The Alachua County Energy Management team promises to make lighting in county-owned building parking lots brighter at night to create a safer environment.
The team is replacing old lights with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which are more energy efficient, said Mark Sexton, communications and legislative affairs director for the county.
LEDs are estimated to save the county about $10,000 annually on electricity bills, Sexton said.
In the long run, the money saved will benefit taxpayers, allowing the county to use its funds for other purposes, Sexton said. The county took the initiative to change the lights after receiving complaints that the old bulbs occasionally failed.
“It is time to do it,” Sexton said. “It’s very important, from a safety point of view, to have adequate lighting.”
The previous light bulbs had reached the peak of their use and needed to be changed.
In the past, the county used the metal halide lights, which are 400-watt light bulbs. They had to be switched every two to three years, said Charlie Balanis, an energy management specialist for the county.
LEDs have the capacity to last more than a decade before needing to be replaced. LEDs also consume less energy and power. They are more reliable and have better illumination, Balanis said. Unlike the metal halide lights, these LEDs are 135-watt light bulbs.
Metal halide lights have a lifetime of about 10,000 hours. LEDs have a lifetime of about 100,000 hours.
Already, the team has upgraded the lights at the Alachua County Health Department and Alachua County Community Support Services building at 218 SE 24th St.
A single LED bulb plus labor can cost up to $400. The team replaced 49 light bulbs, which cost the county a total of about $26,000 to upgrade the lights at these two locations, Balanis said.
The building, which houses both the health department and community support services, was the first one the team targeted. Now it is gearing up to upgrade lights in other county-owned buildings.
Better lighting can also decrease the likelihood of an intruder to break into someone’s car, Sexton said.
The Alachua County Library District is also making sure its parking lots are safe for its patrons overnight. Back in 2010, the Library District upgraded its lights using induction lighting, which are equivalent to LED bulbs.
Induction lighting decreases drivers and pedestrians glare, wrote Nickie Kortus, marketing and public relations manager for the Library District, in an email.
“The upgrades improved the library district energy efficiency, saving money while providing better lighting for library visitors at night,” Kortus said.
LEDs can be recycled, unlike fluorescent light bulbs that contain toxic mercury and are not environment-friendly, said Dean Ernst, vice president of sales and marketing at LED Source. The main drawback is the price, but the product has become less expensive over time.
“Most people just throw out their fluorescent bulbs just in the garbage, not even thinking about how that mercury will end up hurting the environment,” he said. “The issue is most people don’t know they are doing something that is harmful.”