How Can We Protect the Night Sky?

You have probably moved to Custer County because of the beautiful environment–including the dark skies! The citizens here would like to preserve this environment. To that and Dark Skies (a Wet Mountain Valley volunteer organization) would like to inform you of the various issues concerning outdoor lighting to be considered when building or adding onto your home or place of business.

Good lighting does its intended job well and with minimum adverse impact to the environment. One way to accomplish good lighting is to use “fully shielded” lights, where no light is emitted above the horizontal. Shielding lights controls which areas are illuminated and prevents unnecessary light escaping upwards. But some modern lighting systems illuminate areas to a level 100 times as bright as the full moon! Too bright an area on the ground can cause Glare where people or objects in the shadows become invisible.

Careful positioning of light fixtures will also maximize the effectiveness of the illumination. Fixtures should be positioned to give adequate uniformity of the illuminated area. A few bright fixtures (or ones that are too low to the ground) can often create bright “hot spots” that make the areas in between seem dark. Even well shielded fixtures placed on tall poles on a property boundary can cast a lot of light onto neighboring properties. This “light trespass” greatly reduces and invades privacy and is difficult to resolve after the installation is complete.

In order to reduce both operating costs and save energy, use high efficiency lights such as LEDs with a color temperature of 2,700k – 3,000K, which will create a natural warm tone. Placing lights on timers so they are functioning only when necessary is also a helpful alternative to the electric eye type fixtures which are on continuously from dark to dawn, or use motion detectors on the security lights.

Good lighting means that we save energy and money, and we avoid hassles. A quality lighting job makes a “good neighbor”… and we all have a safer and more secure nighttime environment. Always remember that lighting should benefit people. Controlled, effective, efficient lighting at a home or business will enhance the beauty, while providing visibility, safety, and security. Then we ALL can continue to look up and see the Milky Way!!