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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

What Light Pollution Means to the Future of Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

4/6/15 10:00 AM

Florida Coast by The City Dark DocumentaryWe are from a small town, so the difference between us and a place like New York City as far as light pollution is way different; however, we all experience some form of light pollution. Light pollution isn’t something you think of, but does it really affect us?

Light pollution is the way light shines upwards illuminating dust and debris in the air and creates a cloud effect that blocks out the night sky. Since the beginning of time, we have depended on the night sky for information in regards to location, seasons, direction, etc., but with modern technology, we don’t rely on this for our information, but does it still affect us? And if so, what can we do to change the light pollution factor of areas?

Granted, all light cannot be lost at night and we will never have the dark sky at all times at night that happened hundreds of years ago, but light pollution can be reduced. Providing light in the areas they are required at the times they are required, and using dark sky compliant fixtures, will lower the amount of light pollution and increase our visibility to the night sky. The US spends 1.5 billion dollars every year on wasted energy due to light pollution. Towns all over the US are setting light ordinances moving towards using full cutoff fixtures only to preserve the night sky as well as reducing costs.

I recently wanted a documentary on this very subject called The City Dark and learned a lot about how we see the night sky in different locations. The films looked at the light in New York City and out in Arizona and the differences were amazing.

The light pollution doesn’t just affect animals, but humans as well. The US National Library of Medicine did a study on the health effects of light pollution.  Decreased melatonin produced in the body effects our hormonal system and sleep cycles. Melatonin deficiencies cause an increased risk of cancers, especially breast cancer, and it is unknown what other risk factors this produces. Many sleep disorders are also caused by light pollution. The study says we are only at the tip of the ice burg in research at this point.

Turtle Friendly Solar Light in Bradenton Beach FloridaSo what does this mean for the light industry? California has taken the light pollution into consideration, as well as the wasted energy, and implemented Title 24 Energy Efficient Standards. These standards are for residential and non-residential areas to decrease their use when the light is not required, like after a facility is closed, and using full cutoff fixtures with motion sensor or adaptive lighting controls. This is set to lower the consumption of electricity in the state.

Other states, like Hawaii, require LPS lamps for their telescope areas with a full cutoff fixture so there is little to no light pollution and any light will not affect their telescopes when looking at the night sky. Areas like Florida are required to use amber color light with full cutoff along coastal areas due to sea turtles. All these different steps are being taken to help reduce light pollution and the affects they have on nature.

What can you do? Take steps to not waste light where it is not needed, provide high efficiency lights, look at local ordinances when installing new lighting and turn it off when you don’t need it. Small steps can be taken in both a residential and business to ensure that we all do our part in reducing the impact we have on the environment and us as a species.

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Topics: Solar Lighting Design, Turtle Friendly Lighting, Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting is Necessary Now More Than Ever

Posted by SEPCO

1/14/14 9:30 AM

Ever look at a map from a satellite in orbit? Notice all the lights that you can see. What about looking up at night to find the stars in the sky? How much do you not actually see due to light pollution? These are some serious questions that are starting to be asked by more people. Light pollution is becoming a problem and dark sky friendly lighting is the key to solving this issue.


What makes a dark sky friendly light?

A dark sky friendly light provides a distinct light pattern that is shielded from casting light above top of the fixture. This provides lighting only towards the ground where the lighting is required. It also uses the needed light levels and not over lighting an area which will reflect the light back up into the atmosphere. Finally, the lights should be turned off when not needed.

Non-dark sky light fixtures cast light in all directions, including upwards. This wastes energy, causes a twilight effect that confuses wildlife and disturbs breeding patterns. It also produces a glare for people driving on roads that can be distracting and tiresome for eyes.


Why are dark sky lights important?

Dark sky lighting is important as light pollution disrupts ecosystems and threatens astronomy. On top of that, the wasted light costs a lot in wasted energy, about $2.2 billion per year, in the US alone. Dark sky friendly fixtures push the lighting down where it is actually needed and not up into the atmosphere. This provides less glare and light pollution allowing wildlife to resume their natural rhythm as well as allowing astronomers, both large and small, to enjoy the night sky and be able to see the stars above.


How to easily make the change?

IDA-communityMaking the switch to dark sky friendly lighting is simple by changing the fixture to an IDA approved dark sky friendly fixture. Looking for the IDA seal provided by the International Dark-Sky Association on fixture specifications or talking to your lighting representative for their recommendation is the first step. Lighting levels are typically better than non-dark sky fixtures as lighting is cast only in a downward pattern towards the ground where the lighting is needed.

Talk to your lighting representative if you have fixture that push light in all directions and are not dark sky approved. You can also make sure to use dark sky fixtures on any new lighting projects. By switching the lighting to a full cutoff, dark sky approved fixtures will allow us to reclaim our nights and enjoy all the beauty they hold.

Img Src: The Telegraph

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Topics: General Lighting, Conservation, Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

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