Ideas & Advice > What is Dark Sky Compliant Outdoor Lighting

What is Dark Sky Compliant Outdoor Lighting? And How Does it Impact Our Environment?

There are many things to consider when selecting landscape lighting for your home. Which types of light fixtures do you need? What is the best aesthetic to coordinate with your home? Another question to add to the list: Is the fixture dark-sky compliant? Wondering what that means? Read on to find out more.

What is Dark-Sky Compliance?

In the process of shopping for landscape lighting, have you come across the term, “dark-sky compliant” in reference to a fixture and wondered what that meant? These types of fixtures focus on downlighting and are designed to minimize glare, avoiding unnecessary light trespass beyond where it is needed. Light trespass can not only affect your neighbors but also disrupt natural patterns for wildlife.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) advocates for outdoor lighting that avoids contributing to light pollution and works to educate lighting designers and manufacturers on the topic. IDA established a third-party verification, the Fixture Seal of Approval, for outdoor luminaries. As you shop for landscape lighting for your home, look for fixtures that are in compliance or have features that avoid unnecessary light pollution.

Why is Dark-Sky Compliance Important

Many states have adopted outdoor lighting ordinances, and for several good reasons. Light pollution can disrupt ecosystems by disorienting migrating birds and causing them to collide with buildings and other structures. Similarly excess light can affect bats as they hunt for insects, which tend to congregate around bright lights.

Excess light also affects people, disrupting our circadian rhythms and reducing sleep quality. As if all of these disruptions were not enough, light pollution also wastes energy, which is not only expensive but also negatively impacts the environment. As you can see, there are many reasons why it is important to avoid using more outdoor light than needed, and to make sure the lighting used is focused in the right places without disrupting wildlife or other people.

What is the Bug Rating System and Why is it Important?

No, the term “BUG Rating” doesn’t have anything to do with how many insects will swarm around your light fixtures. Instead, it’s an acronym for Backlight, Uplight and Glare, which was coined by IDA and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). A luminaire’s BUG rating relates to how much light trespass it produces. To help you select the right fixtures for your home’s landscaping, check the IDA’s light zones to determine the acceptable lighting levels for your area and choose fixtures with BUG ratings that correspond. The lower the BUG rating, the lower the potential for light trespass. Most manufacturers can provide a photometric analysis for each fixture.

What Outdoor Lighting Fixtures are Dark-Sky Compliant?

The best types of dark-sky compliant fixtures are “full cutoff,” which means they are designed to shield the light source and cast light downward rather than up into the sky. These downlighting fixtures can range from partial to full cut-off, and come in a variety of forms: path lights, bollards and downward sconces, to name a few. Path lights and bollards are generally used to guide the way along a driveway or path, so keeping the light focused on the terrain is ideal. Outdoor wall lights are often used to highlight architectural features or more commonly flank a front entrance. While many designs cast light up or outward, opt for fixtures that primarily cast light down to avoid unnecessary light pollution.

Now that you understand the importance of dark-sky compliant lighting and avoiding unnecessary light trespass, keep these points in mind as you shop for landscape lighting for your home. Dark-sky outdoor lights can meet all of your outdoor lighting needs without causing harm to wildlife, neighbors or the environment as a whole.


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