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Neighbor-Friendly Lighting

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Principles of Neighbor-Friendly Lighting

Tom Burrows
August 6, 2013

Contents

Introduction
Avoid Glare
Avoid Light Trespass
Neighbor-Friendly Lighting is a Win-Win for Everyone
Neighbor-Friendly Lighting Avoids Security Pitfalls
Methods of Neighbor-Friendly Lighting

Introduction

Neighbor-friendly lighting is a lifestyle enhancement for everyone and is a matter of safety, common courtesy and avoidance of pointless waste. The opposite of neighbor-friendly lighting is nuisance lighting, which can be a source of friction between neighbors, a safety problem, an eyesore (both literally and figuratively) and even create new security problems instead of solving them.

As more people move into your community, there will be more residences, more businesses and more thoroughfares—i.e., more things that will be illuminated. Doing this in a consciously neighbor-friendly way, as opposed to the "default" practice of just installing what turns out to be nuisance lighting, will mitigate one form of urban blight as the community inevitably grows. And in neighborhoods out in the country, neighbor-friendly lighting helps preserve the rural character of the community.

Avoid Glare

The first principle of neighbor-friendly lighting is the reduction or elimination of glare. Glare impairs your ability to see at night by 1) contracting or "stopping down" your iris, 2) temporarily burning out your dark adaptation, 3) scattering within the eye to produce a veil of haze and 4) causing you to close one eye or look away to avoid pain. (With advancing age, dark adaptation recovery time gets exponentially worse and the loss of transparency of the lens and vitreous humor aggravates scattering and haze.)

Most night-time glare comes from light directly entering your eye from unshielded sources. This means either fixtures that shine in all directions, or fixtures that are directional but improperly placed or aimed. The more unshielded light sources there are in your field of view, the more your night vision will be impaired by the four causes just mentioned. If you are trying to view some scene at night (e.g., to see where you're going or avoid danger), you will have the best view of it if direct light from the source illuminating the scene is not invading your eyes.

Avoid Light Trespass

The second principle of neighbor-friendly lighting is the reduction or elimination of light trespass. This is the kind of light you don't want your neighbor shining into your bedroom window while you're trying to sleep.

Properly illuminating what it is that actually needs to be illuminated (assuming it needs to be illuminated at all) goes hand-in-hand with avoiding light trespass and is the other side of the same coin.

Neighbor-Friendly Lighting is a Win-Win for Everyone

When neighbor-friendly lighting practices are followed, this not only benefits you as a neighbor.

Neighbor-Friendly Lighting Avoids Security Pitfalls

Methods of Neighbor-Friendly Lighting

For an example of how I made the lighting on my own house neighbor-friendly, read my article on "An Exercise in Good Outdoor Lighting". Or if you don't have time to read it, at least check out the before-and-after picture:


An electronic copy of this article (and the rest of the Neighbor-Friendly Lighting website) is at neighborfriendlylighting.com.