LED Traffic Lights Can't Melt Snow, Ice

Installing traffic lights with LED energy-efficient bulbs saves municipalities money but may also create a hazard for drivers because the lights sometimes cannot melt the snow and ice that accumulate on them during inclement weather.

LED bulbs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and states such as Wisconsin have seen savings of $750,000 per year. While incandescent bulbs must be replaced every 12 to 18 months, LEDs installed seven years ago are still going strong, according to Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation.

Then you have situations in Illinois last April, when 34-year-old Lisa Richter made a left turn and was killed by a driver coming the other direction because ice and snow obscured the traffic signal. Winter storms covering LED traffic lights have been blamed for dozens of accidents as they have become more common in the past 10 years.

Right now, the only solution state authorities have is to send out city crews with air compressors to blow snow and ice off obscured lights (which kind of negates the money savings from LED lights). Other states have begun testing other solutions such as installing weather shields or adding heating elements similar to those used for airport runway lights.

While waiting for a technological fix, though, drivers should treat obscured lights the same way they would a broken traffic signal: Proceed with caution.

The Problem With LED Traffic Lights: They Can’t Melt Snow (AOL Autos)

By Stephen Markley | December 17, 2009 | Comments (19)
Tags: Safety



why not equip them with glass lenses that have defrosters on them like on the rear windows of cars? im juss making a suggestion. even a mini heater within the traffic light itsef would be THAT expensive to operate.

I don't know if this is accurate, but a commenter on Autoblog said LED stoplights don't need the traditional hood to properly direct the light. That's what the snow builds up on.


Gotta wonder how much LED lights cost each? Couple hundred bucks? Regular bulb costs, what, $2? Would take a long time to recover initial expense from energy savings. I've seen LED lights in our town start flickering and having segments fail only a year or two after installation.


A single LED costs less than 50 cents.

Derrick G

That seems odd Brady because everyone I've seen has the hood. True, LED's are pretty directional so hoods and polarized lenses aren't necessarily needed, but even the picture on Autoblog showed snow built up on a light with a hood.

I've also seen tons with failing or flickering segments. The new LED sign on the side of our building at work also has one letter that works sometimes, sometimes doesn't.


As with many traffic issues, this seems to be as much (or more)of a driver issue as a traffic light issue. If you can't clearly see the signal, slow down and proceed with caution, or stop. Don't blaze on, assuming there must be a green light under there somewhere!

People need to slow down and use their heads. The driver is ultimately responsible for what happens to their car. You can't keep blaming outside circumstances for idiots' deeds.


You're on the money DonB. Of course someone should be working on a practical solution to the icing problem on the traffic lights but common sense should tell a driver that if they can't see the light, they should approach it as if it is the most dangerous status FOR THEM. Caution should be common sense, but common sense ain't so common anymore.

Snowfall can be an issue for all types of light bulbs. Incandescent bulbs could not heat the lenses either... in this case. The benefits are far too important to ignore.
For more information on LED lighting, please visit
Save the planet.... one LED at a time!


Yes a single LED is 50 cents, but an LED light assembly is very expensive as it can contain hundreds of individual LEDs. They are not individually replaceable, either. The whole light assembly must be changed out if sections fail. I just can't believe the cost is worth it, especially if they don't live up to the promised long life span.



Seriously, the whole thing has to be replaced? You are saying they run in serial connection?


He's saying you don't just unplug the burned out one and plug in a replacement. You would probably have to take the board out, unsolder the bad one, and resolder a new one. Those units are probably sealed to so you'd have to cut the lens off to get to it.


A typical LED runs on about 2.2 VDC, so to make it run on 120 VAC they have to add rectifiers and string them together in series and/or parallel. All the LEDs are mounted on a circuit board and permanently sealed in a plastic housing. Take a look at LED taillights on semi-trucks, same thing. All sealed and non-repairable and pricey.

Bill Howland

I've read the revenue meters on relatively complex intersections, and while all incandescent lights use typically 1200 watts (from the power line), and all led ones typically 180 watts.

The guy trying to sell LED's is misinformed. A 60 watt incandescent puts out more heat than an LED array, espcially if the series regulating device (resistor, pass transistor, etc) isn't physically close to the snow as ALL the bulb would be. But then, he's trying to sell LED's.
While LED's are in general inexpensive, I bet the EAGLE or CROUSE-HINDS LED modules are priced competitively to the labor cost of 30 years of bulb changes. I bet there is huge markup on them, since when the Grocery Store needs a new traffice light, they ALWAYS buy the all-incandescent models.. Even when the City buys them, they save money by using an incandescent bulb for the YELLOW. So the new stuff obviously has huge markup otherwise no one would buy them.
Personally, I don't like the LED traffic lights nor tail lights, since they are WAY too bright (I know that they want them to be bright enough after the chip ages, but for the first 10 years we have to put up with horribly bright lights.

Kingsun LED Parking Light’s design is refered to the traditional Parking Lights design and using most advanced LED light technology to cooperate, which can be saving the energy and keep environmental friendly.


I liked it. So much useful material. I read with great interest.

There is no problem with LED stoplight, the main reason for accidents are the person who is driving.

Yea, Although the main reason for accidents are the person who is driving. but led traffic lights which can melt snow is necessary.

The traffic lights work of low temperature must not when, ha ha.

The traffic light should install correctly to prevent the accident. sometime the traffic light too long.. makes me sick.!

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