Street lighting

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Leuchtenwald" at the State Garden Show Rosenheim 2010

The street lighting is part of the street furniture and is used for artificial lighting of streets , squares and open spaces .


An essential task of modern street lighting is to improve the road safety of all road users at night as part of general public safety . The type and intensity of street lighting should therefore be adapted to the variety of visual tasks. The design of street lighting is laid down in rules, standards and laws. In Germany, however, with the exception of the lighting of pedestrian crossings, lighting is not mandatory. It is therefore up to a municipality to decide whether and in what way a street should be illuminated. In addition to traffic safety, economic and environmental aspects are increasingly being considered when deciding on street lighting. In addition to the aspect of traffic safety, street lighting can also be integrated into a concept for decorative purposes (illumination, light art).

Roads outside built-up areas rarely have street lighting. In Germany, motorways and motorway-like roads are only illuminated in urban areas, if at all. In contrast, most Belgian , Luxembourg and Dutch motorways are equipped with street lighting due to a Benelux agreement.

Historical development

Schinkel lamp in the open-air gas lantern museum Berlin
Monument lamp in Timisoara

Street lights already existed in ancient times. Antioch on the Orontes had street lighting ( Libanios , Or. 11, 267), which, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, "competed with the radiant brightness of the day" (14, 1.9). In the Middle Ages , pine shavings and lamps were used to burn oils or fats. On September 2, 1667, street lighting was introduced in Paris . On February 24, 1687, the first ordinance for the illumination of streets and squares was issued in Vienna . As a result, 17 tallow candles were set up in Dorotheergasse . Just one year later, the entire city center was illuminated with 2000 lamps. At the end of the 17th century, oil lamps were used to illuminate important streets in Paris. The area-wide installation of street lights in Paris was largely driven by Louis XIV in order to be able to better control the processes on the streets. Rapeseed oil and petroleum found further uses in the 19th century. Despite its weak light, the rapeseed oil was used to illuminate entire streets. Petroleum lanterns were used in places without a gas station. From the 19th century, Jan van der Heyden street lamps powered by whale oil and taken over from the Netherlands were used to illuminate. At that time, Wal-Tran was mainly used to power street lighting in advanced cities. Next came town gas used. Thus, 1824 in London , the company Imperial Continental Gas Association , with the goal of all European cities with gas set to illuminate. For this purpose, the gas was extracted from coal in gas works and passed through a pipe network to the street lamps (candelabra). This gas light was introduced in Dresden in 1828.

The invention of Werner von Siemens in 1866 to generate electricity with the help of a dynamo made it possible to operate simultaneously developed electrical light sources. Although electricity was used for lighting at the end of the 19th century (e.g. in Paris in 1878), gas lighting was sometimes maintained in some European cities into the 21st century. The first permanent electric street lighting in Germany was put into operation on June 7, 1882 by Sigmund Schuckert in Nuremberg, followed by the lighting of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin on September 20, 1882 . The Upper Austrian city of Steyr (initially only temporarily) illuminated its streets from August 2 to September 30, 1884 during the Steyr Electrical Exhibition , the city of Scheibbs introduced the first permanent street lighting of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1886. The Hungarian city of Temesvár , now Timişoara in Romania, introduced electric lighting on November 12, 1884. Packard Electric installed the first electric street lighting in the USA in 1911 for their local community in Warren , Ohio .

By 1900 there were essentially two different types of street lighting: gas light and electric light. Due to the easier availability and the experience gathered up to then, many cities and municipalities gave preference to gas light even after the Second World War . It was only with the availability of new light sources that gas light was abandoned; first fluorescent lamps were used, later mercury vapor and high pressure sodium vapor lamps. In the 2000s, the proportion of gas lights in Germany fell below one percent. Further development is directed towards the use of LED technology and the lamps and lighting systems are becoming more efficient in order to reduce maintenance and energy costs.

In Berlin, only the two-armed candelabras, including those on Kaiserdamm and Charlottenburger Tor, are reminiscent of Albert Speer .


Construction of street lighting

A street lighting system consists of the following parts

Construction and design of technical street lights.
Electrical components

1. Lock 2. Seal 3. Mast attachment with tilt option 4. Socket carrier
lighting technology
5. Lighting technology setting 6. 3D mirror 7. End cover 8. Ballast (here electromagnetic) 9. Ignitor 10.  Capacitor
Other designs
11. Mains isolator 12. Linear
light with 2D Mirror 13.  Prismatic optics of a suitcase light 14. Secondary system 15. Cylinder top light with rotationally symmetrical glare reduction 16. LED light with lens optics

Electrical supply

The connection of the street lighting to the electrical supply network can be carried out in various ways. In Germany, the most common connection is via a separately laid lighting cable that is connected to the general power supply via a switch box. A switch box usually supplies and switches several streets. The switch boxes are often controlled via a ripple control receiver. The ripple control receiver is controlled centrally, usually via a control room of an energy supply company, which generates a signal of around 700 Hz by means of a ripple control  system, which is superimposed on the normal 50 Hz frequency. The ripple control receiver reacts to this signal and switches the load contactor that switches the individual cable outlets. The length of the outgoing cables is limited by the short-circuit current to be maintained. Street lights can be fed via underground cables, aerial cables or overhead lines. A battery-backed supply of solar energy is also advisable for environmental reasons and can be economical for certain applications. ( see also: solar street lighting )

Carrier system

Surge system

The lamp is usually mounted at the top of a wooden , steel , aluminum or concrete mast , which can be architecturally designed. In some cases street lights are suspended from ropes above the street (overvoltage system) or attached to house walls using wall brackets.


A street lamp usually consists of the following components:

  • casing
  • Translucent cover
  • Control gear (ballasts, igniters)
  • Optical system (mirror)
  • Bulbs

The housing protects the electrical and optical system from environmental influences. Most commonly used materials are cast aluminum and fiberglass-reinforced plastic . A distinction is made between the following types of mast attachment:

  • Top-mounted luminaire: attached to the mast from above and fixed if necessary
  • Side-entry luminaire: attached to the wall or to the side of the pole
  • Suspension lamp: positioned over the desired location using a horizontal bar or an anchored rope.
Translucent cover

End trays have the task of supporting the optical system and sealing the housing.

Control gear

The discharge lamps used in street lighting require ballasts to operate, which start the lamp and limit the current during operation. In exceptional cases, switching devices such as twilight switches, ripple control receivers or network bus systems are also integrated into the luminaire.

Optical system

The optical system shapes the light emanating from the lamp. It usually consists of a specially shaped sheet made of pure aluminum. Depending on the deformation, a distinction is made between 2D and 3D mirrors. Other systems work through end troughs, in which integrated prisms influence the direction of the light. When using LEDs as light sources, lenses are usually used. With a special shape, these lenses can transmit light particularly effectively. Systems in which part of the optical system lies outside the luminaire body are a special case. Such constructions are called secondary systems.

The aim of the optical system in street lighting is to generate maximum broad radiation along the street with acceptable glare. The better the broad radiation, the greater the spacing between light points can be. In addition, the system should prevent the residents or the night sky from being disturbed by the light emitted.

The new, white LED street lights bathe streets in a completely different light than sodium vapor lamps (Tübingen)
LED street light

Mercury vapor lamps , fluorescent lamps , LED lights , induction lamps or sodium vapor lamps as low and high pressure variants are mostly used as illuminants or lamps in street lights . Incandescent lamps and the carbon arc lamps that were common in the past have not been used since the late 1980s because of their low life expectancy and high energy consumption. Low-pressure sodium vapor lamps have the highest light output, but shine in a yellow light, which is desirable because of the contrasting perception at intersections. The most economical (when supplied from the power grid) are high-pressure sodium vapor lamps, which have lower luminous efficacies than low-pressure sodium lamps, but thanks to their compact design, they guarantee light control and thus reduce the installed power per kilometer to a minimum.


The street lighting (SB) can be switched on in several ways

  • Central twilight
    switch : A light-sensitive resistor that switches the self-service function on centrally via control lines or switching devices. This means that the street lighting of entire cities or districts can be switched depending on twilight and at the same time.
  • Decentralized twilight switch:
    A light-sensitive resistor that controls the self-service of one or more streets decentrally via a control cabinet. The advantage here is the twilight-dependent activation. In addition, no control lines or additional technology such as a ripple control system are required. A disadvantage is the increased maintenance effort for the larger number of twilight switches. The lighting is not switched on at the same time within a location.
  • Audio frequency or radio
    ripple control
    technology : The SB is switched via a centrally arranged twilight switch, which can distribute its control signal over a larger network area via the ripple control system. Here the self-service is switched simultaneously in the municipality or city districts; manual intervention is also possible.
  • Time switch :
    The SB is controlled with a time switch with a stored astronomical burning calendar.
  • Call :
    streets are switched on via call / SMS
  • Gas pressure remote ignition (with gas lighting): To switch on and off, the gas pressure on the supply line is briefly increased (pressure wave), which activates a pressure switch in the lantern.


The street lighting is planned on the basis of the relevant standards and guidelines. The arrangement of the lighting plays an important role here. In principle, it must be investigated whether pedestrian traffic is to be expected on the roadside or whether this is excluded. If there is no pedestrian traffic, the lane that is driven on the fastest must be sufficiently illuminated. On normal, single-lane streets with two lanes, the light point of the lighting is in the middle of the lane. This can be done either with pendant lights or lighting fixtures on a whip pole. If there are several lanes and a median , the lighting can also be placed in the middle. In this case, lights must be provided on both sides.

In order to prevent road users from being irritated, the lighting must be designed to be glare-free and uniform colors must be used. Incorrectly arranged lighting devices can create camouflage zones in the street. These are areas in which the brightness contrast between an object (pedestrian, parked vehicle) and the road is not subjectively perceptible. A desired light intensity distribution can be achieved by using mirror lights (light shielding).

Ecological damage

In addition to the environmentally damaging effects associated with energy consumption, there are other burdens on the environment. Unnecessary, incorrectly installed or poorly shielded street lamps cause light pollution , which not only has a negative impact on the fauna , but can also harm people , for example when bedrooms can no longer be darkened sufficiently or through sensory overload. In addition, astronomical research is hindered by the diffuse light that is ubiquitous in the populated area and has to resort to light protection areas.

Accumulation of dead insects in a street lamp

In addition, numerous insects, especially moths and beetles , die on the lamps. High pressure mercury vapor lamps in particular emit light at a wavelength that is particularly attractive to insects. The yellow light from high pressure sodium lamps is much less attractive.

Austerity measures

Street lamp with self-sufficient power supply from wind generator and photovoltaic system in Poland

Rising energy costs and the goals to reduce greenhouse gases have induced the municipalities responsible for street lighting and other authorities to take cost-saving measures.

There are major savings effects, above all, by switching from conventional street lights to energy-saving lighting such as sodium vapor lamps or LED technology . Only these are able to meet the environmental directives that will apply from 2015. As of 2015, LED-based street lights already performed slightly better than sodium vapor lamps in a life cycle analysis . However, since LEDs have a much greater development potential, it is expected that LEDs will have clear advantages over sodium vapor lamps in the environmental balance in 2020.

As of 2017, municipalities in Germany can receive funding for the retrofitting of conventional street lights, e.g. B. from the Federal Environment Agency through the National Climate Initiative.

Energy demand

In 2009, nine million luminaires were in use in Germany, consuming around four terawatt hours of electrical energy per year . This corresponds to around 0.8% of total German electricity consumption or 0.1% of primary energy use. All over Europe, street lights consumed around 35 TWh of electrical energy in 2005, around 1.3% of total electricity generation.

Opportunities for improvement

Illumination is when light from a light source falls on an object to be illuminated and is reflected by it into the eye of a viewer. If light from the light source falls directly into the eye of the beholder, it is a question of signaling ( traffic lights ) or blinds.

Austerity measures aim to avoid producing light that does not contribute to lighting. There are two options here:

On the one hand, light paths that do not contribute to the lighting are prevented: street lamps are used that only emit their light in the direction of the traffic area to be illuminated and not in the direction of the sky or the windows of residents. This generally also increases the clarity, since the street is illuminated more evenly and with less glare. This type of lighting was first required by law in Lombardy in 2000 . Some other areas have adopted similar regulations, for example the Czech Republic in 2002 at national level.

On the other hand, the lighting is completely dispensed with if no observer is present: especially on streets that are not frequently used, it is advisable to only switch the lighting on when necessary. In some German cities, the lanterns can therefore be switched on for a quarter of an hour by calling a speech dialogue system.

Half-night service

Traffic sign 394 - lantern sign , lantern does not shine all night
Featured lantern

The street lighting networks are fed with single-phase alternating current or three-phase alternating current. For a long time it has been possible in cities and municipalities to switch off every second or third street lamp using three-phase power lines. Today there are often two lamps in one lamp that can be switched on independently of each other. In modern systems, control devices that regulate the voltage and thus the brightness are also integrated in the lamp bodies and thus enable great energy savings.

These measures to reduce the street lighting by half for part of the night are called half-night switching . Luminaires that do not light up continuously all night are usually marked with the pictured sign ( traffic sign 394 ) on the pole shaft at eye level.

However, there are objections from traffic safety experts to the savings measures through half-night switching. Since not every lamp in most lanterns has its own reflector, the remaining ones do not achieve favorable illumination . If the lanterns are designed for two lamps, they should also be operated with both. The method of achieving savings by switching off every second lantern can result in dark zones in which the street is absolutely black and objects, people, open manhole covers or other obstacles can no longer be recognized in time by road users . A counter-argument is that every car has its own lighting and therefore the street lighting can be reduced without consequences, since every motorist must be able to stop safely within the range of the low beam according to the StVO and thus have to adjust their speed to the general conditions.


Standardization at European level

For the design of lighting in public traffic areas, EN 13201 is valid in Europe , which has established itself as the state of the art for street lighting . In March 2011, it replaced the DIN standard DIN 5044-1, which has been valid in Germany since 1981 .

As part of the Europe-wide harmonization of all technical regulations, the European standardization organization CEN was commissioned to bring the technical requirements for street lighting to a common European level and to standardize them. It was agreed that a pan-European standard for street lighting should be drawn up. On the one hand, the standard should be based on the relevant publications of the International Lighting Commission (CIE) and the large number of national standards; on the other hand, the aim was from the outset to incorporate the latest findings from science and technology into the set of standards.

European standardization

The new EN 13201 with parts 1 to 4 was created on this basis. In April 2004, parts 2, 3 and 4 were published for Germany as an adoption of the European standards with the designation DIN EN 13201-2 to 13201-4. The other countries also had to develop a new national standard, the application standard or residual standard, in which it is specified at which points in the road network and under which boundary conditions the quality criteria defined in EN 13201-2 are to be applied. The national application standards will therefore continue to differ from one another and mean different lighting levels for the same requirement in the individual countries. In Germany, after the introduction of DIN EN 13201, there will be no obligation to convert old systems. However, DIN EN 13201 is to be used when planning new systems and renovations.

In Austria, the old ÖNORM 1050 has been replaced by ÖNORM EN 13201. The already valid ÖNORM O 1051 for conflict zones such as roundabouts or pedestrian crossings will be improved .

Norms and standards

Standard lantern of the GDR
  • EN 13201 - street lighting
    • Part 2 quality characteristics
    • Part 3 Calculation of the quality characteristics
    • Part 4 Methods for measuring the quality characteristics of street lighting systems
  • DIN 13201-1 - Street lighting - Part 1: Selection of lighting classes
  • DIN 67523 - lighting of pedestrian crossings (sign 293 StVO) with additional lighting
    • Part 1 General quality characteristics and guide values
    • Part 2 calculation and measurement
  • DIN 67524 - lighting of road tunnels and underpasses
    • Part 1 General quality characteristics and guide values
    • Part 2 calculation and measurement
  • Guidelines for the lighting of traffic facilities on federal motorways
  • Guidelines for lighting in facilities for pedestrian traffic
  • RVS 02/09/41 lighting in the tunnel
  • ÖNORM EN 13201


  • Herbert Liman: More light. History of Berlin street lighting . Haude and Spener, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-7759-0429-8 .
  • Frank Lindemuth (Ed.): Street and outdoor lighting 2011 , yearbook, EW Medien und Kongresse , Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-8022-0980-2 (book, print edition) / ISBN 978-3-8022-1204- 8 (online edition, text sample PDF 15 pages, 2.26 MB).
  • Jutta Matz, Heinrich Mehl (Ed.): From Kienspan to laser beam. On the history of lighting from antiquity to today . Husum Verlag , Husum 2000, ISBN 978-3-88042-968-0 .
  • Thomas Posch, Anja Freyhoff, Thomas Uhlmann (eds.): The end of the night: Global light pollution and its consequences . Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-527-40946-4 .
  • Sabine Röck: Berlin outdoor lighting: a history of public lighting in Berlin from 1826 to 1989; with a historical, urban design and social focus. Berlin 2001, DNB 965401855 (Dissertation University of the Arts Berlin 2002, 324 pages).
  • Alexander J. Schmidt, Martin Töllner: City light. Lighting concepts for urban design. Basics, methods, instruments, examples . Fraunhofer IRB, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-8167-6992-6 .
  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch : Light, appearance and madness: appearance of electric lighting in the 20th century . Ernst, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-433-02344-1 .
  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch: Bright spots. On the history of artificial brightness in the 19th century . Fischer TB 16180, Frankfurt am Main 2004 (first edition Hanser, Munich 1983), ISBN 978-3-596-16180-5 (on the cultural history of lighting in public spaces).

Web links

Commons : Street Lights  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Street lighting  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ NH Schilling: Handbook for hard coal gas lighting , page 7, Munich 1866, accessed on September 1, 2010
  2. Start of lighting 325 years ago on ORF on February 19, 2012, accessed on July 10, 2012
  3. Monitoring in the head ,
  4. Wiesbadner Wochenblatt 1816 No. 25: "Official announcement: The auction of genuine old Dutch rapeseed oil for the needs of the municipal lantern establishment will be carried out by the signed office next Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., to which the climbing enthusiasts are invited. Wiesbaden, June 20, 1816 Ducal Police Direction.
  5. The expansion of gas lighting in Vienna ( Memento of May 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 31, 2008
  6. ^ Electric street lights; their succesfil use in Paris ,, The New York Times , December 7, 1878
  7. ^ Elisabeth Kreuzwieser: Coal gas works: Supply of the cities Linz, Wels, Steyr, Enns. 2006, website 524 in the forum
  8. Timişoara ( Memento from December 6, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) at the University of Klagenfurt, accessed on December 5, 2017
  9. ^ Lehigh University, CP Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science ( Memento July 1, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  10. LED street lighting: How Offenbach or Wolfsburg save money and electricity ( Memento from January 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). In: Cleanthinking , January 11, 2014, accessed January 11, 2014.
  11. BUND: Insect-friendly outdoor lighting
  12. The Viennese urban psychologist Cornelia Ehmayer in an interview with the Wiener Zeitung on the topic of street lighting: "In big cities there is overstimulation, I advocate stimulus reduction." (Wiener Zeitung, April 7, 2007, page 13.)
  13. ^ Gerhard Bronner: Deadly light . Nature Conservation Today, Issue 4/96 of August 9, 1996 ( Memento of November 21, 2000 in the Internet Archive )
  14. a b Leena Täkämöh, Liisa Halonen: Life cycle assessment of road lighting luminaires e Comparison of light-emitting diode and high-pressure sodium technologies . In: Journal of Cleaner Production . tape 93 , 2015, p. 234–242 , doi : 10.1016 / j.jclepro.2015.01.025 .
  15. Expanded funding opportunities in the municipal directive | BMUB | National climate protection initiative. Retrieved April 4, 2017 .
  16. Handelsblatt, April 30, 2009, page A1
  17. Federal Ministry of Economics, energy statistics , electricity consumption in Germany 500 TWh, tendency rising slightly, primary energy consumption approx. 4000 TWh
  18. CIELOBUIO: VISUAL Accomplishment Regulations for the RL 17/00
  19. New Czech Republic national law prohibits light pollution (German: New Czech law prohibits light pollution )
  20. Light by phone call ( Memento from August 9, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  21. Switching off every second lamp ( Memento from February 12, 2013 in the web archive )
  22. withdrawn without replacement, see Beuth Verlag; DIN 13201-1