Comment, Outdoor, Street

LED puts paid to a mainstay of streetlighting – but the fundamentals haven’t changed

Urbis' ZX streetlight - ubiquitous in the UK, but no longer available as of this year

This year marks the final curtain call for the Urbis Schréder ZX, a backbone of streetlighting for more than 30 years. The ZX has been one of the most popular streetlights in the UK, lighting up thousands of towns and cities, high streets, university campuses and railway stations. More than two million ZXs have been installed across the UK since the product’s inception in the early 1980s.

It has taken a step change in technology – the rise of LED – to finally draw the line under the ZX.

But while the technology may have changed, the factors that go into choosing a product have not. Customers chose ZX because of low whole-life cost, and they’ll continue to choose good LED products for the same reason.

Low whole-life cost boils down to four things:


1    Optical efficiency

At the heart of a lighting purchase decision is the quality of light the luminaire will produce. With LED technology, this isn’t just about optical efficiency but also colour temperature and precision control over lighting levels, via switches or sensors. It could also cover the ability to link to a digital multiplex system (DMX) and be controlled as part of interactive colour changing displays.  Innovation in this area allows manufacturers to create their own definition of optical efficiency. 


2    Low power consumption

Traditionally low power consumption has been a secondary consideration, with little differentiation in the marketplace. LEDs changed all that, because they consumed so much less power than the old technologies, enabling massive savings on their energy bills. These changes offer customers dramatic reductions in the whole-life cost of luminaires and have placed this facet firmly at the centre of purchasing decisions.   


3    Low maintenance requirements

Luckily, LEDs are designed to provide years of trouble-free performance. When built correctly, an LED luminaire is designed to be more or less maintenance-free. The LEDs and drivers all operate on significantly lower power outputs than HID and the trend to use power controls significantly increases their lifetime even further. With the introduction of more lighting control, such as dimming and PIR operation, luminaires only operate on full power for a short time. Changes in environmental regulation can also incur maintenance costs when old luminaires are disposed of. Thankfully LEDs are also easier and safer to recycle, containing less hazardous waste and non-reusable components.    


4    High quality

Value for money is at the heart of every purchase decision, and this is now easier to attain as we are at a point where LED technology has started to break away from more traditional equipment. High performance photometry and colour temperature is now easy to achieve and luminaires are now designed around protecting, maintaining and extending the performance and life of the LED.


Constant evolution  

LED technology continues to advance, and these changes are influencing how products are chosen. As lighting products get more efficient, it is becoming more and more likely that people will consider new technologies specifically to reduce energy costs.

And although LEDs last much longer than conventional lamps, the rate at which the technology is moving forward means that many are likely to be replaced before the end of their design life, if a new product on the market can offer more, better light, for less energy and less maintenance.

Choice is another increasingly important factor influencing buying decisions. Columns, handrails, steps and benches can all now be fitted with LED luminaires, giving customers the chance to design colourful custom lighting solutions. 


Nigel Townsend is technical director of Urbis Schréder