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    Knoxville switches to LED lights

    By Will Woodbery and Chris Akel

    Knoxville is in the process of switching to more environmentally friendly traffic lights that officials say will reduce energy costs.

    LED traffic signals use about one-tenth of the energy consumed by the traditional incandescent lights, according to Ernie Pierce, Knoxville traffic engineer.

    LED lights are also longer-lasting, which will cut down on labor costs earmarked for replacing expired bulbs. Often, Pierce noted, a traditional incandescent bulb will go out late at night, necessitating costly overtime labor. That won’t be a frequent issue with LED lights, which typically last for 5 to 10 years, compared to the year-long life-span typical of incandescent lights.

    The Mayor’s Office reported that the city is investing $781,500 to complete the replacement project, which already has replaced 20 percent of traffic signals over the last few years. Although more expensive than incandescent bulbs, the LED signals will be more cost-efficient in the long run, Pierce said.

    "We had planned to phase-in LED lights over the next several years, but when we started looking at the numbers, we realized there was a significant opportunity to realize a tremendous savings by getting them all done at once," said Mayor Bill Haslam in a city press release.

    Pierce said the differences between the new LED’s and incandescent bulbs wouldn’t be distinguishable during the daytime, but noted the LED's are much brighter at night.

    According to the Mayor’s Office, the LED replacement project is part of an initiative spearheaded by an Energy & Sustainability Task Force, which is trying to develop an effective means of reducing energy consumption in the city.

    The new LED lights and other such projects will help create a more vibrant Knoxville, said Madeleine Weil, chair of the task force.

    "A greener city is a more attractive city for businesses and residences ... especially with all the natural beauty around us," Weil said.

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