Unintended consequences

Not a question as much as a comment:

Who would have thought that the new LED traffic lights would cause a safety problem in the colder areas of the country?

Take a look at:


Green can be cheaper, but not necessarily better. Proper field testing was not done, it boils down to a matter of due diligence. Somewhere n the olden days the buck would stop here, but I doubt that will happen on this issue. Meanwhile traffic signals get snowed, a test site to observe problems would have revealed the problem.

Wow. Who would have guessed…that all these highly paid state workers can’t figure out that a simple flat lens attached tilted downward at a 45 degree angle (perhaps even a 25 degree angle) over each light would stop the problem from occurring.

So…where do I go to sell them the solution?

They picked a bad design. There are LED traffic lights that don’t have this problem. They have the lens tilted downward and a shield above it that keeps the snow off.

Awwwww, someone already stole my design. There go my dreams of wealth and glory.

How could they deploy these and not have given them a field test. A few lights in a few communities for one year and see what happens.

That won’t prevent freezing rain and frost from obscuring it. Also, the obscured lights HAD shields. Wind can carry snow sideways or even upwards, and in the pics in that article, that’s what it looks like happened.

Add a heating element (which would only need to be activated infrequently…it would not cancel out the electricity-saving benefits of LEDs) and even that isn’t a problem.

But you’re right…bad design. And fixing it will probably set them back two or three years on their return on investment for the damn things.

Because it seemed so innocuous, I guess. And because they’d been used for years in other parts of the country.

We had a similar problem trying to insulate the roofs at our school. The heat loss had previously kept the roof clear, which now backed up and leaked everywhere and cost a cool million to repair, just to save a few gallons of oil. It’s amazing how the engineers that design and set up these energy saving systems let the obvious slip by. Guess who ends up paying for their mistakes…it isn’t coming out of their salary.

I am reminded years ago when my brother decided to super-insulate his house to save fuel. He sealed and insulated and insulated and sealed. After while it got yucky in the house, and he had to add back a system of outside air intake to get a certain amount of fresh air in the house. Obviously, after nearly 40 years I don’t remember the details. But, I watched all his hard work and expense, and thought it over, and left my house alone. We had plenty of fresh air, heh, heh. And, I used the time he spent on his house to take my kid to the park sliding and that definitely gave us plenty of fresh air.

Yeah, who woulda’thunk:


It would be better than nothing, but would not necessarily work. The only thing that will work in all weather conditions is a heating element. Future lights for wintry locations will probably have heating elements. I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson.

That just means your roof was stupidly designed to begin with.

Exactly, but why insulate before that was corrected ? But it wasn’t stupidly designed IMO, it was designed for cheap energy and not to be insulated. the average home owner would often know the difference when it came to spending their own money. But when spending the tax payers, who the heck cares ?

I’m having the same problem with my LED outdoor Christmas lights. In the past with incandescents, the snow would just melt, but the new ones have been buried under the snow on my bushes for a week now.

“…that all these highly paid state workers”

How do you know they are highly paid? They usually aren’t around here. But I don’t live any where near WI.

Folks, I know that some of you have respectfully challanged my assertion (made toung-in-cheek) that a tilted lens would work. I accept the challange. In truth, the manufacturers of these lighting systems have certainly already solved these problems. There are millions of stoplight systsm above the 45th parallel, especially when one includes Canada. The folks that bought these simply bought the wrong design, as Tardis pointed out.

Typically the systems for the northern hemisphere differ in two principal ways:

  1. the lenses (and sunshields) are tilted downward
  2. the sunshields have open bottoms, preventing accumulations within the shield.

How do I know these work, you may ask. Because I’ve lived in the northern climes for 58 years and never ever seen what the photo shows. That experience includes North Dakota, where very cold, driving snow will find its way through any pinhole and build to a drift. And yup, we’ve these LED systems all over the northeast for many years and I’ve never seen this problem.

An actual recommendation to the municipality suffering this malady would be to call the manufacturer. I’ll bet my morning muffins they’ll have a solution already developed. My guess is that it will be a different sunshield and perhaps a recommendation to tilt the lights. Of course, that will all have to go to a budget committee…

Maintenance mechanics, assuming that’s who does the light-changing, do tend to make above the median household income in most cities.

The good ones deserve it, and even most of the bad ones earn it.

I can only agree with you…here in Maine since we’ve gone from candle power to LEDs just several years ago, it hasn’t been an issue, regardless of how many problems I’ve heard about elsewhere. You have my support; it’s now two vs. the multitudes.

My goodness. This problem is so two years ago. Any city that hasn’t solved this problem by now…