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Saving Energy in Altoona Where it Counts: City Lights

July 20, 2010 - 1:53pm

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Installed next to an original streetlight, a new LED unit (right) emits a whiter light in addition to saving energy. | Photo courtesy of the city of Altoona, Pa.

That's why their first priority after receiving a $205,700 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) was to replace 169 downtown streetlights with energy-efficient LED units. Funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the project also gives Altoona a much brighter appearance when the sun goes down.The city of Altoona, Pa. can trace 85 percent of its energy costs back to one area: lights.

"Downtown sure looks different with all of that white LED light," says Lee Slusser, the city's deputy director and planning administrator. "The light color coming off is so much whiter than off the sodium lights they're replacing."

The city worked with The Hite Company to obtain the lights and the city used its own workforce to do the installation.

While the aesthetic quality of the LED lights can be seen right away throughout the city, the energy-efficiency benefits will be observed over the first year. The new lights are expected to reduce energy usage from 124,000 kWh to 36,848 kWh, representing a 70 percent decrease in one year.

The dollar savings of the project are also significant, as energy costs should decrease from $13,200 to $9,122 in one year. "[Lighting] is our biggest energy bill," says Slusser. "If you want to make an impact on energy conservation, that's where you hit it."

Not to mention the environmental benefits – with the LED lights, the city is expected to see a 70 percent decrease in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions per year. The most significant of these is the carbon dioxide emissions, which are estimated to be cut by 108,679 lbs.

In addition to installing LED lights, the city also allocated EECBG funds to replace 40 windows in a fire station. This retrofit will begin this month and is expected to reduce energy usage and costs by another 10 percent in one year. Carbon dioxide emissions are also expected to decrease by 6,572 lbs.

Because the LED lights were less expensive than the city had planned for, extra funds will likely be used to install more LED units in Altoona. Slusser says these lights may go to a downtown walkway and a new bridge that was built as a gateway into the city. The LED lights will work well in these prominent locations because of their bright, clean appearance, Slusser says.

"It kind of makes a statement – we did it to save money, but it gives downtown a kind of unstated presence," says Slusser. "It looks cleaner; it looks more crisp."

Editor's note: This story was updated on October 15, 2010 to update projected savings.

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