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‘Whole front of my house was lit up’: City’s new LED lights concerning for some residents

City says swapping the old streetlights for the new LEDs saves them $350K annually, but some residents say the light is too harsh
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Posted at 4:06 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 17:45:23-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Chris Snyder will never forget the night in fall 2019 when he realized the streetlight near his home changed. He was sitting in his living room when a bright light pierced through his windows. So, he went outside to get a closer look.

“I came out and the whole front of my house was lit up like I had a flood light on it,” Snyder said during an interview with FOX 17 earlier this week. “There was so much light coming that way.”

Snyder said he knew immediately it was a light-emitting diode, or an LED light. It was glaring and direct. He believes they’re damaging to people’s night vision, wildlife and air pollution. So, he reached out to the City of Grand Rapids to see what they could do.

“They did dim it. They can do that remotely,” Snyder recalled. “So, they dimmed it--I think they said to 80 percent. But, they didn’t do anything about changing the direction or anything like that.”

Mike Grenier with the City said that’s one of the advantages to their new light system is that they can control its brightness from their offices on Market Street. It’s all a part of the city’s new LED conversion plan.

“We’re really excited about the lighting project,” Grenier said during an interview with FOX 17 last Friday. “We’ve got 18,000 lights throughout the city. We’ve been in the process of changing those as they break or on road projects to experiment with the technology that we’re using. So, we have 16,000 lights that we’re going to be changing in the next year and a half.”

Grenier said the city decided about five years ago to swap out the old sodium and mercury bulbs to the newer LEDs. However, they first mailed out postcard surveys to residents to see how they felt about the change.

“We went into a couple of different neighborhoods, put in half the lights on as the 3,000 and half as the 4,000, and we just didn’t get a lot of response back,” said Grenier, who's the environmental services manager for the City of Grand Rapids. “At that time where we have done the light change-outs, we have had a very positive response from the neighbors, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Grenier added that they’re following in the footsteps of 300 other medium-to-large cities who have done LED conversion projects. He said they hear the public’s concerns about the lights, mainly that the bluer color is too harsh. However, they can dim it wherever needed.

Overall, he believes the advantages of the project far outweigh the disadvantages, especially financially.

“There’s a large-dollar savings here both in dollars and carbon footprint,” Grenier said. “We’re looking at probably a 35 percent reduction in energy use, which is substantial. That’s over $350,000 a year [saved].”

Snyder said he understands the city’s efforts. However, he's hoping the city can make the lights more beneficial to residents, like adding a shield to them so that the LEDs shine on the streets and not on people’s homes.

“I think that would definitely be helpful,” Snyder said. “I would prefer a warmer light. These aren’t terrible. That might just be because I’m used to the other lights and I see the comparison down the street. But the shielding is the main thing, that we’re only putting light where we need it.”

SEE MORE: City of Grand Rapids approves move to replace all streetlights with LEDs

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