How to choose lighting that lets the stars shine

Who doesn’t love gazing up at a beautiful starlit sky?

It is one of nature’s wonders that we should all be keen to protect - and by choosing your outdoor lighting with care, you can make sure you do just that.

Outdoor lighting is essential for working, relaxing and staying safe during the hours of darkness. But it’s important to make sure it doesn’t cause light pollution by being too bright, poorly shielded or badly directed.

Why is it important to avoid light pollution?

Allowing artificial light to spill into the night sky instead of focusing it on the objects or areas which need it leads to a waste of energy. Not only will your energy bills be higher than they should be, but you will also be sending more CO2 into the atmosphere, which is harmful for the environment.

Creating too much light outside bedroom windows can disrupt people around you from trying to sleep, which can adversely impact their health and wellbeing. It can also disrupt the feeding habits of nocturnal creatures – bats being the most obvious example – upsetting their natural habitats.

The good news is that you can achieve the right balance of light and darkness if you simply follow our five Dark Sky Design principles when planning your project.

Dark Sky Design principles

Take the following five points into consideration when planning your lighting project and you will help to protect our stunning night skies:

  1. Do I need it?
    First, ask yourself whether lighting is actually required in the area. If it is, then make sure every fitting has a clear purpose and benefit. Think about how the fitting will impact the area around it, not forgetting to take local wildlife into account.

  2. Make it targeted
    Lighting should illuminate only the area needed and not impact on neighbouring spaces, so spend time getting the directional flow of light right.

  3. Keep it low
    Fittings should provide only the essential level of illuminance and nothing more. Aim to avoid brightening the darkness above with ‘sky glow’ by selecting fittings specifically designed to keep glare to a minimum. Also take into account that some ground surfaces might reflect more light into the sky than intended.

  4. Take control
    Choose a controllable smart lighting system to ensure your lights are only switched on when absolutely necessary. Features such as dimmers, selectable colour temperatures and different power function options can be set to optimise colour, performance and energy use.

  5. Choose the right colour
    The correlated colour temperature (CCT) of the bulbs or fixtures you choose is hugely important in reducing light pollution. The CCT tells you how warm or cool the light it emits is. It is measured in Kelvins (K) so look out for this rating when choosing your lights. To keep light pollution to a minimum, choose those with a lower CCT of 3000K or less, which will produce a subtle, warmer light with more orange and yellow in it, in keeping with darker hours. Avoid lamps with a higher CCT, which produce a cooler, brighter, blueish white.

Unnecessary light pollution can have a negative impact in any type of environment, whether that is a built-up urban area or a more remote countryside retreat.

But with a just a little consideration you can create a nighttime lighting installation that is not only attractive and kind to your wallet, but which is also kind to the people and wildlife creatures around you and, ultimately, the planet.