Join Now

APA Utah News & Events

Smart Outdoor Lighting Tips

February 24, 2022 by admin

Preserving Starry Nights – A Pioneer Heritage Tradition


One measure of rural Utah’s quality of life is a clear night sky, glistening with thousands of stars and the Milky Way. In much of Garkane Energy’s service area, starry nights punctuated by the moon and planets are as visible today as when Pioneers began settling the area. It’s an enviable source of continuing natural wonder that has largely vanished across more populous regions of our country. As Utah cities and towns grow larger, wise outdoor lighting choices point the way to preserving this inspiring heritage for present and future generations.


Engineering of outdoor lighting is changing rapidly and can offer significant savings in kilowatt hours. Modern light fixtures provide abundant nighttime illumination while minimizing glare and wasted light, resulting in more efficient use electricity use and lower power bills. Let’s explore some of the ways this can be accomplished.


Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s) have brought a ten-fold increase in electrical efficiency to both indoor and outdoor lighting applications. Lamps are now widely available in warm colors (2,700- 3,000 degrees Kelvin) emitting a preferred, more pleasing spectrum of light which minimizes glare and scattering. Both are important for preserving the visibility of the stars. Avoiding blue light is desirable because blue wavelengths scatter more widely through the atmosphere than amber, yellow and warm white. This contributes to “sky glow” a phenomenon seen in cities where unshielded fixtures cast a whitish glow in the sky and stars are no longer visible.


On the spectrum of visible light, blue appears next to ultraviolet, where wavelengths transition from benign to harmful. Think of the effect of a sunburn when we expose our skin to the ultraviolet component of sunlight. A June 2016 American Medical Association (AMA) report recommends, “minimizing and controlling blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible.”


Another important contributor to sky glow and glare is the absence of shielding. Imagine looking at a  bare bulb, which immediately causes the pupil of the eye to contract, restricting light from entering, thus diminishing our ability to see at night. By contrast, when fixtures are shielded and mounted closer to the ground where light is needed, less power is consumed and better illumination occurs. For example, a neighbors’ enjoyment of their outdoor environment and the night sky can be affected by unshielded high intensity security lighting.


Here are several simple and readily available, low-cost ways to improve nighttime lighting around your home or business. Always choose warm color lamps and insist on shielded fixtures that aim the light downward where it’s needed most. Avoid overlighting because excess brightness increases glare but, according to research, does not increase nighttime safety! Light only where and when needed. This is easily achieved by installing motion sensors and timers to automatically turn lights out when not needed. To locate night sky friendly light fixtures visit the International Dark Sky Association website at


This article is a public service of the nonprofit Stellar Vista Observatory, based in Kanab, Utah, created to enhance appreciation for what we can see in Southern Utah’s starry night skies.

Visit www.stellarvistaobservatory.or

APA Utah is Powered by

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors