Light Pollution

Light pollution from improper outdoor lighting wastes billions of dollars and vast quantities of natural resources annually. Starry Night Lights is committed to fighting light pollution and restoring our heritage of star-filled skies. We offer the widest selection of night sky friendly outdoor lighting for your home or business.

Light bulbs 101

Posted on September 11, 2010 by Noel

There are a lot of new lighting technologies to choose from these days, so ‘which one is the best one to choose’ you may ask? Hopefully, this article will help you make a more informed choice, depending on your needs.

Compact Fluorescent

Image source

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) represent a new process in which we produce light, albeit with significantly increased longevity and energy efficiency over traditional incandescent lamps. CFLs have been lauded for their remarkable features. Unfortunately, as with most new technology, it also has its problems. CFLs contain mercury, a rather harmful element to the environment if not properly recycled correctly. CFLs are meant to stay on, rather than switched on/off periodically. By doing so, you decrease the life cycle of the CFL drastically, thereby limiting CFLs in their application (especially active motion or motion sensing uses). CFLs usually take a minute to warm up to its peak luminance. Despite their shortcomings, CFLs are a good choice if you plan leaving it on constantly. Personally, I think we’ll see more development with LED lighting than CFLs.

Sodium-Vapor Lamps

Image source

High Pressure Sodium
Known as Sodium-Vapor Lamps, it comes in two flavors: High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Low Pressure Sodium (LPS). These lamps are typically used mostly in large-scale lighting infrastructures across the globe. HPS/LPS lamps are known as the infamous light polluters to Astronomers and dark sky enthusiasts and financial ‘vampires’ to governments and tax payers. HPS lamps experience ‘cycling,’ which occurs when there’s a loss of sodium in the arc. For example, a HPS Lamp can start a low voltage, but as temperature rises during operation, the internal gas pressure from within the arc tube increases and more additional voltage is required to maintain its lumen or its brightness.

Low Pressure Sodium
LPS is similar to HPS, but usually has a significantly lower wattage and does not exhibit drastic energy consumption than its heavier cousin. If Astronomers had to choose, they would most certainly prefer LPS to HPS lamps and rightfully so. In fact, LPS lamps do not decline in lumen output as they age, typically consume less energy and they have been compared to Fluorescent lamps due to their low–pressure nature. The problem is, from a construction point of view, that the larger the LPS lamp you create, the more design and engineering problems  increases dramatically. Though an efficient light, their construction issues and slight energy need (~10%) at their end-of-life cycle are costly to repair and maintain (similar to HPS).


Image source

Light-emitting-diode lamps represent the latest and greatest in lighting technologies. There are three options, the former two being presently not commercially available, organic light-emitting diodes, polymer light-emitting diodes and light-emitting diodes. These three are also known as Solid-state lighting, for they possess diodes, rather than electrical filaments, plasma (fluorescent lamps), or gas. As for the two former options, they’re quite amazing. Imagine super efficient bendable, paper thin light. We probably won’t see those two options commercially available for several years. As for Light-emitting-diode lamps, they’re similar, if not better, than fluorescent lamps. They contain no mercury, are easy to dispose of and also are quite easy to repair in large-scale applications (just replace the diode rather than the entire circuit). Of course, LEDs have their problems as well. The two big problems are its cost and its light output. As the process matures, LED prices should decrease significantly. As for light output, some studies suggest white LEDs produce light ‘too bright.’ While white LEDs are the easiest to make, other more difficult and colored LEDs correct that issue. Personally, I think this is the future of lighting and probably the best investment.

So there you have it. I hope this helps and of course, always research, research, research. That’s your power as a consumer. One last piece of advice:

Shield all your lighting, no matter what the application!

Without shielding, light still escapes into the heavens above.

Let there be night!

Energy Savings 101

Posted on September 4, 2010 by Noel

1. Turn off any unnecessary lights.

If no one is around to benefit from nearby lighting, then why use it?

2. Shield your light fixtures.

This is absolutely crucial to eliminate light pollution 100%. Without any shielding to direct the light downward, light escapes into the sky where no inanimate object nor living entity benefits. By shielding your lighting, you can concentrate the light downward and in most cases, use a lower wattage light bulb to illuminate the same amount. It’s a win win situation.

3. Replace energy inefficient light bulbs with more energy efficient light bulbs

High efficient light bulbs, such as LED and compact fluorescent, emit similar amounts of lumens as their inefficient ancestors, yet at a fraction of the energy cost. Again, it’s a win win situation.

4. Consider motion sensors to maximize energy savings.

Shielded lighting comes on when it’s needed the most: when motion is detected. Not only can you save an additional amount of energy, but you also have an increased chance of warding off an otherwise criminal action. Once again, it’s another win win situation.

The choice is simple: intelligent lighting would increase our quality of living worldwide; every person and living thing would benefit. It’s a simple solution to a simple problem, so let’s do something about it.

Let there be night!

Pittsburgh might install LED streetlights city-wide

Posted on January 20, 2010 by Noel

BRIGHT LIGHTS: Pittsburgh officials worry that a total switch to LED streetlights will make the streets too bright after dark. (Photo: caseywest/Flickr)


Admonished by University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, Pittsburgh, Penn., may replace its high-pressure sodium lights to light-emitting-diode (LED) lamps this upcoming summer. The University found that LED lamps rank substantially higher in longevity than high-pressure sodium lamps. In addition, LED lamps offer a more environmentally solution to lighting due to their higher watt per lumens ratio. Therefore, considering the overall lifespan of an LED lamp, the LED lamp is clearly the superior choice. The University estimated an annual savings of “$1 million annually in energy costs and $700,000 in maintenance fees” and a C02 emissions cut of approximately “6,818 metric tons per year,” if the city switched to LED lamps. Of course, three caveats emerge: blue tint, light pollution and poor heat dissipation.

First, the article states that concentrated light emitted from LED lamps manifests as a blue-tinted light. These concerns are partially true, although I find it prudent to crush these half-truths. It’s true, some LED lamps produce a blue tint. The concern with the blue tint lies in its colour wavelength it emits: blue is a from High-energy visible light (HEV). Most LED lamps are blue / white ‘cool’ LED lights calibrated to emit ‘white’ light – hence the blue tint. Presently, blue ‘cool’ LED lights rank the highest on the energy efficient scale. True ‘white’ warm LED lamps have been an obstacle to match the efficiency of ‘cool’ LED lights but significant strides have been made to make it a reality.

Second, the article states that that concentrated light emitted from LED lamps may produce light pollution. Following the Rayleigh scattering principle, the scattering of electromagnetic radiation by particles with dimensions much smaller than the wavelength of the radiation, resulting in angular separation of colors and responsible for the reddish color of sunset and the blue of the sky, light emitted by blue / white ‘cool’ LED lights would emit more light pollution due the shortened wavelength and higher frequency of blue on the ROYGBIV or electromagnetic spectrum. Scientifically, it’s absolutely correct. Although there is a way to drastically or eliminate light pollution all together: direct the light downward.

Third, the article states that that concentrated light emitted from LED lamps have poor heat dissipation. Poor heat dissipation is a ubiquitous fact for all high-pressure sodium lights; they waste energy and decrease the lifespan of the bulb. This once shortcoming for high-pressure sodium lights, has now become a laudable advantage. Why? An article back in December of last year mentioned how a town switched to Blue / White cool LED lamps for their traffic lights and found that the lamps can not melt snow due to its cool operating temperature. Fortunately, no drivers were harmed. Perhaps when warm LED lights can match the efficiency of cool LED lights, the public will see quite the contrary.

I’ll admit, LED has its limitations. It’s a burgeoning technology that offers tremendous energy savings and advantages over high-pressure sodium lights once the technology matures.

As of now, Pittsburgh, Penn., is one of the few nationwide cities that does not have a lighting code whatsoever.

“Several subcommittees of the Pittsburgh City Council will develop a better streetlight network and, as the city is one of the few nationwide without a lighting code, will propose a Pittsburgh lighting code. Once these analyses and codes are in place, the city will make a final decision regarding the switch. At any rate, Pittsburgh hopes the research study and task force studies will serve as “a standard tool for municipalities worldwide to evaluate streetlight technologies.” The city hopes to begin installation of new lights later this summer.”

At the very least, Pittsburgh will have a lighting code and given their concern for light pollution and safety, their heart is certainly in the right place.

Maine First State to Require Manufacturers to Collect and Recycle CFL Bulbs

Posted on July 8, 2009 by Noel


“CFLs are a fantastic, money-saving technology; with this bill we actually help prevent pollution twice: once by encouraging people to buy CFLs and know they can be safely recycled, and a second time by ensuring the bulb is efficient and can be safely recycled.” – State Representative and Majority Whip Seth Berry

On June 8th, Governor John Baldacci officially signed law LD973 into Maine. Law LD973 requires manufacturers of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) to create collection and recycling programs. These programs are necessary in order to safely dispose of CFL lighting fixtures:

“CFLs contain mercury, which is especially toxic to fetal and early childhood brain development, and requires them to be properly disposed or recycled. Without proper recycling, bulbs are typically incinerated or landfilled. CFLs are now the fastest growing source of mercury in our environment.”

When it comes to CFL lights, not all CFLs are created equal, for some contain more mercury than others. Hopefully with Maine’s new legislation, consumers will not only have more knowledge as to which CFL light bulbs contain more mercury than others but also make better informed decisions regarding the quality of a manufacturer’s product. Well done Maine!

Circadian Disruption Symposium

Posted on June 5, 2009 by Noel

June 4th, 2009 Special IDA Bulletin

“The symposium will provide the latest information regarding the known effects of light at night on circadian disruption and cancer, and may offer valuable information to city managers and planning officials who are considering updating their outdoor lighting plans. Please urge your city officials to attend this event or obtain copies of the proceedings.”

The International Dark-sky Association(IDA) proudly supports the New York Academy of Sciences and the Mushett Family Foundation Symposium on June 19th, 2009 regarding Circadian Disruption. Circadian Disruption is a disruption within living entities that operate roughly on a 24 hour biochemical, physiological and behavioral process cycle. In other words, Circadian Disruption is an alteration to the ‘internal human clock.’ With the advent of LED lighting as an alternative to compact fluorescent light bulbs, the Symposium will examine inquires and concerns regarding its fledgling technology. For instance, many LEDs manufactored today exhibit correlated colour temperature (CCT) well over 5500k. Natural Moonlight exhibits 4100k whereas highly pressured sodium lights i.e. common streetlight exhibits 2100k. As to wether LED’s CCT effects living entities, information regarding it remains unknown. Other topics will include the relationship between day and night as well as cancer studies from past and future. Registration begins promptly at 7:30 am and concludes around 7:30 – 8:00 pm.

Portland to Consider Lights-Out Proposal ; Streetlight Reductions Could Save Up to $225,000 a Year and Shrink the City’s Carbon Footprint, Officials Say.

Posted on March 30, 2009 by Noel


“Removing 10 percent of the light fixtures would save the city an estimated $100,000 a year; removing 25 percent of the fixtures would save as much as $225,000.”

The aforementioned quote exhibits Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky’s findings if Portland were to cut their carbon footprint. Overall, officials within Portland also hope to “reduce the wattage used by some streetlights; use photocell technology to turn off streetlights when they’re not needed; and eventually replace mercury vapor and high- pressure sodium lights with energy-saving light-emitting diode streetlights.” According to a city report, Portland spends $1.2 million a year to maintain 7,600 streetlights. Part of President Barack Obama administration stimulus package, Portland received the city has $684,700 in federal stimulus funds used for energy efficiency, whilst a portion of the money will be used for buying more-efficient lights.

“We should have done this a long time ago; become a part of a large national movement in which cities are trying to use lighting more efficiently in order to reduce energy usage and cut down on light pollution.”

Martha Sheils, Maine representative of the International Dark-Sky Association., agrees with City Councilor David Marshall’s stance on reducing energy usage and abolish light pollution by stating:

“The public is becoming more aware of the need to reduce light pollution; excessive lighting not only wastes money, but it also disorients migratory birds and makes it more difficult for people to see the night sky.”

ENERGY STAR Announces Sea Gull Lighting As Sustained Excellence Award Winner

Posted on March 10, 2009 by Noel

Sea Gull Lighting
Press Release March 9th, 2009 Source:
Honored with 2009 ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award

Riverside, New Jersey (March 9, 2009) – Sea Gull Lighting, the leading manufacturer of decorative and functional lighting, has been recognized with the ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award for the third consecutive year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The honor will be officially presented to the company in ceremonies to be held in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 2009.

A charter member of the ENERGY STAR program since 1992, Sea Gull Lighting currently markets more than 500 ENERGY STAR lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. As the industry leader in this category, the company has also been the proud recipient of ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year honors in 2004 and 2005 and now the Sustained Excellence Awards from 2007 – 2009.

Selected annually from more than 12,000 organizations participating in the ENERGY STAR program, Sustained Excellence Award winners are recognized annually for their continued commitment to produce innovative, energy-efficient products that reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Sea Gull Lighting’s ENERGY STAR qualified lighting also:

* Uses up to 75 percent less energy than traditional lighting products without sacrificing quality

* Generates 78 percent less heat than standard incandescent lighting, which can translate into cooler rooms during summer months and additional savings on utility costs for air conditioning

* Uses bulbs that last at least 10,000 hours compared to typical incandescent bulbs that last about 750 – 1000 hours Thus, ENERGY STAR qualified fixtures used for an average of three hours per day will not require bulb changes for at least eight years substantially reducing the nuisance of buying, stocking and changing new bulbs

* Includes a two-year manufacturer’s warranty

Government Action on Light Pollution

Posted on March 3, 2009 by Noel

In 2002, the government of Czech Republic made light pollution unlawful. The Czech Clean Air Act’s main provisions stipulate:

A. the rights and obligations of persons and the scope of
administrative authorities in the course of protection of the
outdoor air against input of pollutants by human activities and in
the course of manipulating the regulated substances which damage
the ozone layer of the Earth and manipulating the products
containing such substances,

B. conditions for further reduction of the amount of emitted
pollutants affecting adversely the life and health of people and
animals, the environment or the tangible property,

C. tools to reduce the amount of substances affecting the
climate system of the Earth,

D. measures for lowering the light pollution of the air.

Since 2002,  Italy and Slovenia have made similiar authoritative efforts to make light pollution unlawful. Most Italian regions have at least recognized light pollution as a scourge but few regions have no regulation. Given Slovenia’s population increase within the past fifteen years, the Milky Way Galaxy remains invisible to the naked eye. The law, created by a “coordination between the Environment Ministry of the Republic of Slovenia with the Government Office for Growth, numerous government departments, lighting experts and nature protectionists,” will decrease Slovenia’s energy consumption, decrease its light pollution, and decrease its impact on nocturnal creatures. In celebration of its new law, Slovenia hosted the 7th European Symposium for the Protection of the Night Sky.

Forget Compact Fluorescents… Just Turn Off The Lights

Posted on January 13, 2009 by Rob

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

I came across an interesting post the other day. It was a pretty sternly focused post on our environment. The gist of it was that we are rapidly destroying so many aspects of our planet, that we are rushing towards our own demise. Rather than applying bandaids to the planet, we needed to perform major surgery, and do so quickly. The author talked about how many of our tiny fixes for large problems just made us feel better about doing something, even though our efforts would accomplish only slightly more than doing nothing. One comment that stuck in my mind (as an eco-friendly lighting provider) was the following “forget compact fluorescents, just turn off the lights”. I had to think about this for a while to see where this was going. I came up with the following take on this comment. If you’re using too much of something, perhaps just using it more efficiently is simply not enough. Perhaps you need to do both? ie, use less and what you use, use more efficiently. Perhaps we can’t go on leading our lives like nothing was going wrong? Perhaps we will ultimately need to change our own habits? I know this thought scares many people. So much so, that they actually feel compelled to disparage the environmental movement. I know I have made many ‘green’ changes in my lifestyle over the last several years. We recycle almost everything, use far less water, drive less, etc. There is, however, one change that frightens me so much, that I just look the other way and pretend I’m completely unaware of it… going vegan. I know that it takes 10x as many resources to produce a pound of beef as it does a pound of grain. However, meat consumption is so ingrainded in our lives, that the thought of such a drastic change is nearly impossible to take seriously.
Ok, so I’m not suggesting that you give up your favorite foods and live in the dark. However, I would suggest that each of us could take some time to periodically review our own actions. In many cases, there are more efficient and environmentally friendly things that we can do to improve conditions on our planet without making drastic sacrifices. Lighting, for example is one area where major savings can be achieved without much difficulty. First off, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs is a simple and effective change. No pain involved, just instant energy savings. Next up, how about installing motion sensors to control your outdoor lighting? This is another way to have as much light outdoors as is required, but only using it when and if necessary.  Full cut-off, down light only fixtures are another. What is gained by shining light up into the night sky and contributing to light pollution? Or into the neighbor’s windows? Not much in a positive sense. There are many places where immprovements can be made. How many others can you come up with?

How To Slash Your Outdoor Lighting Costs Up 99%

Posted on October 15, 2008 by Rob

I don’t need to tell you how expensive lighting can be. Anybody who receives a monthly utility bill is well aware of the rising costs associated with it. Outdoor lighting is often a sizable portion of the bill. Would you be interested in learning how to cut the costs associated with your outdoor lights? Significantly? Say, as much as 99%? I thought that would grab your attention. Read on for some simple steps you can take to immediately start slashing your outdoor lighting costs. Note: **A number of these ideas are applicable to interior lighting as well… allowing for further savings.

Wasteful LightingThe first thing to understand is how money can be wasted on outdoor lighting. This will give you a better picture of how to plug the gaps and close the costs. Many fixtures provide very little control over the light they produce. These fixtures typically are constructed with a significant amount of glass. This allows light to shine through in many (often unnecessary) directions. For example, there is little benefit in allowing light to shine up into the night sky. This results in light pollution and a significant degradation of views of the night sky. By choosing a full cutoff outdoor light fixtures that aims light down on the ground (where we walk and drive), we can reduce the amount of light generated (and energy consumed) by as much as 50%. How? Well, since we just switched to full cutoff/down light only fixtures, we are now putting all the light that we produce on the ground. As half of the light used to be going into the neighbors yard or the night sky, we now have much more light on the ground for the same amount of electricity consumed, we now have the opportunity to reduce the wattage of the light bulbs used by up to 50%. This is a biggie, that’ll have an immediate payoff on all subsequent utility bills.

Our next idea takes advantage of the wonderful versatility of the human eye. Our eyes are quite capable of seeing in low light levels. As such, many homeowners and business owners find that their current lighting levels are excessive. One only need drive to a nearby shopping area or gas station to see examples of this kind of excess. For home lighting, do you really need to use 100 watt light bulbs? I’ll bet if you switched to 75 watts, you’d find that you could still see quite well. Whatever your current light level is, try the next lower level. In many cases, visibility is not hampered by slightly less ground illumination. This claim is bolstered by the reduced glare from your earlier switch to full cutoff / down light only exterior fixtures.

Compact Fluorescent Light BulbThe next steps, take advantage of some of the newer technologies that have recently hit the market. Compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs use considerably less energy than their older incandescent counterparts. In many cases, you can save as much as 75% of electric consumption with no drop in lumen levels. The cost of LED light bulbs has dropped significantly in recent years and is expected to drop further as product volumes increase. LED’s, because of their directional nature, are an ideal for use in recessed lights and downlight wall sconces. LED’s have an added benefit of long life, so you can pretty much install them and forget about them. Many are rated for 50,000 to 100,000 hours of use, so, we’re talking years, if not decades before they’re expected to fail. Compact fluorescent light bulbs or CF bulbs also use far less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs. The also have a significantly longer life than incandescents (though nowhere near as long as LED’s).

Motion SensorThe final idea is actually my favorite. Install motion sensors to control the operation of your home lights. Think about this for a moment. A photocell (used on many homes and businesses), turns lights on as light levels drop (at dusk) and then turns them off again when light levels rise (at dawn). Dusk to dawn operation means that your lights will be turned on an average of 12 hours each day. Considering that there is nobody outside of your house for most of this time, doesn’t this seem just a bit excessive and wasteful? Well, it is. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your lights off most of the time and simply have them turn on automatically whenever somebody was outside? Well, you can. The technology isn’t exactly new, but then again, it isn’t exactly the most prevelant either. Motion Sensors can do just this. Motion sensors use a miniscule amount of energy to scan for activity outside your home of business. When activity is detected, the lights are turned simply turned on. So, you go from almost zero electric consumption to full operation in the blink of an eye. Now, as visitors approach or leave your home, all your lights are on… directing light where needed. What a concept, huh? Motion sensors also address another issue commonly associated with outdoor lighting, security. Many people feel that they need to keep their outdoor lights on all not long in order to keep intruders away. While there has never been any significant studies done to validate this assumption, many people assume that outdoor lights will (somehow) make them safer. We won’t go into any attempt to debunk this commonly held belief. Interested readers can Dr. Barry Clark’s call for Mandatory Outdoor Lighting Limits. Anyway, just remember that most crime happens during the day, when the brightest light of them all, our Sun is fully illuminated. So, if the Sun can’t prevent crime, neither can your lights. So, can we use lighting to protect ourselves? Certainly. And, here is where motion sensors can lend yet another helping hand. Outdoor lights that are on from dusk to dawn are ignored by your neighbors. They simply pull down the curtains to keep intrusive lighting out. Because of this, you’re basically preventing your neighbors from seeing any activity taking place outside your home. On the other hand, if you had motion sensors installed, and your light suddently turned on at 2 o’clock in the morning, anyone in the area who was awake would have the ability to notice this. This would have the effect of sending a shock through a would intruders system. They’d have no way of knowing who had just noticed their arrival. They’d have to assume, that their presence had been (or would soon be) detected. As such, if lighting is to be used as a security measure, motion sensor controlled lighting would be the most effective means to employ it.

So, there you have it. A number of ways to save money on your utility bills. A number of ways to reduce electric consumption (and associated green house gas emissions). A number of ways to preserve the night sky and night time environment. Wouldn’t it be nice if other forms of pollution were as easy to address as light pollution? Wouldn’t it be nice if addressing other problems actually were so cost effective? Many, unfortunately are not. Addressing wasteful outdoor lighting is pretty painless, pretty inexpensive, and actually pays for itself in reduced electric bills in a fairly short time.


Top Sellers

the original dark sky friendly light.
Justice Design GroupWall Sconces
from Justice Design Group and AmeriTec Lighting
Wall LanternsWall Mounts
SPJ copper or brass exterior wall mounts

New Items

Quoizel LightingTable Lamps
for any style home
Kenroy HomeCeiling Lights
Brighten any area