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Sharing the Night Sky

by Lacy Stockton | Dec 07, 2023

All of us living in Chelan County are blessed with clear skies more days than not. While we might enjoy the cloudless skies during the day, we often forget to pause and appreciate the beautiful night sky. Or maybe bad outdoor lighting is ruining our view.

From Bright Night

The wrong outdoor lighting doesn’t just diminish our view of the night sky. Glare and low light quality make it difficult for us to see things and colors. It diminishes our ability to see anything but the most brightly lit area in our field of vision. Plus, continuous lighting may actually increase crime instead of prevent it.

Light pollution also impacts our ecosystem. Lights at night confuse animals, insects and us, who are all built to follow day and nighttime patterns. In particular, migratory birds and animals that hunt at night are thrown off by artificial lights and glare, including clouds reflecting city lights from miles away. 

comparison of night sky with city lights and sky without artificial lighting nearby

Outdoor lights block views of the night sky.

To the Right Light

With strategic LED outdoor lighting and controls, we can improve visibility, reduce crime, reclaim our view of the night sky, and help out our feathered friends. Oh—and save loads of energy

But simply swapping out old light bulbs with LEDs probably won’t fix the problem. Instead, ask yourself three questions as you design your outdoor lighting:

1. Do You Need It?

Many light locations simply aren’t necessary. Make sure the light has a clear purpose—or skip it. For example, do you really need to illuminate the exterior of the house for aesthetics or could you just turn them on for special occasions? 

Avoid up-lights. There is no reason to shine lights up toward the sky (unless you’re calling Batman). Up-lighting in particular bothers birds and bats. It also destroys our ability to see the beautiful night sky—not just for us but for our neighbors, too!

2. When Do You Need It?

Completely removing lights could be impractical or unsafe, but a light should only be on if someone is there to use it. Rare is the light that should shine all night long. 

Use motion sensors. Lights stay off until motion is detected, saving energy and reducing light pollution. This helps you see when you’re returning home or working in an area that is being illuminated, or thwart a would-be thief.

Try dimming. If you decide you need constant lighting, consider a motion sensor dimmer. The light level remains low until motion is detected and the light becomes brighter. 

3. Where Is It Needed?

Overall lighting is unnecessary, so shield or direct your lights to only shine on those things you’re trying to see and at the right light level.

Don’t glare bomb! Your eyes adjust to the brightest light in our vision, so one bright light reduces your ability to see at night. For example:

  • Use low, focused lights to light a pathway instead of tall, bare bulbs that light up everything around them and cast unhelpful shadows. 
  • A focused light on a work space or entry door works better than broad light. 

The necessary area should be illuminated, but the light bulb itself should be hidden to reduce glare.

Love lower lumens. Just because LEDs are more efficient doesn’t mean you should boost light levels. Lumens measure the amount of light output of a bulb. A standard light bulb emits 760 lumens, which means it is as bright as 760 candles! Make sure to select the minimum lumens needed for the job. 

Shun extra white lights. Avoid buying ultra-white outdoor lights by choosing a light that has a “K” rating of 2700K or lower. White and blue wavelengths are present during daylight hours—not at night. Lights with 3000K or higher ratings imitate daylight, which is extra disruptive at night. 

Look for the Fixture Seal of Approval! The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has a product guide to help you find your perfect light. Dark Sky certified lights are also marked with IDA’s seal.

Where to Start? Re-Light Your Entryway!

An easy place to start rethinking your light is with your front door, where most all of us have bright outdoor lighting. Look at the home below. The before and after photos show a subtle change that makes a big impact!

front entry lighting before with bright glare bomb and after with focused lighting direct at entry steps

Before and after lighting a front entry.

Before: Many entryways look like the image on the left. A bright light placed next to the front door illuminates the entire entrance area, but casts shadows on the front steps and the glare reduces visibility. 

After: A new directed light focuses down on the entry steps, right where light is needed. The bulb is mostly hidden from view to reduce glare. The new light is also an energy efficient LED and uses a motion sensor to brighten only when it’s really needed. 

 

home entry and garage with focused LED lighting that avoids glare

Well-designed outdoor lighting for a home entrance (with motion sensors, too!).