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Motion Sensor Street Lighting – Business Case for Cities and Municipalities

More and more cities across the globe are adopting smart street lights. After all, with just a marginal upfront investment, the benefits of smart street lighting are apparent. If you are upgrading your public lighting infrastructure, this article gives insight into some of the notable benefits of motion sensor street lights.

Before we look at the benefits, let us explain what a street light motion sensor is and how it works.

What is a street light motion sensor?

A street light motion sensor is a smart device mounted on a street light that detects human movement and adapts a luminaire’s illumination accordingly. Some street light motion sensors are standalone, meaning they have an inbuilt wireless luminaire controller and do not require additional devices to connect to a central management system. Others simply need additional outdoor luminaire controllers in order to complete a fully operational smart network-connected lighting system.

Two types of street light motion sensors are available today – PIR motion sensor and Radar motion sensor. Both have good coverage, but the problem with radar street light motion sensors is the false triggers, especially for slow-moving traffic. A PIR street light motion sensor, on the other hand, is more accurate in detecting humans, be it a pedestrian, cyclist or car. It can also efficiently filter out interference elements such as small animals or wind, eliminating false triggers and delivering maximum energy savings.

Street Light Motion Sensor - CitySense Plus
Zhaga D4i Street Light Motion Sensor - CitySense Lite

How does a street light motion sensor work?

A street light motion sensor is usually mounted on a pole or luminaire. Depending on the sensor, it has a different detection range and pattern. Once a human enters that detection area, the sensor registers a trigger and sends a command to the luminaire to brighten up to a preset level. The sensor may also alert neighboring smart street lights to brighten up with it. We call it “Neighbor Trigger”. As the human progresses along the path, the motion sensor street lights in front of them keep lighting up automatically. Once the human passes a certain distance, the sensor-based street lights dim down to a preset level.

The coverage area, direction, sensitivity, delay, hold time, and light rate up and down time, can all be configured through a central management system. Which corresponding street lights should brighten up, when a human is detected, can also be set via a central management system.

Benefits of motion sensor street lighting

  • 80% Energy Savings
  • Reduce Light Pollution
  • Reduce Maintenance Costs
  • Fight Climate Change
  • Improve Safety
  • Protect Nocturnal Ecosystem

80% Energy Savings

Operating street lights is a significant expense for municipalities, as they typically account for a major portion of a city’s energy bill. With energy costs increasing, finding an effective solution is essential.

Usually, street lights stay on at 100% from evening to morning, throughout the year. Why keep the lighting at 100% every night, even when there is no one around who needs it?

A street light motion sensor is a perfect solution. It keeps the street lights at low intensity, for example, at 20% when streets are vacant. As soon as the sensor detects a human, it triggers the street light (and neighboring street lights) to turn to, for instance, 80% or 100% intensity.

The result is – the “Right amount of light, when and where needed.” And up to 80% energy savings without compromising the safety and comfort of citizens.

Motion Sensor Street Lights - Save Energy
Motion Sensor Street Lights - Reduce Maintenance Costs

Reduce Maintenance Costs

In addition to energy savings, motion sensor street lighting also helps reduce maintenance costs.

By dimming the street lights when no one is around, motion sensors prolong the life of luminaires. With the life of luminaires extended, they will need to be replaced less often, and maintenance crews will spend less time replacing burnt-out lights.

Motion sensor smart street lighting also provides remote diagnostics and automatic reporting, reducing the need for manual inspections and the need for maintenance vehicles and equipment.

Improve Safety

Motion sensor street lights help improve safety by illuminating areas where people and vehicles are present.

Street lights brightening automatically only in the presence of a human help deter crime. They also make it easier for pedestrians and drivers to see each other, reducing the risk of casualties.

For instance, at a crosswalk, access road, or intersection, street lights will always brighten to 100% whenever a pedestrian or cyclist approaches. It significantly improves visibility and alerts motorists about others’ presence. This is very valuable during rain, snow, or foggy situations.

Motion Sensor Street Lights - Improve Safety
Motion Sensor Street Lights - Reduce Light Pollution

Reduce Light Pollution

Light pollution is harmful to humans and the nocturnal ecosystem alike. It disrupts the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and leads to other problems, such as:

  • For humans – increased headaches, stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension
  • For nocturnal ecosystems – change the navigation/ migration patterns, upset prey-predator relations, psychological harm

Light pollution is also responsible for the disappearance of the night sky. Experiencing the night sky provides perspective, and inspiration, and leads us to reflect on our humanity and place in the universe.

Motion sensor street lighting can play a huge role in reducing light pollution. These smart lights automatically brighten only in the presence of a human. When there is no one around, they remain dimly lit, reducing the sky glow and light pollution, as well as energy waste.

Fight Climate Change

Street lights are mainly powered by electricity that is generated by burning fossil fuels, a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. When these street lights burn at 100% all night, even when the roads are empty, then it is a big waste of energy – and eventually, proves to be a major contributor to climate change.

With motion sensor street lights, which offer light-on-demand, cities, and municipalities can significantly reduce their energy waste and ultimately their carbon footprint. The Dutch Island, Texel, presents an excellent case where how using motion sensor street lighting, it is able to become energy neutral.

Motion Sensor Street Lights - Fight Climate Change
Motion Sensor Street Lights - Protect Nocturnal Ecosystem

Protect Nocturnal Ecosystem

Street lights definitely are a blessing for human beings, but for nocturnal wildlife, they prove harmful.

Street lights burning all night at full brightness cause light pollution, which is, as mentioned above, damaging to all living organisms, humans, and nocturnal wildlife alike.

Turning off street lights may sound appealing, but it is not recommended for the sake of public safety and comfort. Motion sensor street lighting, however, makes sense and proves effective.

Street lights with motion sensors offer on-demand lighting. In other words, street lights brighten only in the presence of a human. When there is no one around, street lights remain dimly lit. This reduces light pollution remarkably, greatly benefitting nocturnal wildlife.

Through motion sensor street lights, it is also possible to change the color, temperature, and intensity of street lights! Color-changing street lights are specifically beneficial for bats, moths, fireflies, and even migratory birds and turtles.

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