Illuminating Problems: Ways to address glare and energy waste in roadway lightingBy Sarah 2014/9/10
If you don’t like driving at night because of the glare of streetlights, you are not alone. The light fixtures that illuminate our roads are the largest source of light pollution in North America, resulting in energy waste and ineffective lighting.Light pollution is caused by the overuse or misplacement of lighting sources. In the U.S., it is most severe in densely populated areas, but even small amounts of light can create problems if it is not directed properly. Streetlights that illuminate light upwards contribute to the “sky glow” phenomenon. This occurs when light is emitted from unshielded light and refracts off of moisture and particulates in the air. The result is a haze of light that produces glare for drivers and often finds its way into homes.According to studies done by Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, “This light intrusion, even if dim, is likely to have measurable effects on sleep disruption and melatonin suppression, particularly in those whose bedrooms might be in close proximity to streetlights. Intrusive street lighting, as well as wasting money and energy, is likely to have an adverse effect on human health, effects which are entirely avoidable with better planning of urban lighting fixtures.”An organization working to reduce road lighting’s negative effects is the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), which publishes standards for the lighting industry. IESNA’s rules about lighting are not entirely set in stone. Because there are so many relevant factors to consider when lighting a roadway—traffic and pedestrians, urban or rural setting, local ordinances and design criteria—recommendations in some cases are arbitrary. One commonality seen in all road lighting that follows IESNA’s standards is the use of shielded fixtures. These are lights set within the fixtures, so it is contained and directed at the street, rather an upwards or sideways into a home. Cobra-headed LED lights, like those found in Greenshine’s Supera Series, not only use electricity efficiently, their design ensures that the light they produce illuminates efficiently.When installing or retrofitting streetlights, it is important to consider what is supposed to be illuminated. It may seem like a silly question at first, but more light is not always the answer. The ineffective deployment of lighting can negatively affect the health and safety of the people they are meant to help.
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