When Issaquah couldn’t find a company willing to retrofit its decorative downtown street lamps with LED lights, the last thing it expected was to design its own.
However, after being approached by Evluma, which offered to create a new light bulb to fit the city’s needs, Issaquah found itself contributing to the quick evolution of the LED light bulb.
The lights, 108 of which are now used in the old fashioned lamps in old town, have found their way into several cities, including Bellevue.
Issaquah’s decision to retrofit its lamps began with a $135,000 grant David Fujimoto, head of the sustainability office, won for green projects.
He offered public works $30,000 for the new lights, but as technicians began to search for the bulb, they couldn’t find a company that didn’t want them to replace the entire lamp. At about $1,000 each, it wasn’t a proposal they were willing to consider.
“We were in a quandary,” said Mike Bengry, street operations manager.
The city’s luck turned when a local, who also works at Evluma, went for a jog. As he headed down Newport Way, when he noticed the city had installed a few LEDs. He decided to drop off his card with Fujimoto.
After discovering that their original design wouldn’t fit in the city’s lamps, they agreed to work on a new design with the city.
It gave Issaquah to the opportunity to test and contribute to a product that fit all of its needs.
Not only did the lights need to be energy efficient, they had to produce a soft light, the right color and the right brightness.
Evluma shortened its bulb to fit inside the old lamps and then covered it with a translucent glass to refract the light. The bulbs were also designed to only send light downward to the street and not into the air, which can cause light pollution.
Public Works was able to finish the project about a grand under budget, a point of pride for Bengry.
He’s now using the lights for his new street lamp projects, including the new lighting along Rainier Trail. About 210 of the city’s 750 lamps are now LED.
For Fujimoto, who is looking at the environmental impact, it’s the beginning of a new era for lighting.
Evluma’s bulbs use about 22 percent of the energy and produce a cleaner light. Incandescent bulbs needed replacing every 2-3 years, but the LEDs are expected to last about 20 years.
The LED lights the city installed in its traffic signals last about 8-9 years. They’re so energy efficient, a battery backup system can run the signals for about six hours during a power outage.
In a country where about 19 percent of all energy usage is light, LEDs are a promising energy solution, Fujimoto said.
The completed LED light that Evluma designed for Issaquah.