When you are planning on lighting for your outdoor spaces, there are a lot of things that you need to think about. Normally, you will prioritize things like how the lighting appears and how energy efficient it is, and for this, the obvious choice is to use modern LED lighting. LED lighting is low maintenance, cheaper to run and better for the environment. It can also be used to create everything from bright floodlighting to stylish colored lighting effects in outdoor fittings. However, one important aspect of outdoor lighting design that may not be so obvious during your planning stage is how your new lights will affect your neighbours.
Light trespass is a real thing and can even enable your neighbors to make formal complaints and force you to take down or stop using your lighting. Even if they do not complain, it isn’t great to think that the things you have done to make your home look better or feel more secure are having a negative impact on the people around you. It really is a good idea to understand about what light trespass is and how to avoid it before you put in place designs for a new lighting installation on the outside of your home. Unless you live far from other homes, you should make this a priority.
What Exactly Is Light Trespass?
Light trespass is something that can be relevant to both domestic and commercial premises and usually refers to illumination from one property lighting up areas outside of its perimeter – something known as ‘light spill’. Glare from lights or lights shining into the windows of other properties would also be light trespass.
The majority of light trespass complaints are toward commercial businesses, especially where they are open at night and in residential areas, for example gas stations, convenience stores and bars. However, residential property owners can also be responsible for light trespass, and this is something that is actually fairly easy to avoid if you design your lighting carefully and know what you should be taking into account. You can find more detailed information about the nature of light trespass and the best ways to avoid it in this article https://www.voltlighting.com/article-your-neighbors-and-outdoor-lighting/p/article-neighbors-lighting.
The Importance of Light Fitting Angles and Guards
When it comes to preventing any potential light trespass, the most important factors are the angles of the light, how the light source is guarded to keep light from ‘leaking’ out from its intended beam, and brightness.
You will naturally also care about these things as they will affect how well your light set-up achieves the look or effect you were going for, so making sure your design doesn’t make light trespass an issue shouldn’t really add any extra hassle to designing your lighting – it is just something to be aware of and to test for.
Angles should avoid light making its way outside the boundaries of your property or creating glare from any normal viewing angles. The best way to avoid glare is for the light source itself to be hidden, so you only see the effects of the light when looking at or approaching your home, rather than the bulbs themselves.
Guards and reflectors can be a great tactic for stopping light spill. You can use guards to make sure light doesn’t come from the sides or top of your light source, so only the focused light beam that you want is created when the light is turned on.
You can also consider buying ‘dark sky friendly’ lights. These are lights that have been created to focus light down toward the ground, where it is actually needed, and not to create additional light around them. They get their name from the fact that if all lights were designed in this way, the light pollution that stops people in highly populated areas from being able to see the stars on a clear night because the sky isn’t dark enough would be less of a problem. Certainly, just having these on your house won’t make stargazing any easier for the people in your area, but it may help against light trespass!
With LED lights, intense levels of brightness can be achieved with far less power than with older styles of lighting, however this doesn’t mean it’s a case of ‘the brighter the better’. Overly bright lights can be a major cause of light trespass, and extremely bright floodlights should only be used when you can be sure, by checking the area around your home, that there is a set-up you can use that won’t cause light to spill onto neighboring properties. Most domestic places don’t need floodlighting at that kind of intensity anyway – if you just want to be able to see to make use of your outdoor spaces when it is dark for socializing or relaxing, or you want a security light that will show you if anyone is approaching your home, stadium style floodlighting would be overkill.
When choosing brightness, think about what you want to use the lights for, and go with the minimum brightness that will comfortably allow for that. If you want lighting mainly for a cosmetic effect, subtle, dimmer lights that give your home a glow or even add some color can be easy to achieve without brightness or glare that will affect your neighbors. For security lighting, make sure the areas you need covered are covered well enough for you to see what is going on outside or for it to be picked up by your security cameras, but not so bright that it will wake up everybody in your street if a wild animal gets into your yard!
These are all good things to consider when adding new, permanent lighting to the external areas of your property, but what about when you are putting up lights that are more temporary? Some people put up particularly bold Christmas lights, for example, or put out more lighting in the summer when they want to entertain outside of their homes. In general, people tend to be more tolerant about lighting that is temporary or very occasional, however do be aware that some effects, for instance flashing holiday lights, can be quite annoying if they shine in through someone’s window. It may be best to limit the use of flashing and chasing effects to the early evening and then have the lights either on or off the rest of the time.
If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, you can of course simply check with them that they are OK with your temporary lighting plans, or if you live in a neighborhood where people tend to go all out with holiday decorations, it shouldn’t be a problem. However, every location and set of neighbors is different, so if you aren’t sure, always be as considerate as possible without spoiling your plans.
As you can see, light trespass is something that can be easy to forget about when you are excited about making your home look great with new lighting, but which can save you a lot of animosity and hassle if you consider it in your light fitting designs.