LED traffic lights trouble in snow

The City of Charlottetown is going to stick with LED traffic lights, despite some occasional problems when it snows.
Charlottetown is happy with the performance of the LED traffic lights, says public works manager Paul Johnston. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

The City of Charlottetown is going to stick with LED traffic lights, despite some occasional problems when it snows.

The LEDs produce very little heat, and occasionally they can get covered in snow. That snow would simply melt off an incandescent bulb.

City public works manager Paul Johnston said during a recent storm, crews had to go out and fix the problem.

"The staff have gone out and just tried to vibrate the poles slightly, and that, in some cases, has been enough," said Johnston.

"There is a little bit of melting that's going on, it just hasn't fallen off and that little bit of vibration they found did allow the snow to slough off the face of the fixture."

Johnston said this problem only occurs a couple of times a year, and usually not all the lights at an intersection are covered. He says the city plans to stick with LED bulbs, because of the energy savings and lower maintenance costs.

"The benefits of the LED bulbs to the once or maybe twice a season that we have issues that we have to deal with, we're happy with the LED bulbs," he said.

The LEDs cost more, but use one quarter the energy of incandescents, and so save money over time.

There are also savings in maintenance. Incandescent bulbs have to be replaced every two or three years, which requires a boom truck. LEDs last at least twice as long. The manufacturers claim 15 years, but Johnston is still waiting to see if they will last that long.