During a recent drive into work, I was listening to some fun Christmas music when the news anchor came on to cover some stories for the day's news. Apparently, it was a slow local news day, because one of the items they mentioned was that local cities and counties were running into problems with their new LED light bulbs installed in traffic signals. Naturally, since I am a lighting guy by trade and a self-proclaimed lighting expert (ha!), my ears perked up.
It turns out the problem they are having is that the new LED bulbs don't produce enough heat. As a result, ice and snow have been building up, causing the light to be dim and harder to see. In the past, traffic light fixtures have relied on the heat produced by old incandescent bulbs--the very heat that causes those bulbs to waste so much electricity.
Now, they are looking into installing heating devices to keep the lens clear. Naturally, any device that will produce heat will also gobble up energy, diminishing the benefits of the new, wonderful LED light bulbs. I had to shake my head; even though this makes perfect sense, it never occurred to me that this problem would arise. Needless to say, it didn't occur to the government officials either.
For all of you reading this from Miami, Dallas, San Diego, etc., I guess your cities don't really have to worry at all about this little snag, but for those of us in the frozen north, we've got another problem to tackle before moving ahead with more LED's. Hey, at least least we were smart enough to build an indoor football stadium and the nation's largest indoor mall--standard LED bulbs will work fine inside! Now if we can just get our roadways enclosed, we'll be all set. ;)