You’re investing in making your home a beautiful place to live, but beauty exists long after the daylight hours turn to nighttime. After dark, your landscape lighting will enhance your immediate surroundings. However, we can be cognizant of how your outdoor lighting affects the wider space by considering your system’s effect on light pollution and being dark sky friendly.
Poorly conceived outdoor residential lighting spoils your view of the night sky. A 2016 study concluded that 99% of people in the United States and Europe are denied the joy of seeing a starry sky due to artificial lighting. To mitigate the problem, we can apply dark sky lighting strategies and improve the view of the stars from your yard.
What Is Dark Sky Lighting?
The oxymoronic term ‘dark sky lighting’ describes outdoor lighting methods that give you the light you need to function while minimizing the upward glow that blots out the stars. A dark sky friendly approach avoids directing light in all directions. Instead, fixtures gently cast light downward, and designers avoid using more lights than necessary.
Preserving a dark sky goes beyond simple aesthetic benefits. The reduction of light pollution supports your local ecosystem and health.
What is Light Pollution?
Outdoor lighting throughout urban and suburban areas pollutes the sky because a great deal of it is overly bright, indiscriminately targeted, and sometimes simply unnecessary.
According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), excessive outdoor light negatively impacts humans and wildlife. Too much light produces problems, such as:
- Glare – Super bright lights, like from electronic billboards, that hurt your eyes
- Skyglow – The hazy dome of light over towns and cities that erases the stars
- Light trespass – Light where it is not needed
- Light clutter – Redundant groups of lights
The negative effects of lighting overuse pile up quickly, causing:
- Energy waste
- Elimination of darkness used by animals to hide from predators or navigate during migrations
- Disruption of human melatonin production raises risks of sleep disorders, depression, obesity, diabetes, and cancer
- More crime instead of deterring it
Light Pollution and Climate Change
When you think about all the streetlights and parking lot lights glaring over empty places in the middle of the night, you can imagine how much energy is used to run those bulbs globally. Most electricity comes from polluting fuel sources that increase heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. A university scientist in India estimated that excessive lighting in the state of Uttar Pradesh adds 12 million extra tons of CO2 to the air every year.
On the individual household level, you pay higher utility bills when operating inefficient outdoor lighting. The light polluting your yard adds to your expenses for no good reason.
Night Owl Landscape Lighting solves these problems with dark sky friendly outdoor lighting. Our design strategies along with low-voltage LEDs significantly reduce glare and energy consumption.
How to Achieve Dark Sky Lighting
The IDA has developed standards for dark skies. To declare a property (or place) an International Dark Sky Reserve, the region must cover at least 700 square kilometers and have no more than 20 magnitudes of brightness per square arcsecond. The organization also has parameters for naming:
- Dark sky communities
- Dark sky parks
- Dark sky sanctuaries
- Urban night sky places
- Dark sky friendly developments of distinction
For example, in June 2017, the IDA named Newport State Park in Wisconsin as a dark sky park.
At Night Owl Landscape Lighting, we will update and install lighting that helps you prevent polluting your space with unnecessary light. To this end, we:
- Adjust residential lights downward
- Choose LED bulbs with narrower spectrums that reduce blue light
- Meet local and HOA regulations for reflectors, shields, light angles, and bulb types
- Aim lights downward on driveways, walking paths, and gardens
- Reduce the wattage
Our techniques follow IDA standards for dark sky lighting that state:
- All outdoor lighting should fulfill a clear purpose.
- Lights should target specific areas.
- Lights should never be brighter than necessary.
- Timers, motion detectors, and dimmers should be engaged whenever feasible.
- Warm-tone colors are to be chosen over cool-blue, short-wavelength light.
The overall look achieved by dark sky-friendly lighting is gentle and subdued. Warm lights cast their gentle glow downward instead of glaring in all directions. The principles that we follow comply with dark sky regulations that some communities have adopted while preserving some of our core responsibilities such as preserving safety in stylish landscapes and home security for crime deterrence.
Join the Movement for Dark Sky Lighting
Too much lighting has robbed generations of people of their view of the universe. During major blackouts, people are shocked to see the Milky Way because they never knew it used to be visible.
International Dark Sky Week in April presents an opportunity to reevaluate your outdoor lighting. If possible, you could encourage your local leaders to establish dark sky lighting codes so that a whole community can see more stars.