Tips for Taming Outdoor Lighting

Tips for Taming Outdoor Lighting

Tiffany Finley
Mar 17, 2011

Here's a $2 billion dollar saving idea for budget cuts: stop excessive outdoor lighting! Unshielded, high wattage, and excessive outdoor lighting is estimated to waste over $2 billion annually. This isn't just light pollution, folks; it's often the result of poor design and planning. So save your home and your neighborhood some money with the following tips on investing in strategic, high-impact outdoor lighting:

Insufficient outdoor lighting can lead to poor visibility due to the glare, wasted energy, light pollution, and missing out on one of the most spectacular things of nighttime: the stars. Here are 8 reasons to invest in appropriate outdoor lighting:

1. Increased visibility: The glare from poor outdoor lighting alone can blind us, keeping us from seeing and assessing our surroundings.

2. Safer Driving and Bike-Riding: The high-wattage lighting found in parking lots and major roadways is often blinding, reducing the safety and visibility of drivers and other commuters.

3. Reduced Crime: Well-lit parking lots and buildings discourage vandalism and reduce the "hiding" spots for potential criminal acts.

4. Reduced Expenses: With $2 billion dollars worth of savings, excessive and high-wattage lighting in public areas can be cut and replaced by more efficient and effective lighting fixtures.

5. Reduced Pollution: Lighting requires power to run, power most often sources from fossil fuels. Reducing the amount of energy needed to power outdoor lighting can significantly reduce the amount of pollution it can cause.

6. Improved Streets and Communities: Well-lit communities tend to be safer, more welcoming, and more visually appealing with reduced street clutter and glare.

7. Better Sleep: Most individuals wouldn't find an evening in the heart of New York a peaceful place to fall asleep. Outside of the noise, the light is nearly impossible to keep out. Outdoor lighting can reduce the amount of sleep and rest a person gets daily.

8. More Eco-Friendly: Humans may have invented the light bulb, but lighting has many signals in the natural world. Migrating birds, moths, and other animals are attracted to light and their paths and lifestyles can be significantly altered with excessive outdoor lighting that may simulate daylight to them.

So what is the solution?
For areas requiring lighting, use energy efficient low-wattage bulbs that have a reflective surface behind the light. This will help push the lighting down toward the ground and maximize the lighting. Full cut-off caps are a great upgrade. Making sure spotlights are directed toward the ground, and downlighting on billboards can help keep the light out of the sky. Adding motion detectors, timers, and dimmers are great additions for personal outdoor lighting management. If you have a streetlight in front of your house, you can contact your utility company, city, or local government to install full cut-off fixtures and lower wattage bulbs.

Check out the International Dark Sky Association for more tips and information about "taming" our outdoor lighting to be purposeful, efficient, and effective!

(Image: Light Pollution by
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.)

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