Working toward legislation to curb light pollution in Illinois.

Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

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Good Lighting Practices for Businesses

What purposes does outdoor lighting serve in your business environment? Well planned and operated lighting can make after-dark operation possible, provide security, and help customers find your location. Poorly planned lighting can create unsafe conditions, displease your neighbors and potential customers, and create huge electric bills; it can also have very negative impacts on your whole local area, as described on the Environment, Health Issues, and Loss Of The Night pages of this website. The implementation of outdoor lighting for businesses is an important topic which should not be ignored, or left up to a "default" design by a developer. Existing installations should be analyzed, too; replacing old ones with more energy-efficient installations can be very cost-effective. Here are some factors which you should consider about the lighting which you use around your business:

  • Light fixture design and placement has a tremendous effect on both the quality of lighting and the cost of operation (see the pages in the Lighting Studies section of this website). When comparing kilowatt of power input (what the business pays for) to square feet of adequately-illuminated area (what the business is trying to achieve), many existing installations are as little as one half to one quarter (or less) as efficient as a well designed installation could be.
  • Commercial property should be analyzed, to determine what the lighting needs actually are, area by area. The best way to do this is at night; on-site analysis is far superior to theoretical planning via blueprint (which is how most lighting installations are specified). Where is light really needed, and to what brightness level? Current installations may be illuminating areas which do not need to be lighted, or making other areas overly bright.
  • If lighting installations have fixtures which can be adjusted for aim, they should be inspected at night to make sure that their light output is only going where intended. If, after best adjustment, any of the fixtures continue to send any of their output in directions besides to their target areas, those fixtures should be replaced; it is likely that a more efficiently designed fixture will illuminate the target area as well or better, while consuming less power.
  • Hours of lighting is another important area of consideration. Lighting levels which are needed during business hours are often much higher than safety and security call for after hours. Lighting circuits and controls should be set up to manually or automatically change from business-level lighting to off-hours lighting. Most businesses are closed during great majority of the nighttime hours; leaving more lights than necessary on for the entire night drives up utility bills in a very wasteful manner. Installing shut-off timers on circuits which are operated only by photocell switches, or which tend to be left on all night, is an improvement which can pay for itself quite rapidly, and be a big money-saver from then on. In areas where some security lighting is desired all night, lighting can be set up to be able to dim after hours, or to shut off half to three-quarters of the individual lamps.
  • Lighting installations need to be maintained to operate efficiently. Businesses should implement schedules for regularly checking on the operation of lights and their controls, to make sure everything is functional.
  • Interior lighting escapes out of windows after dark; it can have as large an impact on the surrounding environment as exterior lighting does. Interior lighting left on after business hours should be kept to the minimum level needed for safety and security, and any lighting which needs to be left on all night should be installed so that its output is directed away from exterior windows, and/or window shades should be drawn at night.
  • Ultimately, it is in a business' best interest to support the adoption of outdoor lighting control ordinances. In communities where strict sign control ordinances have been adopted, "sign wars", where one establishment tries to out-billboard the next, have been eliminated, and the communities have benefited from an overall upgrade of their esthetic appearance. The same holds true of lighting control; with uniform limits applied, the battle to out-shine one's neighbor can end, and the nighttime apperance of the entire community can become more inviting.
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