Photo by Benjamin Williamson
Q: What are “dark sky friendly” exterior fixtures?
A: Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Outdoor lamps are there to illuminate the darkness, helping us move around safely. But in so doing, many also allow light to escape into the night sky, a phenomenon known as light pollution that masks our view of the stars. In fact, an international group of scientists recently determined that the Milky Way is invisible to more than one-third of the world’s population, including nearly 80 percent of North Americans. Light pollution also contributes to energy waste, disrupts many ecological processes, particularly for nocturnal animals, and can have a negative impact on human health, interrupting sleep and causing headaches, stress, and anxiety.
In 2008, Bar Harbor — home to Acadia National Park, one of the most blissfully dark places on the eastern seaboard — passed an ordinance regulating outdoor lighting on all new construction in town. To comply, fixtures over 1,800 lumens must be “dark sky friendly” — i.e., have casings or canopies that shield the bulbs, preventing them from being seen from above. Other cities and towns, including Portland, have their own ordinance requirements for lighting; check with your municipality to find out what the rules are.
No matter where you live, I recommend choosing warm (no more than 3,000 Kelvin), dimmable LED downlights, like those described above, to curb light pollution, reduce glare, and create a soothing — versus blinding — outdoor environment. Remember also that you don’t need many fixtures to make an impact outside; learn about my less-is-more approach to landscape lighting here.
As for dark sky-compliant fixtures, these picks will adequately illuminate your home and yard and facilitate stargazing.
Cover Photo: On Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula, Down East’s director of photography, Benjamin Williamson, captured the Milky Way and bioluminescence in the water.
Decorative lighting includes Wall Sconces, Chandeliers, Flush Mounts, Semi-Flush Mounts and Pendants. The proper combinations of these five elements insure an interesting, attractive lighting design for any room. Using different elements of lighting is called layering. Many layers of light make the difference between an OK room and WOW room.
|Decorative Wall Sconce|
Wall Sconces placed midway on the wall can be used to balance overhead lighting and add a thoughtful dimension to your decor. The eye-level spread of light along a wall helps create an intimate ambiance in rooms and halls. As accent pieces, sconces can be used to flank architectural features, such as fireplaces and archways. In bedrooms sconces can be mounted on each side of the bed to serve as reading lights. While it is not necessary to match sconces to the style of overhead fixtures, keeping them within the same finish family will add continuity to the overall design. I actually like to combine modern and traditional styles in the same room to add a little pizzazz.
A sconce’s light source, not necessarily the back plate, should be mounted between 65″ – 68″ above the floor. Some sconces are linear and the back plate is either higher or lower than the actual light source. In these cases the electrical junction box must be located in the proper position on the wall to enable the light source to be at the proper height. Some scones have a narrow back plate and require a narrow junction box, called a switch box, rather than the junction boxes that most electricians routinely install. Please be sure to keep these facts in mind to avoid disappointment during the installation phase of your project.
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