LED lights are getting mixed reviews in Arlington

Several Arlington residents are complaining that when the sun goes down, a painful light pierces through their homes. They blame the county flipping the switch on LED lights and they want a dimmer option.

More energy efficient lights started cropping up in Arlington in 2010, and more neighborhoods are getting the upgrades this summer. While many favor going "greener,” there are others who question the added cost to comfort.

“It throws an eerie glow,” said Alcova Heights resident Jan Kennenmer of the LED lights. “It’s almost like having a theater light right in front of you,” she added.

She and Andrea Vojtko were so troubled by what they saw, they formed a streetlight committee looking for a dimmer option in Arlington Village. LED lights will be installed there this summer.

“I'm already preparing to get some extra window treatments because of it and it's costing me a lot of money -- about $1500,” said Andrea Vojtko.

“What I'd like to see them do is put in a better color temperature,” chimed in Kennenmer. “One that is not so obnoxious.”

She suggests the county swap out 5500 kelvin bulbs for 3500 ones. Higher numbers appear whiter while lower numbers give off a warmer and more yellow or orange hue.

“As a taxpayer, to the extent that we can reduce the county's electric bill, it helps everybody,” said Arlington Village Townhouse Association resident Mary Pat McNulty.

She says the project must get support from 60 percent of the effected residents before going forward and referenced the Neighborhood Conservation Program Handbook as proof. It says verbatim, “certain projects - curb/gutter/sidewalk, streetlight and those projects including traffic calming - must be supported through block petitions."

County leaders insist the vetting process took. “We think everyone has been given an opportunity to give input,” said Arlington County Transportation, Engineering & Operations Chief Wayne Wentz. He says the pure white color can be mistaken as being brighter than the old lights when that's not true. The LED lights also dim as the night wears on and use less than half the energy of the old.

His staff also informs the life of an LED lights is 25 years plus. High pressure sodium bulbs have a lifespan of about 3 years and cost at least there to four times more than LEDs. Each of the LED streetlight conversion cost $772. New lights, depending on street location, cost between $4000 and $6500.

“Most of the complaints that come in end up changing to positives,” he informed.

Several Arlington Heights residents who have been living with LED lights outside their homes for more than a year support that claim.

“It bothered me at first because it's right across from our bedroom and it was disconcerting, but it's like anything else,” said Lisa Chedister. “It's change and you get used to it.”

Danny Eichers agrees. Surrounded by his kids, he said that “their bedroom window is directly facing the light, but they've never mentioned a problem with the light.”

County staff is planning an August 6th demonstration of the streetlights' dimming capabilities. That meeting will begin at 9:30 p.m. near the intersection of Wilson Drive and North Monroe Street.

For more information on the LED street light program, click here.

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