Stopping Light From Trespassing Into Your Home
- A neighbors floodlight shining into your bedroom,
- Gas stations waging a brightest-lights competition to attract customers, or
- Glare from city lights obscuring our view of the stars.
COMMON LIGHT TRESPASS SOLUTIONSLight trespass usually results from a poorly shielded, high-wattage light being directed towards a home. The impact can frequently be resolved by:
- Pointing the light downward,
- Putting the light on a motion sensor or timer,
- Replacing it with a light fixture that is:
- Fully shielded as illustrated below,
- Of lower wattage (lumens),
- Compact fluorescent or high pressure sodium, and
- Reducing the height of the fixture.
TIPS FOR STOPPING LIGHT TRESPASSCEDS has been helping people eliminate light trespass and other nuisances for more then three decades. Following is the approach we’ve found to be most effective. The approach works with glare coming from a neighbor, a gas station, a truck stop, or even a highway. And the best part is you can pursue this approach on your own without having to hire CEDS or other professionals. In the following paragraphs the person(s), business or agency causing light trespass is referred to as the responsible party. In addition to these tips, check out the great advice offered by the International Dark Sky Association on their webpage My Neighbor’s Lighting.
Talk with the Responsible PartyYour first step should always be direct contact with those you believe to be causing light trespass into your home – the responsible party. Usually the responsible party is obvious: a neighbor, a small business owner, a truck stop, etc. If the light is coming from larger businesses, a government agency, etc. then it’s usually best to first go right to the top – the business owner-manager or agency director. Frequently, its the folks at the top who are most sensitive to the negative publicity that comes with causing harm to the public. These are the folks who also have the greatest authority to resolve the issue. Getting to these CEOs can be difficult, but it’s worth a try since you’ll usually end up speaking with someone higher up in the organization.
Be Reasonable & PositiveWhen approaching the responsible party present your concerns along the following positive, nonthreatening lines…
“Hi. I’ve been having trouble sleeping because of a glaring light that shines into my home at night. I believe the light may be coming from your property (business). If this is correct then I’d like to see if there’s a way the light can be modified so it doesn’t disturb my family and me.”
Don’t Insist on Just One SolutionThere are usually several ways to resolve light trespass. Occasionally folks get wedded to the first solution they think of and resist any other approach. Don’t make this mistake. Instead remain open to all solutions as you work with the responsible party to find that which works best for both of you.
Will a Solution Stop Light Trespass?If a light trespass solution is proposed then do some research to verify effectiveness. One of the best ways to verify effectiveness is to talk to those living near locations where: 1) residents were plagued by a similar light trespass source and 2) the solution was applied. Those proposing a solution should be able to provide a list of these locations. Visiting these locations several times will give you an indication of how well light trespass has been suppressed. If you suspect the light trespass may be intermittent then try talking to those living nearby. After explaining that you are suffering from the same nuisance most residents will freely share their perception of how well the solution has worked. If you have difficulty reaching the residents then CEDS can assist you with other approaches that have worked in difficult situations. To discuss how CEDS can help contact us at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
File A ComplaintIf the reasonable first approach doesn’t work, then placing a call to the local police can be your first action. A number of towns, cities and counties have ordinances prohibiting lights that cause glare into homes. In many cases a local police department is the agency that first responds to a light trespass complaint. You can also try your local zoning or code-enforcement agency. You can usually find these agencies through an online search using keywords like:
- the name of your town, city or county, and
- zoning enforcement, or
- code enforcement, or
- lighting, glare, or light trespass complaint.
Seek Help from Local Elected OfficialsYour local elected officials, like a county, city or town council member, can get things done far more easily then most of us. Savvy elected officials know that responding to voter concerns is key to winning future elections. They have influence with agencies like zoning-code enforcement that can accelerate resolution. So, if you are dissatisfied with the action taken on your complaint then contact the local elected official(s) who represent you. You can usually find your local elected representative through an online search using keywords like:
- the name of your town, city or county, and
- town council or board, or
- city council, or
- county council, supervisors or commissioners,
There’s Strength in NumbersGenerally, the more people who support your position, the more likely a successful outcome. If your initial efforts to work with the responsible party and your local elected officials fail, then explore opportunities to increase the number of people who join with you in calling for action. For example, does the light disturb others in your neighborhood? If yes then consider options, like the following, that show it’s not just you who want the light trespass stopped:
- Send a letter signed by you and others to the responsible party and/or elected official. In the letter describe the source of the light, how the light impacts all of you, and call for action,
- Invite an elected official or responsible party over one evening to view the light at issue and to meet with a number of your neighbors, and/or
- See if you can get a local newspaper, radio-TV station or other media to cover the issue.
Give CEDS a CallIf the preceding actions fail to halt the light trespass then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. We’ll be delighted to spend a few minutes discussing options you may not have pursued. There will not be any charge for this brief initial discussion. And if we can’t nix the nuisance with this no-cost service, we can usually get it for fixed for a fee as low as $300 to $500.
CEDS Good Attorneys NetworkThough it is seldom needed, there are occasions when the preceding tips fail to halt light trespass. An option of last resort is to retain an attorney to take actions such as:
- Sending the responsible party a lawyer-letter threating legal action, or
- Pursuing a nuisance action against the responsible party.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF LIGHT TRESPASSLight trespass can be more than a nuisance. It can disrupt our sleep, affect our health, and rob us of the joys of the night sky. It also affects wildlife and other natural communities.
Human HealthThe International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Human Health webpage, noted that…
“Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.”and…
“Like most life on Earth, humans adhere to a circadian rhythm — our biological clock — a sleep-wake pattern governed by the day-night cycle. Artificial light at night can disrupt that cycle. Our bodies produce the hormone melatonin in response to circadian rhythm. Melatonin helps keep us healthy. It has antioxidant properties, induces sleep, boosts the immune system, lowers cholesterol, and helps the functioning of the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes and adrenal glands. Nighttime exposure to artificial light suppresses melatonin production.”
WildlifeThe adverse effects of light pollution are not restricted to humans, but affects wildlife too. The following appeared in the National Geographic article Light Pollution…
“Studies show that light pollution is also impacting animal behaviors, such as migration patterns, wake-sleep habits, and habitat formation. Because of light pollution, sea turtles and birds guided by moonlight during migration get confused, lose their way, and often die. Large numbers of insects, a primary food source for birds and other animals, are drawn to artificial lights and are instantly killed upon contact with light sources. Birds are also affected by this, and many cities have adopted a “Lights Out” program to turn off building lights during bird migration.”
The Night SkyThe International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Light Pollution webpage noted the following losses we’ve all suffered…
“Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky. Now, millions of children across the globe will never experience the Milky Way where they live.”
“According to the 2016 groundbreaking “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness,” 80 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. In the United States and Europe 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural night!”A recent Space.com article, Light pollution damaging views of space for majority of large observatories, survey finds, noted that…
“The team found that only seven of 28 major observatories, defined as a facility with a telescope of a diameter of 10 feet (3 meters) or more, had a zenith brightness with light below the expected natural sky brightness threshold of 1%. The researchers considered anything above this threshold “contaminated” and anything below it “uncontaminated,” so only seven major sites were considered contaminated by no more than the natural level of sky brightness.”