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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com October 17, 2012 at 9:35 am 4,448 51 Comments

LED Street Lights Draw Complaints — New energy-efficient LED street lighting has been drawing complaints from Arlington residents. Residents have complained that the new lights are too bright and too white. That has prompted county officials to install dimmers on the lights, which has driven up the cost of the new lighting. The county is also exploring the use of lighting that is less harsh but also less energy efficient. [Sun Gazette]

‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ Cooking Challenge Tonight — Some of Arlington most notable chefs will be battling some of Arlington’s top firehouse cooks in a cooking challenge for charity tonight. The chefs — David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Todd Pozinsky of Carlyle in Shirlington and Adam Barnett of Eventide — will go up against the tastiest creations from Arlington’s bravest. ‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ is taking place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. tonight at the Key Bridge Marriott (1401 Lee Highway). Tickets to the event, which benefits the Arlington Food Assistance Center, start at $100. [AFAC]

Transportation Advice for APS — Writing in response to the recent controversy over changes to busing at Arlington Public Schools, Greater Greater Washington writer and Arlington resident Steve Offutt says APS should look to Arlington County government for guidance on how to create a “real, 21st-century transportation plan” that isn’t so focused on buses. [Greater Greater Washington]

New Jeweler Coming to Clarendon — Alexandria-based B&C Jewelers will be opening a second location in Clarendon. The store will be opening at 2729 Wilson Boulevard, in the storefront once occupied by the Sisters3 boutique. [Patch]

  • Big Spender

    So they want to use more expensive, inefficient, dimmer lights in order to save money? Win!

    • YTK

      What’s wrong with the good old incandescent street lights that actually melted the snow and ice in the winter? Aren’t those new LED lights so cool in temperature that they hide under the snow and ice???

    • Right of Center

      Too white? Racist.

  • Mike

    Even if the new LED bulbs are too bright (I don’t think I’ve seen them myself so I can’t say whether I agree), I’m puzzled as to why the County is adding dimmers and “shields to partially limit the light.” Can’t they just buy LED bulbs with a lower wattage, which would save energy and make the light less harsh? Perhaps there isn’t a wide enough range of wattages available from manufacturers, but the article doesn’t discuss that. It just seems strange that the only way to make the light softer is to spend more money or waste energy.

    • speonjosh


      I do think that adding hoods or shields to the tops of the light fixtures is a good idea whatever the wattage of the bulb. Why send light upwards?

    • Clarendon

      To me the problem is one of diffusion and spectrum first and overal brightness next. The LED’s are blinding when you look at them due to the intense point source of light of each LED and need to be diffused better. They also cast a cold light which is the spectrum problem. Maybe both could be addressed with better lamp lensing or filtering.

  • Runaway Train

    Can relate to the complaints of the LED bulbs being too bright. Arlington Mill Dr in Shirlington looks likes Nat’s stadium.

  • Mick Way

    That’s poorly written by the Sun. I got these new LED lights on my block. They are very white. I’m now used to them pretty much.

    Anyway from what I found out from the County the dimmers make them more expensive simply due to the cost of the dimmer unit not that they waste energy. They do use less electricity when dimmed as you would expect.

    I’m also told that these lights can be remotely dimmed during the night or they can be on cycles so they are brighter at twilight and dimmer in full darkness.

    The lights are supposedly at the same color temperature as moonlight. That may be but they are at the intensity the moon never achieves.

    Still whatever. They’re lights. Deal.

    • Mike

      Thanks for the clarification, Mick Way. You are right, the Sun article doesn’t explain this very well.
      If the dimmers have the effect of reducing the energy used, that is good. Still, if the full wattage of the bulbs is unneeded in some locations, it seems like a waste to buy higher wattage bulbs and pay more money to install dimmers. Maybe over time they will find a way to install lower-wattage bulbs on narrow, residential streets that don’t need as much light and save the brighter bulbs for bigger streets that do.

  • KalashniKEV

    Who are these complainers???

    I like bright white light.

    What’s next? Too much water pressure in the shower? Not enough traffic on the roads? Too many garbage pick ups?

    • veeta

      Would you like someone parking outside your house and shining their headlights into your window? That is what it looks like inside my house. I don’t care about the “quality” of the light–I use cfl bulbs. They are too damn bright and light up the inside of my home.

      • It’s call curtains

        Buy some. For people walking home from a metro after a late evening job or others who may have pets that need walking and don’t want their neighbors to hit them because they can’t be seen, these are helpful, and needed. I prefer one solid bright set of lights to the flickering/humming of old types of bulbs anyway.

        • veeta

          If you don’t have these lights outside your home, you cannot understand. I do have blinds and curtains. I should not have to seal up my entire house every evening.

          • speonjosh

            I agree with you wholeheartedly. There is a way to engineer the streetlights so that they provide light on the street and sidewalk but don’t shine it into people’s homes. This should be done as much as possible.

          • B22201

            I don’t know what kind of lights they’re using in DC. . .but I was in Cleveland Park the other night, sitting at a bar, and there was a street light across the street that was shining in like a spot light. They barely had any additional lights on in the place because that one light was so bright. http://clevelandpark2.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/8-f574df47cf-e1300850471809.jpg

            I could see it being quite annoying if it were right outside your window. But, if it’s closer to the kind outside of my condo. . .those aren’t all that bright, and I’m pretty sure those are LED. Guess it just depends on the model, and how they were originally set up.

            It just reminds me of Kramer when Kenny Rogers Roasters had the sign outside his window.

          • JamesE

            The one outside my condo is pretty bright, lights up most of the living room, it would be fine if it was facing down.


          • KalashniKEV

            Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!!!

            LET THERE BE LIGHT!

    • drax

      Too many bums?

      • KalashniKEV

        It wouldn’t surprise me if the push to darken our streets was part of the Progressive agenda.

        Facilitate more crime… bring in more dependent adults… tax success… and build more and bigger government.

        • Joe

          +1 hilarious!

  • meh..

    Drive through Arlington Heights….you’ll see them. Prepare to be blinded…..
    Think headlights from most modern luxury cars bright….

    • mass hysteria

      I do not understand this hysteria. I too live on a street where they’ve been changed, and i find them much less glaring than the old lights that were there. The whiter light is more pleasant, and provides more clarity. from a distance the lights have less glare, and up close, I don’t look straight into any bulb.

  • veeta

    As one of the complainers, I am sorry that the county could not have predicted this by–oh I don’t know–actually seeing the lights in action near homes or investigating their use in other places. Half of my 900 sq ft house is lit up on the inside, and I will not stop complaining until the lights are dimmed. If there are lights on your street and they have not changed your bulbs yet, I urge you to pay attention before it looks like aliens are landing on your lawn.
    For the taxes we pay, I expect my quality of life to not be compromised. Of course we support energy efficiency (hence the small house), but it is a residential area, not a parking lot.

    • Big Spender

      I’m sorry for your light filled house, but would you rather have a dimly lit orange light like it is in some parts of South Arlington? If they are going to spend more money on fixing your houses light and not fix mine, F that

      • veeta

        If you want a street light, ask for it. The existing street lights were sufficient for the last three years, and I walk/bike everywhere. My street is wide and unobstructed–this light level is unnecessary.

      • speonjosh

        It’s nighttime. It’s supposed to be dark. Yes, provide enough light to allow people to drive and walk without bumping into things, but other than that there is no reason to floodlight the streets. Unless you have documented problems with crime. But many Arlington neighborhoods do not have this problem. Worry is not a sufficient reason to take action.

        • drax

          “It’s nighttime. It’s supposed to be dark.”

          Well put.

          • CA

            Would be nice to see an evening star every now and then as well.

          • Joe

            Go out to the country buddy. Sorry that the city has lights.

  • Mick Way

    Just remembered our civic assoc was overrun with brightness complaints years ago when our street was converted from swan-necks with white mercury bulbs to Carlyle lamps with pinkish sodium bulbs.

    More things change …

  • Big Spender

    Is it not an option to diffuse/deflect the light and not put as many in, say 7 instead of 10 on a street? Or is that too easy? Saving too much money? Too logical? You decide

    • meh..

      No…these streets…at least in my neighborhood…have existing Carlysle style lights…they are replacing the bulbs inside of the existing light fixtures with new LED bulbs.

      • WeiQiang

        But they can use LED bulbs that are warmer and still as efficient, if they buy the warmer color bulbs.

        • Big Spender

          I’m fairly certain they bought a ton of these bulbs already, and contracted the work out. Why? Because that’s how we do it, take action now, ask questions later

          • WeiQiang

            Buying in quantities of scale is smart-ish, but I hope a ton doesn’t mean all.

          • drax

            Right, because government is always quick and decisive and doesn’t worry about every little detail. You nailed ’em!

  • NIMBY the chicken

    I saw someone mention before that all the county has to do is smoke the glass on the freestanding ones (not the ones that shine down). The ones in front of W-L aren’t smoked and they look like props out of a bad sci-fi movie. The ones further down Quincy near Wilson look way better because it doesn’t look like a bunch of vertical rows of LEDs. I suppose thicker, darker glass could help the ones that hang over the street as well.

  • WeiQiang

    The solution doesn’t have to be win-lose. It is possible to buy LED lights in the 2700 deg Kelvin range – going forward – that are appropriate and aesthetically pleasing. Like it or not, aesthetics matter. The early batch[es] – like those installed in the 3rd gen historical street lamp-style in the 600 block of 20th St. South – are cool blue. The color makes the neighborhood look crappy, imo. The bulbs are likely 3400 deg K, but the exact value isn’t germane … it’s too high. Apparently, someone got the word because the overhead streetlamps at 23rd/Eads & 18th/Fern are definitely a warmer color.

    Assuming the County didn’t buy all of its LED bulbs in one fell swoop [and hasn’t bought/installed all of the LED fixtures it needs], the lower temp bulbs could be used in residential applications. New LED fixtures and 3400K bulbs could be installed [and moved from locations where they suck] in parks and public spaces where there won’t be as much residential intrusion [Army Navy Drive, is a good example]. There are those of us who wouldn’t buy blueish fluorescent bulbs because we don’t like how they look; same deal with these LED lights. For their cost and visual impact, I would want a more duly diligent process.

  • Deadite

    Why don’t they just put some tinted yellow covers over the lights? That way the bulbs will throw out almost as much light but it won’t have that awful operating room whiteness to it. Seems like a cheap remedy, too.

    • KalashniKEV

      Yeah, and then the whole town can look all grimy as if we used sodium lamps instead! Fail.

  • John

    The county went with the wrong LED streetlight manufacturer. In LA and other cities, the LED streetlights are better designed and have translucent panels that cut down on the harshness.

    • Observer

      The manufacturer they chose probably has a better fixture that they could have picked. Most lighting companies make numerous different fixtures.

      • Mick Way

        We’re not replacing fixtures for the most part. This is a retrofit project using the existing Carlyle poles and lenses. They just pop a replacement bulb into the existing socket.

        • WeiQiang

          … and should pick a different replacement bulb, not add a dimmer.

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    They are very bright on Columbia Pike, and they do light up my house because the light shines in all directions. Not that I’m complaining since I can do away with the nightlight.

    I do wonder why they’re on 24/7.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Typical county project
    They run a pilot project(from May 2010 Citizen)
    “recently completed the first phase of this effort — a pilot project to deploy different technologies. Residents and visitors in and around Clarendon and Courthouse neighborhoods can now view about 65 LED decorative and cobrahead streetlights lighting the way.”

    Ignore the feedback as just complainers about new stuff
    And then realize later that complainers had legit complaints.
    Thats First World Class work for First World problems.

  • J

    I’m so glad this issue is coming to “light”. The new bulbs make our environment so ugly and, as the article states, it’s not just the brightness, but the color.. The difference between the warm lighting in Market Common (around Crate&Barrel and Pottery Barn) and the lighting used elsewhere in Clarendon is like “night and day”. One makes you want to linger and the other to get out from under. I would hope that there could be a replacement bulb that would come close to the cost of the unattractive bulbs and that the ugly ones could be transferred to a place where they are not offensive to our sensibilities. I’m all for efficient energy use, but beauty is a priceless quality that enhances human life.

  • veeta

    I am not even convinced they are following their own stipulations. For example, the lights are supposed to be “dark sky compliant,” and there is no way a street light that lights up my house from that far away is dark sky compliant. We can only hope someone from the county with a clue reads the insightful comments here and gets it together.

    • WeiQiang

      Maybe they’re not “MUSCO Dark Sky” compliant … but I read the same thing. I also read that “Under current
      plans [in 2010], Arlington will install at least 500 new LED streetlights every year. The entire system conversion will take 10 to 20 years, depending on available funding.”

      So, I’m think that the case is solved. Buy the right ones for the future and move the undesirable to other locations.

  • Alex

    Lesson learned. Use less watts from now on. Next? (Seriously, stop wasting energy with really bad street lights (like 99% of Arlington has) so we can shut down those Earth-roasting power plants and save a ton of money to waste on useless gadgets for our schools like “smart pens”.)


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