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

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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  • by g01d4 ( 888748 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:51AM (#44361549)
    The [] has several resources. Better yet, become a member.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Optimal Cynic ( 2886377 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:53AM (#44361583)
    You're obviously not an astronomer. See this photo for a good example: [] (from [])
  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Adam Ricketson ( 2821631 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:57AM (#44361645)
    I am the OP: 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. 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.
  • Astronomy Guy Here (Score:5, Informative)

    by hodet ( 620484 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @11:58AM (#44361665)
    As a long time stargazer I can sympathize with your neighbor and its pretty much the reason I moved out to the country. Floodlights are the worst, they illuminate every which way. Good lighting uses something to shield the light from going up and sideways and focuses the beam down toward the ground. We installed pot lights outside and use colored lights in them that are softer but are still plenty bright enough to see if you go outside. Also, there is no substitute for simply turning them off when you are in the house, although that is easy for me to say where I live. In the city some see them as a deterrent to people sneaking around their yard. You could always put your lights on a motion sensor as well I guess. You can google for outdoor residential lighting that minimizes light pollution. Check out a few astronomy forums, there are plenty of militant anti-light folks there that could advise you as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:00PM (#44361703)

    if (FireFury03 == 'Brit'){
          torch = 'flashlight';

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

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:02PM (#44361735)

    Ever tried a head- or shoulder-lamp? They're made to solve *exactly* this problem and are extremely effective.

    >My floodlights are on motion sensor, however. It helps cut down on the obnoxiousness.
    Only if well configured. I can't tell you how many floodlights I've seen that get triggered by somebody walking past outside the yard, or by neighborhood animals passing through, or even wind blowing through a bush. The only thing more annoying than a floodlight constantly shining in my window is a having it turning on and off all night long.

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

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#44361759) Homepage Journal

    Please make sure that motion sensor isn't too sensitive. Having people's floodlights pop on while you're trying to take a quiet walk (on the street, not their property) and look at the sky is obnoxious. Floodlights winking on and off when the wind blows is obnoxious as well.

    You might consider a light on a headband. I sometimes use a 'grill light' around my neck when I need my hands free.

    If you really need the flood lighting on a motion sensor, perhaps a red light is in order so it doesn't mess with night vision so much?

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

    by tom17 ( 659054 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#44361767) Homepage

    Try one of these, they are great for this kind of stuff. []

    I may look a tool wearing one, but since discovering it, i'll never turn back to handheld torches for poking around the garden.

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

    by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdot@nexusu[ ]rg ['k.o' in gap]> on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:16PM (#44361921) Homepage

    personally, it's hard to walk my dog at night (so it poops/ pee before bedtime). I have one hand on the leash, another on the flashlight, and then somehow manage to scoop the poop....especially in the rain while trying to balance an umbrella.

    Allow me to introduce you to a revolutionary new concept [].

    My floodlights are on motion sensor, however. It helps cut down on the obnoxiousness.

    In my experience, motion sensors on external floodlights are perpetually triggered by wildlife.

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

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:25PM (#44362033)
    My own solution would be to take the flood lights out, and replace them with a screw-in outlet (the kind that people use to run their Christmas lights off the porch light fixture). Run an extension cord from there to your sidewalk or wherever you actually need the light, and plug rope lights or yard lights into it.

    I loathe flood lights, especially motion-activated ones. I walk the dogs at night and hate being blinded by 150 watts of light suddenly blasting into my eyes. They actually reduce security in most cases, since no one is going to even look the general direction of that much light, the shadows they create are essentially impenetrable, and people will automatically assume that the person standing in front of the door actually belongs there.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Informative)

    by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdot@nexusu[ ]rg ['k.o' in gap]> on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:35PM (#44362183) Homepage

    Except that "light pollution" isn't pollution by definition, and the safety benefits of illumination in cities far outweighs any potential inconvenience to astronomers.

    Also the benefits of electricity far outweigh the environmental damage caused by generating it; the benefits of oil far outweigh the wars required to get it; the benefits of censorship "to protect the children" far outweigh the problems... Trashing the environment and other people's freedoms with the excuse that there is some benefit that you think outweighs them is a pretty crappy thing to be doing.

    Illuminating the more hazardous road junctions is certainly beneficial. Illuminating the city centres may well be a good thing (although I think we currently massively exceed the amount of illumination required - there's absolutely no need to light them up like day time, especially at times of the day when there's almost no one around.) But residential areas really don't need street lighting at all - would it kill you to take a torch when you go out at night?

    Street lighting uses a huge amount of energy (8% of all energy in the US is used for street lighting); it makes the night sky invisible (this isn't just about the astronomers - everyone should have the right to enjoy the natural environment); lighting frequently decreases safety by providing deep shadow for attackers to hide in and glaring drivers; 24 hour lighting completely fucks up wildlife, and there's some evidence to show it can cause psychological problems for humans too.

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

    My floodlights are on motion sensor, however. It helps cut down on the obnoxiousness.

    Floodlights that go on for 10 minutes in the evening and then go off are minorly irritating.

    Floodlights on a motion sensor that go on every time a cat walks by, the wind blows a tree branch a bit too much, a car drives by or a person walks by are VERY annoying. Not so bad if they're YOUR floodlights, but I ended up installing blackout curtains because my neighbours' motion sensitive floodlights kept lighting up the bedrooms in my house randomly for 1-minute periods. Nothing's worse than repeated unexpected lighting changes.

    At least make sure your light is calibrated so it's not going off when it shouldn't, and that your light is positioned so it only floods the area the motion sensor senses.

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

    Try one of these, they are great for this kind of stuff. []

    I may look a tool wearing one, but since discovering it, i'll never turn back to handheld torches for poking around the garden.

    The energizer headlamp is also great in that it has spot, flood, spot & flood, and red light settings. So it's got you covered no matter what you're doing.

    I use mine all over the place; plus it'll entertain the kids for hours....

  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:29PM (#44363583)

    Depends on where you live. If you live in a high crime area (a thought that evades many posters as they live in comfy, safe communities) lighting around your home is a necessity. Though, most break ins that occur tend to be during the day time when people are at work, there are still some that occur at night. If you live in a community where break ins are rare or a non-issue then you don't need a blinding spotlight or use a properly tuned motion detector for when you arrive home at night.

    A few years ago my brother and I were bringing home a computer setup to my mother who lives in south Ozone Park, Queens, NY, a neighborhood that has gone downhill over the past 15 years. I was getting the last box from the car when I heard a commotion and my brother yelling. I ran and this guy was nervously explaining to my brother he entered our driveway gate to relieve himself when my brother walked in on him. I took my phone out to call the cops and they guy bolted. The problem, the alleyway light burnt out and it was pitch black. The guy did have a bag on him could have been cloths or burglar tools (hammer and screwdriver), who knows. Maybe he was just trying to take a leak, maybe he was trying to break in. Who knows but its scary to suddenly walk in on some strange person on your poorly lit property. Especially since most of these clowns carry guns and don't hesitate to use them. Point is light is a good deterrent at night in bad areas. People can't hide in the light. Its an unfortunate necessity. And to add to that this past weekend my mother tells me the neighbors house was broken into at night. The neighbor came home and surprised the guy who bolted out the back door which he broke into. Thankfully my mother presently has a big dog who makes a lot of noise.

    If you are concerned about security in a bad neighborhood then get a dog (larger breeds) or better yet two. Crack heads (the usual suspects, drug addicts) will immediately ignore a home with vicious sounding dogs barking up a storm. Well lit homes with barking dogs will be skipped. Even security cameras don't deter criminals.

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

    by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @04:13PM (#44364717)

    If you're turning on the lights, who cares about your night vision?

    Anyone with a tiny bit of common sense who is trying to get a description of the guy that was trying to break into their garage.

    With dark adapted eyes, I have a chance of doing that. After having been blasted by your 1000 watt searchlight, it's a lost cause as soon as the thief makes his way into a dark area, which common sense should tell you he will be doing very quickly.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong