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Light Pollution: Over Illumination and Energy Efficiency

Over illumination is huge problem.

Its effects on people and the environment aside, the energy consumption of wasted light is enormous. In an age when concern of the cost of fuel and energy is growing, small and subtle solutions such as reducing excess light seem to be ridiculously simple. Yet because these solutions amount to such small changes, reducing over illumination is something that is commonly overlooked. In the simplest language possible, over illumination is simply excessive lighting of a particular area. The standard by what excessive is measured varies, but usually comes to down to need. If the lighting needs of are much less than what is actually applied, its a classic case of over illumination. This is problem everywhere, from parking lots to backyards. Industrialized nations are the main culprits of wasting energy on unnecessary lights. The effects of over illumination also happen to be visible with the naked eye. Sky glow, the main side effect of over illumination, is the strange glowing of the night sky over an urban area. However, sky glow extends well beyond the physical boundary of a given city. Illumination from a city can be scattered over 100 km from its origin by natural properties of the atmosphere. The continents of Europe and North America are so over illuminated, that one would have to travel to the far north reaches of the both continents to see a sky unobscured by an over illuminated glow. Worldwide the amount of unused light equates to a significant percentage of global energy consumption. The exact figures for which vary greatly, but the fact remains that a great deal of energy is wasted. This should come as no surprise to many, after all a sizable number of homeowners have thus far balked at the purchase of energy efficient compact fluorescents, choosing cheaper incandescent lights that consume four to five times the electricity instead. Although extra lighting seems like a simple excess, and certainly is one that little attention is paid to, the cost of over illumination is staggering. The energy consumed by unnecessary light amounts to roughly 30 to 50 percent of lighting costs in public buildings. Commercial real estate managers have become increasingly aware of the need to reduce over illumination. In many commercial lease agreements, the property manager and not the tenant are responsible for the cost of certain types of lighting, especially security lights. However, as the cost of electricity rises, this type of agreement has begun to cut into the profits of property managers. At home the wasted energy varies by the vigilance of the home owner, but needless to say, some households are better than others at mitigating their use of lighting. Commercial properties offer a very good lesson for homeowners. Reducing excess lighting can dramatically reduce the annual cost of electricity and help relieve the burden of rising fuel costs. A good way to reduce any home's electricity bill is to replace any incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs. Those building new homes or remodeling should consider energy efficient products when making their fixture selection. Energy Star compliant lighting is the best place to start. Many manufacturers provide a wide range of very well made products which combine form and function while still delivering energy efficiency. Hubbardton Forge provides a wide range of products both indoor and outdoor. Likewise, Kichler has a full line of Energy Star products. Murray Feiss and Hinkley have a wide selection of attractive outdoor energy efficient fixtures.