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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Non-Obnoxious Outdoor Lighting? 445

Posted by timothy
from the just-a-nice-wan-glow dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My neighbor recently complained about my outdoor floodlight shining in her window. While trying to address this problem, I read an essay about the tragedy of light pollution, and started to think that this is a much broader issue. With all the new lighting technologies out there, this may be the right time to rethink lighting — both indoor and outdoor; public and private. I solved my problem by replacing the floodlight with a spotlight, but I also considered installing a colored light. What are some strategies for illuminating what we need to without casting excess light everywhere and inadvertently blinding our neighbors or keeping them awake?"
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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Non-Obnoxious Outdoor Lighting?

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  • Ground lighting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:50AM (#44361539)

    Your first thought might be "boy this would be easily solved by one massive bright light affixed somewhere high up" but you'd get better results with less neighbor-annoyance (since the light is close to the ground, your fence/the bushes in your front yard will stop it.

    Sure it's more work and admittedly can be a pain to wire your yard (if you go that route, there are solar powered designs out there) but it looks a hell of a lot more attractive than floodlights.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:52AM (#44361569)

    I did this in my back yard. 10 "old" 60W Edison bulbs with nice large filaments, strung up between two corners of the roof line, and a dimmer switch rated for 1000W.

    It's quite nice and it's no brighter than you need it to be.

  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:07PM (#44361791) Homepage

    Low voltage lighting along the walking path might be an answer then. For most people, that will light the path well enough, but in the worst case you can at least tell where the path is because of the lights at the edge.

  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexus[ ]org ['uk.' in gap]> on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:12PM (#44361875) Homepage

    Short answer, my landlord installed the floodlight and the motion detector that runs in. I think she was partly concerned with security, which I don't really think is an issue.

    Its fairly well documented that whilst lighting provides an increased sense of security, it frequently decreases security in real terms by creating deep shadows.

    Longer answer, my wife has MS which gives her both vision problems and balance problems. She also walks with a cane which would make it hard to carry a torch. I think that a lot of older people have similar issues.

    Fair enough - I understand that people with disabilities may need additional lighting, etc. Although I can recommend keeping a head torch handy - the modern LED ones are light, bright, and last a long time. Another possibility is to have a remote controlled light (rather than a motion detector), which would avoid mis-triggering by wildlife.

    My local council made a decision to turn off some of the street lighting between 1am and 5am a few years ago, saving several tens of millions of pounds in energy charges. This was met with lots of complaints along the lines of "this is endangering the elderly and school children!" (who are obviously always walking to and from school at 1 in the morning(!)). Eventually a new council was voted in and undid all that.

  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turp182 (1020263) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:22PM (#44362005) Journal

    A head lamp may be a good solution. They can be worn, obviously, on the head. But they can also work well around the neck. Head is more intuitive and easier to work with, the light goes where you look and doesn't bounce around during movement.

    I camp a lot and no longer bring an area light, everyone gets a head lamp. Keeps the bugs down as well.

    I've shown at least a dozen contractors my headlamp and they are always impressed (as they try to hold a flashlight between a shoulder and the neck).

    I use mine at home a lot, for grilling outside or walking around the house in the dark. Skip rechargeable batteries, they are a pain and their usage time is not impressive.

  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:26PM (#44362041) Journal
    Don't worry old Hairy has you covered, here you go friend. [amazon.com] With this it doesn't matter where your wife is she'll be able to see, indoors, outdoors, no matter where she goes she'll have the path in front of her illuminated.
  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:53PM (#44362455)

    I need floodlights to keep the scavengers (as in metal recyclers) from coming into my yard to steal my table and chairs

    But the lights don't need to be on all the time. Use motion sensors to trigger the lights. The "startle effect" when they come on makes them a better deterrent than always-on lights. Also, install a few of these fake cameras [amazon.com]. I put several around my house. They look very realistic, and have blinking LEDs to make them more noticeable, but are a tiny fraction of the price of a real camera. Put up a "beware of dog" sign, whether you have a dog or not. Get a pair of used, and well worn, size 14 work boots, and leave them on the porch.

  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RenderSeven (938535) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:11PM (#44362643)
    Actually I was VERY surprised how utterly ineffective LED solar lights were at lighting up my yard, and how much I paid for them.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:09PM (#44363313) Homepage Journal
    I just have flood lights.

    You need light in your back yard to see when you're grilling something at night....

    Do people on here NOT hang out in their back yards in the evenings when the weather is nice?

    I'm kinda dumbfounded at the number of people that can't seem to understand why you'd want to "light up" your backyard...does no one spend time outside anymore with a grill and some cold beer and friends/family sitting around the patio table?

  • Re:But why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:12PM (#44363393)

    Another option is to put the light in your yard and aim them towards your own house instead of on your house aiming away. It lights up the area around your house much better and helps eliminate the shadows. It also makes it easier for people away from your house to actually see your house and the area because the light source is not shining towards them. Now it does make it harder for someone in the house to see past the lights.

  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RenderSeven (938535) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @03:54PM (#44364501)
    They do in some cases. But. Its like the solar panel argument, where the proponent lives in Phoenix, and forget many of us live where the sun is low and clouds are the norm. My walkway is on the north side of the house so they recharge poorly even on a good day, and a 'good day' is only during summer and has no weather. If the walkway light is decorative its not a problem if it doesnt work 5 days out of 7. Or works only 1 hour after dusk. If its functional lighting, it has to work every night, and has to last up to 8 hours. And work in snow. Solar, and a small form factor close to the ground, just doesnt cut it. Low voltage or low level lighting on AC mains, on a post or with enough waste heat to melt snow, is I think necessary. From a power use standpoint these are fairly efficient because they are switched and turned on only when necessary.

    Ive tried many solar units. Even if the mower and the snowblower and the dogs dont get them, the light output is dismal, and the number of charge cycles before you throw away the batteries or the whole unit is small.
  • by torklugnutz (212328) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @05:00PM (#44365187) Homepage

    I live in a 1960's ranch house. I used LED motion lights in my back yard and LED rope lights under the eaves of my house up front. The City of Las Vegas recently replaced the HPS lights with LED, so the amount of light pollution hitting my yard is now negligible. By hiding the LED's behind the eaves, they are not visible from most viewing angles. The soft yellow glow from my walls is enough to light up my yard, but not enough to attract bugs. The light washing down onto the windows of the house is enough to produce a pleasing night light inside, and the glowing walls outside make it harder to tell which rooms have lights on inside. I had to run about 150' of the lights. Very satisfied. I got them at Costco.

    I also purchased LED motion lights. These were a little obnoxious and directional, so I pointed them up into the eaves to bounce and soften the light. Much less annoying for the neighbor who's bedroom window my lights hit.

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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