Working toward legislation to curb light pollution in Illinois.

Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

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Good & Bad Light Fixtures In Action

As noted on our Lighting Studies> Theory page, manmade exterior lighting began with fires; campfires and torches generally lit up the area around them, pushing back the night for our early ancestors. Oil and gas lamps continued the fire-to-light trend; glass enclosures were developed to keep flames from blowing out. The relatively recent development of various types of electric lamps has brought a tremendous increase in the amount of light we can easily create; unfortunately, we still use light fixtures which send their now glaringly brighter output spraying out in all directions, like the torches of 10,000 years ago.

Instead of simply placing a lamp in a glass globe, where two-thirds of its energy output can end up shining where illumination is unneeded or is even harmful, we can place the lamp in a modern, well engineered fully focused enclosure, which blocks light from shining where it isn't wanted, internally reflecting that potentially wasted light in the direction where illumination is desired. Such efficient fixtures can deliver the same desired illumination while using lower wattage lamps, greatly reducing energy usage, without sacrificing illumination.

It is relatively easy to judge how efficiently a lighting fixture is directing its energy output. If you stand within the zone which the fixture is engineered to efficiently illuminate, and look up into the fixture, you will see the brilliant light of the lamp directly. If you stand outside of the zone, you should see none of the brilliant direct light of the lamp, only the well-lit objects within the lamp's illumination zone; indeed those objects will appear much clearer to you than they would if the light fixture was also assailing your eyes with glare.

Some Examples

While photographs cannot always do justice to what the eye sees (especially as far as painful glare is concerned), these un-retouched photos of real-world lighting installations around the Chicagoland area demonstrate some of the effects of poor lighting practices vs. good ones. You will no doubt see examples of both in your own area if you start looking at lights as you travel around at night. Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Gas station filling neighborhood with glare.

Gas station with hanging globe fixtures.

Gas station with attractive, responsible lighting.

Gas station with recessed fixtures.

Mall parking lot with unshielded light fixtures.

Mall lot with unshielded fixtures.

The glare from these lights is intense from more than a mile away.

Mall parking lot with shielded light fixtures.

Mall lot with fully focused fixtures.

The lamps of these lights are only visible when standing under them.

Wallpack light fixtures produce glare and waste energy.

Wall mounted fixtures with glass sides.

Intended to illuminate the loading and parking area adjacent to the building, much of their light output actually shines off into the distance.

Shielded wall-mounted lights direct their light output where it is needed.

Wall mounted, down-directed fixtures.

All of the light their lamps produce is focused down and out into the area which needs illumination.

Globe-type outdoor lights are no longer acceptable.

Parking area and walkway with "globe on post" fixtures.

The glare and waste of these fixtures is obvious.

Modern shielded lights allow the eye to see the area clearly.

Parking area and walkways with fully focused fixtures.

The entire light output of these fixtures is directed down to where it is needed; these particular luminaires have cutoff 40 below horizontal.

Auto dealership with poor yard lighting.

Dealership with all of its mostly-unshielded lights left on after closing.

Does this make us want to come back tomorrow and buy a car?.

Auto dealership with responsible outdoor lighting.

Dealership with fully focused fixtures, and half of them turned off after closing.

No security compromise, great energy conservation (and substantial utility bill savings for the dealer, too).

«Full cutoff» light fixtures still allow glare and waste.

Mall lot with "full cutoff" fixtures.

These fixtures, while reducing upward waste, still create glare and trespass, both of which reduce visibility and safety.

Fully-focused fixtures put the light where it is neeeded.

Mall lot with fully focused fixtures.

Lights on high poles should direct all of the light which they create downward, where it is needed.

Vanity lighting on houses wastes energy and harms the environment.

"Vanity lighting" is increasing in popularity.

Is this a responsible use of energy? Is it good for the environment, or human health in this neighborhood? Does it increase security? (Note the deep shadow at the front doorway. A few downward-facing lights on motion detectors could provide better security, unless the threat is ninjas descending from helicopters. Let's be honest; this is entirely "Look at us, we're rich and have money to burn.")

Home lighting can be environmentally friendly.

Homes can have responsible outdoor lighting, too.

It is much harder to see this house at night, especially with the shades drawn in the upstairs windows. But the front porch is invitingly and safely lit with recessed fixtures which don't shine out into the surrounding area. Such lights can easily be operated on one or more motion detector switches, which will illuminate the area whenever someone approaches, and save energy and the environment the rest of the time.

«Barnyard» light fixtures waste light to sides and upward.

Garage with a "barnyard" style fixture.

These outdated fixtures waste a high percentage of the light output of theiir lamps by shining it to the sides and upwards.

Fully-focused fixtures put the light where it is neeeded.

Same installation with replacement fully focused fixture.

The old fixture, in the photo on the left, held a 100-watt incandescent lamp. This replacement fixture, which is focusing its lamp's full output downward where it is needed, holds a 27-watt compact fluorescent lamp.

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