LET THERE BE LIGHT: Electricians replace florescent lights and fixtures with LED versions at the Santa Monica Pier on Monday. (Fabian Lewkowicz FabianLewkowicz.com)

CITY HALL — Within a few weeks, the Santa Monica Pier will shine a little brighter than usual.

Efforts are underway to replace all of the incandescent and other bulbs that light the pier with LED versions, which are more energy efficient, last longer and provide more focused beams than their counterparts.

Nearly 1,600 fixtures on the carousel, “necklace” lights that surround the structure, flood lights, street lamps and globe lights will get the upgrade, saving 216,000 kilowatt hours per year compared to the traditional bulbs.

That works out to roughly $39,466 saved per year in energy costs alone, according to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

Many of the LED lights will be replacing incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs that burned out some time ago, bringing new life to the pier, said Rod Merl, pier manager.

“We will be making this jewel of the city brighter and more sustainable,” Merl said.

In addition to saving electricity, the new fixtures will save pier staff a lot of time.

It’s difficult to get to many of the necklace lights that loop around the pier deck, Merl said, and it’s been a constant project to keep the iconic section of Santa Monica looking whole as the old bulbs would burn out.

“It was a headache for everybody,” Merl said.

LEDs do not have the same constraints. Although they are more expensive by the piece, a high-powered white LED light can last between 35,000 and 50,000 hours, according to a release by the U.S. Department of Energy.

In comparison, the average incandescent light lasts between 720 and 2,000 hours, depending on the lamp type. A compact fluorescent usually runs between 8,000 and 10,000 hours.

If the new lights were on 24 hours a day, they would last 5.7 years, said Carlos Rosales, an engineer with the public works department.

“Since they only turn on at night, they should last 10 years,” Rosales said.

Another benefit to the lights in the eyes of City Hall is how they project their beams.

Unlike incandescent bulbs which scatter light, LEDs are more focused, meaning they do not have the fuzzy “glowing” quality that many are used to.

“The old-fashioned kind of lights tend to cast a wide area,” Merl said. “One of the things with the new lighting heads, the light pools where you want it to rather than dispersing in all directions.”

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first LED light was invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak Jr.

LED stands for “light emitting diode.” Holonyak used a semiconductor to create a red version. The technology has since spread to the ubiquitous white color and is used for lighting homes, car headlights and other electronics.

He received a $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for his work in 2004, the single largest cash prize for invention.

City Hall is paying for the new lights in part through a grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly called the stimulus bill.

City Hall received $114,370 for the Pier Lighting Retrofit project and another $554,000 for the wider LED Streetlighting project, which served to replace streetlights throughout the city with new bulbs.

 

 

ashley@smdp.com