Article
Your local streets might be looking a little different lately when 
you’re driving home at night. It could be because they no longer feature
 that yellow-orange glow produced by the high-intensity discharge lamps 
that have illuminated U.S. streets for decades. Cities across the 
country are rapidly upgrading to LED streetlights, leading to improved 
illumination and significant energy savings.

LED Streetlighting Is Bringing New Opportunities – Just Remember the Connection Requirements

Chuck Ross
Your local streets might be looking a little different lately when you’re driving home at night. It could be because they no longer feature that yellow-orange glow produced by the high-intensity discharge lamps that have illuminated U.S. streets for decades. Cities across the country are rapidly upgrading to LED streetlights, leading to improved illumination and significant energy savings. Plus, new fixture options include networked dimming and motion sensing for even greater value. That could mean new installation opportunities for electrical contractors – but they’ll need to understand some of the connection requirements these projects entail.

The move toward LED streetlighting began about a decade ago, and those first installations weren’t always well-received. The light these fixtures produced was too blue. This wasn’t just an aesthetic issue – there was some concern this cool illumination could disrupt sleeping patterns or have other health impacts. Manufacturers have largely addressed this issue, though, with lamps now available across the lighting-temperature spectrum. Now, a recent survey of 314 large cities by the Northeast Group says that – since 2018 – the number of U.S. cities carrying out full-scale LED conversions has risen from 107 to 185. And interest in smart, networked features is growing, too, with the market-research firm predicting more than a third of U.S. streetlights will be connected by 2029.

While the technology is changing in today’s latest fixtures, some longstanding installation requirements remain, especially in the area of electrical connections. Streetlights face a couple unique hazards that contractors need to address. First is their location – since they’re sited adjacent to busy roadways, they can be knocked over in traffic accidents. In this situation, loose, live wires could pose significant safety risks. Second is they’re vulnerability to copper wire theft, especially in less-trafficked locations. Thieves are known to force open fixture access panels to pull out the valuable wire.

The answer to both these problems can be connectors designed to disconnect or break away upon impact or pulling. These products minimize live-wire dangers by disconnecting from the utility power line if the pole is knocked over. They also can be configured in pairs to put the majority of a fixture’s copper wire from the access panel, significantly reducing loss from theft.
Photo courtesy of ILSCO
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