…continuedYour Home Lighting Guide
Residential outdoor lighting has far to go. We would all like to see retail shelves stocked with full-cutoff, energy-efficient lighting fixtures. But this change must come on all fronts — from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers alike.
Sadly, some manufacturers still have little appreciation for the many benefits of dark-sky-friendly fixtures. When contacted by Sky & Telescope about “full-cutoff” or “glare-free” lighting, many company representatives had no idea what we were referring to — some even believed that we wanted their potent dusk-to-dawn lights. Home lighting, it seems, is rarely designed to the exacting photometric specifications that are the standard for commercial lighting; most residential fixtures just hold a bulb.
There are exceptions, of course. The Regent brand (now owned by Cooper Lighting) now includes a few “neighbor-friendly” and “dark-sky lighting” products. Heath Zenith was the most helpful manufacturer in tracking down which dark-sky options they did offer. And resourceful amateur astronomers like Bob Crelin and David Oesper have come forward to fill an obvious need.
The key with retailers, it seems, is to make your preferences known. On the floor of one Home Depot store, a sales associate noted that frequent demands for a certain product can convince the regional buyer to purchase and stock the requested items. Retailers are willing to change, and residential lighting will improve if consumers insist on low-glare lights. Only then will both the retailers and the manufacturers respond.
Fortunately, the consumer-lighting industry is beginning to get the message. “We’re trying to focus more attention on dark-sky issues,” notes Rebecca Rainer, a marketing manager at Cooper Lighting who works on new-product development. (Cooper’s Regent and Lumark lines are sold extensively at major home-improvement stores.) She says retailers are now pushing for a product line that includes full-cutoff fixtures — especially in areas of the U.S. where light pollution has become a topic of discussion and legislation. According to Blake Aldridge, marketing manager for DESA International’s Heath Zenith products, motion-sensor fixtures now dominate the sales of security lighting for homeowner use. “It’s a more intelligent choice,” Aldridge says.
But reversing the tide will be a slow process. Consumers are still drawn to the lowest cost, which all too often translates into strong, glary lights with little or no shielding. Now that compact-fluorescent bulbs are gaining widespread acceptance as an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent sources, they are beginning to see use in outdoor fixtures. Unfortunately, these bulbs do not handle rough weather or cold temperatures well. Rainer says that a new lighting product, once approved, can take anywhere from one to two years to design, produce, and distribute. That said, both Cooper and Heath Zenith plan to introduce new low-glare fixtures for homes. Watch for them at a store near you!