. The company was born on the eve of World War II to produce indicator lights for the RAF.
Last month, the company came out with an LED-based beacon for cell towers and buildings. It measures eight inches tall and contains both red and white LEDs. An ordinary beacon with xenon or incandescent bulbs might stand six feet tall and consume 1400watts. DiaLight's will consume 20 watts and contains numerous LEDs.
"There are a lot of certifications and specifications," with lights like these, he noted. Dialight buys its LEDs from companies like Lumileds and Cree -- the intellectual property lies in the design of the lamp.
It has also come up with fixtures for inside petroleum refiners and chemical facilities that have to withstand high temperatures and explosions. LED-based hazard lights only cost about twice as much as regular lights, so the cost/benefit equation is far easier to achieve, he said.
Dialight also produces LED traffic lights. It now has about 40 percent of the U.S. market, and roughly 70 percent of U.S. traffic lights have converted to LED. Conventional traffic lights gobble up about 150 watts of power. The first LED traffic lights, which started coming out around 2001, consumed 30 watts. Now, the green light (on about 40 percent of the time) consumes 9 watts, the red (on about 47 percent of the time) consumes 8 watts and yellow consumes 12 watts.
Although LEDs have been a success in traffic, Dialight and others already face a challenge in trying to get jurisdictions to adopt the latest innovation: networking. Many are concerned about security breaches and hacks.