How To Turn A Corner With LED Strip Lights

LED strip lights are becoming the go to solution for many lighting projects. Strip lights are versatile and easy to install, put out a lot of light, are inexpensive to purchase and operate, and have a long life expectancy. Strip lighting is available in 120 volt or low voltage 12 volt. If you haven’t used LED strip lights before, you can find out more information here: What Are LED Strip Lights? Strip lights work great for many projects, but my most recent LED strip light installation utilized them above and below my kitchen cabinets. Installing under the cabinets was pretty easy since I was just doing straight runs. However, because I wanted the strip lights to follow the contours of my crown molding on the top I had to figure out an easy way to bend them around each corner of my various depths of cabinets. Strip lights bend great on a single plane but not side to side. HelenCabinets   One solution is to buy an LED strip light  jumper connector, cut the strip light, and then attach the connector in the middle. This allows you to bend the 2 sections of strip in any direction as you can see from the image. Although you can purchase connectors where no soldering is required, I’m inherently lazy and was determined to devise an easier way. jumper connector   After a bit of fiddling I found an easy solution that looked good and was easy to implement. I’m calling it the “ribbon bend”. Essentially I am looping or contorting the strip back around in a tight curl that doesn’t hurt the strip light and allows me to change direction.ribbon bend   As you can see the corner portion does not stick to the surface. It sort of floats there. Since this is just a short section it doesn’t affect the installation integrity or have any significant impact on the uniformity of the light output. That’s it. I used this technique in my LED lighting strips installation to turn all my corners without the need of any additional accessories or added hassle and I am very pleased with the finished strip lights  

Growing Plants Indoors with LED Strip Lighting

  led-strip-light-indoor-grow2   Hello Friends, my name is Jeremy Feistner and I am a customer service representative here at Birddog Lighting in lovely Bozeman Montana. One of my favorite hobbies is growing Orchids and Carnivorous Plants. I have been involved in this hobby for over fifteen years and have done fairly well with the plants in my collection. I am super excited to work for Birddog Lighting and have the opportunity to experiment with using LED lights for growing plants indoors. I have always been an indoor grower using T-8 fluorescent shop lights with one warm bulb and one cool bulb in each fixture to supplement the spectrum of light that plants need to grow and bloom. I want to take a minute or two and cover some of the basics about what plants are looking for when it comes to light as well as a couple of my projects that I’ve recently upgraded to using daylight LED bulbs for plants. First, it is important to remember, plants use only two parts of the spectrum of light. The visible spectrum is a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum which encompasses light that is visible to the human eye. Visible light is classified by wavelengths, which are a unit of measurement expressed in nanometers (nm) – a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter. Plants use the blue and red wavelengths of the visible spectrum, 440 nm in blue and 620 nm in red are seen to be optimal wavelengths for plants to absorb light. Second, the intensity of light, expressed in lumens (lm), is another consideration when growing your plants indoors and many varieties of plants will be different in the intensity of light they need, including some plants that are in the same family. Always do a little research to see what your specific plants need so that you can provide for them adequately. Lastly, white light is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) to distinguish the color “temperature”. The lower the number in Kelvin temperature (degrees) the warmer the light will appear to the eye. On this temperature scale the warm colors of white light: reds, oranges, and yellows are on the low end – 1,000 to 3,500K, with the cooler colors: cyan, and blue, are on the high end 5,500 – 7,000K. There is also a neutral segment between the warm and cool color temps called “natural” or “daylight” white, typically these color temps range from around 4,000 to 5,000K. The two types of white light for plant growth are warm white – 3,000K range and cool white – 6,000K range. The degree of Kelvin temperature does vary, and everyone has a different opinion about what works best. So, try and remember that these are only starting points and you will be able to adjust to what is available and what works for you. Previously in my indoor grows I’ve used fluorescent T8 shop lights with one warm color temperature bulb and one cool color temperature bulb in each fixture to supplement the spectrum of light that plants need to grow and bloom. But, recently I converted my T-8 fluorescent shop lights over to LED from our stock here at Birddog Lighting You can find the bulbs I used in that project here at this link. When I changed the fixtures I had to remove the ballast and connect the wiring back together for the LED T8 bulbs to work. Birddog now has LED T8 bulbs that do not require removing the ballast so it makes it even easier. I used one warm white bulb, at 3800K, along with one cool white bulb, at 5500K, in each fixture and have a total of four fixtures in a 4x3x6-foot space. I have two fixtures that are attached to my ceiling and hang above my plants on the top shelf of a bench. I have the other two fixtures attached to the underneath of the shelf to light plants on a lower shelf. The difference in just the visibility of seeing my plants has been amazing! The light in a fluorescent tube generally is emitted mainly from the center of the bulb and emitted in 360 degrees, so much of the light output is either completely wasted by shining light in the wrong direction, or diminished by having to be reflected off of the fixture. Conversely, LED’s produce a consistent even light all the way across the bulb and only emit light on the bottom half of the tube facing the area that needs it, meaning none of the light produced is wasted at all. This lighting appears to be making my plants at home very happy! My other project with Venus’s Fly Trap (VFT) plants require a lot of light especially since I am growing them indoors. I did some research on our 12v strip lights here at Birddog Lighting to see what I could come up with for my VFT’s. I also want high humidity with my VFT’s so I decided that I would keep them in terrariums that are 1x1x2.5 feet. I started looking at this link on our website, and tried to figure out what exactly my plants would need for light: cool white, warm white, red, or blue. To find the best solution I decided to experiment and have red and blue LED strip lights in one tank and warm white and cool white strip lights in the other. My goal is to see which combination of lighting in each tank produces the best plant reactions. I scrolled down the page and checked the specifications to see if our LED’s had the spectrum of light that I was looking for and sure enough, they Do! Red has the nm wavelength that is suggested at 625-630 and blue is at 465-470 nm. Our warm white strip light comes in 2900-3200k which is right where I want to be and cool white is 5500-6000k. Again, right where I want it to be! Now I had to look at the intensity of the light because these plants really like as much light as they can get when it is artificial lighting. The Lumen output (lm) per LED is 16lm and I wanted to achieve at least 2400lm per foot of growing area. I have 2.5 square feet of growing room within the tank area so I am looking for approximately 5,000lm in the tank. There are 3 LED’s in every two-inches of strip light and I used 26” runs in the tank so that equals 39 LED’s per run and 624 lm. I decided to go with 4 runs of red and 4 runs of blue in one tank, with 4 runs of warm white and 4 runs of cool white in the other. If my calculations are correct, I am getting approximately 4,992lm in each tank! I attached the strip lighting under the cover of reptile lids so that there would be plenty of air movement and used Velcro in order to let me change the lights out easily. So far the Velcro attachment hasn’t worked as well as I had hoped so I need some adjustments. I will continue to update the website and let everyone know how things are going and if anyone has any questions please feel free to give me a call at 406-586-5970 and I will help you to the best of my ability!   led-strip-light-indoor-grow1

Daylighting: Why You and Your Home Need Natural Light

The need for natural light Environments built with lots of natural light are always desired, but we rarely think of the benefits natural light has in our homes. Even rarer are homes that take advantage of those benefits and effectively use daylighting. This also holds true in our workspaces and just about anywhere we have a built environment. How can we change this? It comes down to designers helping owner-builders understand the benefits of daylighting and helping them make the choice to implement daylighting designs into their homes and work places. This blog post is to help designers get the good word of daylighting out and for you, the owner-builder, to get a better understanding how it improves your home or workplace.

Defining Daylighting

Not every home or lighting designer will tell you what daylighting is or how it will improve the living quality and energy efficiency of a built space. There are several reasons for this, but the largest reason is that that the average owner-builder’s designer is detached from where or how your building will come to be. Daylighting is nothing more than placing windows and other openings along with reflective surfaces in key places to provide effective internal lighting. However, because most homes and other structures are designed before they are placed on the property, windows and other openings that would allow daylight in are usually not placed in key areas that would allow for optimal use. Daylighting design

Setting Yourself Up for Daylighting Benefits

Depending on where you are in the building process, you should position yourself to best receive the benefits of daylighting. If you have yet to purchase the property, let alone the designs for your structure, this positioning is quite literal. Find land that gets good sunlight. If you are living in the Northern hemisphere, it should have a clear view of southern sky. When you choose or make a design for your building, its main windows should take advantage of the all-day sunlight you will get from southern sky. If, however, you have already purchased your land and your designs, you may not have the option of physically positioning your home to use the southern sky, but you can make modifications to your plans that take advantage of the southern sky. If your building is already built, it may be a matter of renovating new windows and other openings in your home. How to design your building’s daylighting and accomplishing those design feats is too large a topic to cover in this post, but if you want the benefits of daylighting it is important you set yourself up to receive them.

The Energy Benefits of Daylighting

Probably the most obvious benefit of daylighting is its ability to save energy. It makes sense that the better designed your building is to harvest daylight, the less you have to pay to artificially light it. What you may not have considered is the potential daylighting has to save energy in heating and cooling. Southern facing windows keep your home cooler in the summer by not allowing high, direct sunlight to enter the home. Compare that to windows that allow light to enter from the east or west that get direct summer light in the mornings and evenings. Whereas in the winter, the lower winter sun is able to enter the home to warm it all throughout the shorter days. Designing your use of natural light saves energy in reduced artificial lighting, but if carefully considered, also reduces your heating and cooling costs.

The Health Benefits of Daylighting

Daylight should be a natural thing in most of our lives. Before the invention of artificial lighting it typically was. Our bodies need the varying levels of daylight we receive at different times in the day to help us regulate our circadian rhythms, or sleep patterns. The Department of Energy states that productivity goes up and absenteeism goes down with effective daylighting in a workplace. The fact is that not having natural light in our daily lives does have negative health effects and so allowing daylight into our built spaces compliments better sleep patterns, increased comfort, and reduced eyestrain. Combining daylight with artificial light

Combining Natural Light with Artificial Light

Artificial lighting has just as many benefits as natural lighting if designed right. When well-designed artificial and natural lighting is combined, it can lead to even greater energy and health benefits. Daylighting cannot provide sufficient amounts of light for some tasks throughout day and definitely not during the night. Through the use of dimmer controls, we can provide just the right amount of artificial light for task lighting during low daylight hours, helping to save money on lighting while still providing safe and effective light for the task at hand. Advances in artificial lighting color and quality have allowed us to more accurately mimic natural lighting in our built spaces, giving us the right type of light for the right time, space, and/or function. This is especially helpful to our health and productivity when we consider how we react to different types of light. A bluer hue of white light carries a higher frequency and is more stimulating than a redder hue of white light, which has a lower frequency. This is similar to the redder hues found in our morning and evening sunlight and the bluer hues found in our noonday sunlight. If we are taking advantage of daylighting in our homes, the artificial lighting we use at night should help us to relax and rejuvenate from our day’s work and therefore should have a warmer color temperature or have those redder hues in it. Inversely, in workplaces we want to supplement our daylight with bluer or cooler color temperatures that keep us more alert and stimulated while we work. Daylighting in the workplace As you can see, daylighting can benefit us greatly to both help us reduce energy consumption and improve health. When used along with well-designed artificial lighting it leads to even greater benefits. If you are considering or in the process of building a home or workplace, take advantage of well-designed lighting and allow it to enhance your life.

Want More on the Lighting Design Front?

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Green Lighting- You've been Given the Green Light

led green lighting

Green lighting is about moving forward with the new – more affordable and environmentally friendly lighting options now available. LED lighting has trumped fluorescent as the new true Green Lighting option for being friendly to the environment and your budget.

Watt’s the big deal about LED Lighting?

That’s just it, watts and a lot less of them. The conventional 65 watt Edison Shaped bulb can now be replaced with a 13 watt LED Bulb which uses 80% less energy and lasts 25 times as long. Even the efficiency of the 16-18 Watt Fluorescent Curly Q’s are unable to beat the energy savings and durability of LED technology. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the harmful mercury content with an LED bulb. The lifetime of the new LED bulbs would require 25 incandescent or halogen bulbs to equal the same amount of usage. With less energy and materials required for each bulb, less fossil fuels are required to light up our world and our carbon footprint shrinks. If you are curious and want to check out your current light bulb energy consumption, take a look at National Geographic’s Light bulb Savings calculator  or, you can call us and we’ll do a free lighting analysis/audit and provide you with a similar savings estimate.

Green lighting means no more hot air

Nobody likes hot air – not in our advertising, our homes, or our business. Incandescent and Halogen bulbs create so much hot air that it costs more to cool down the heated air during the summer months. The US Department of Energy has calculated that fifteen percent of a household’s HVAC electricity costs are directly attributed to the heat generated by Incandescent and halogen bulbs and for businesses it is as high as thirty percent.

bad example of green lighting- thermal image of incan
Thermal image of incandescent light.
LED lights generate little or no heat and unlike its counterparts, you can actually touch the bulb even after a long, hot day of work. Incandescent bulbs will put out 85 BTU’s per hour compared to 3.5 BTU’s per hour for LEDs. What’s a BTU? It is the equivalency of one 4 inch match completely consumed by a flame. LEDs do a one-two punch on your electrical costs in reducing the direct amount of energy used as well as put out 96% less heat to be cooled by our energy gobbling air conditioners. All this just by replacing your bulbs and we haven’t even talked about the other technology that’s available.

Creative solutions for sustainable light

If saving 82% of your energy costs isn’t enough to call it “green lighting” – take a look at lighting control options that can help manage the actual time your lights are on. Dimmers, Occupancy sensors, and the combination of the two are a source of savings according to Taitem a Weatherization Assistance Program in New York – they state for Occupancy Sensors that “More than 50% more in additional savings can be had by reducing the off-delay time from 30 minutes to 30 seconds in corridors.” Dimmers are another source of savings in controlling your lighting. According to Lutron, dimmers by themselves can save up to 20% in additional costs, but the combination of Dimmers and occupancy sensors the savings can be as great as 60%. The US department of Energy also indicates photo sensors, and timers can be used as additional energy reducing measures. Lighting controls and LED technology used together in an integrated system called smart lighting, compounds the energy savings from dimmers, sensors, timers, etc. Businesses especially should take advantage of the cost saving and energy savings found with smart lighting technologies. Another area within the business world, eye catching lighting (string lights, neon, flood lights, etc.), all help bring in business off the street. A properly lit business and parking lot offer peace of mind in knowing that a place is not only safe at night but also clean, and inviting. There are LED Neon rope lights that offer the same brightness, consistency, less maintenance and reduces your energy consumption costs by up to 80%. Parking lot lighting is often lit up by energy hungry 1000 watt or 400 watt metal halide or high pressure sodium bulbs. Each of these bulbs can be replaced by LED retrofits that consume 80% less energy and could qualify as a Dark-sky Friendly because they direct all their light downward.

Go Green, GO!

  example of sustainable green lighting through the use of daylight. If you’re really interested in having truly green lighting, then consider a passive solar strategy to maximize the use of the sun’s light and energy. Strategically place your windows in appropriate areas to maximize the amount of sunlight and make use of, or eliminate heat generated from the sun’s rays. If hiring an architect isn’t in the picture you can read up on similar passive solar ideas through the nonprofit organization Southface. At Birddog Lighting we installed the same LED lighting we sell and we installed a solar power system. With anywhere from 10-15 employees at a time and the appropriate desktop computer system for each – our power bill for an office and small warehouse is less than $50 a month. Some businesses that have gone out of their way to go as green as they can often seek out a LEED certification for business, the same can be done for your home. As they say it best, a certification increases the value and environmental integrity of your home or business. A LEED certification evaluates the whole building for its materials used, its systems used and its end use impact on the environment. The lighting you choose is just as important as making sure that you capture the natural light of the sun. An LED lighting project can come with a sizable investment – but with rebates available from many utility companies, your return on investment becomes very attractive and often times can be paid back within 6-12 months. If you are interested in finding out whether or not your utility company offers rebates, Birddog distributing offers a free lighting analysis to inventory all the bulb types for your home or business and calculate the energy usage and potential savings. Get green, stay green and SAVE Money!

How to Conserve Energy at Home

When you reduce, reuse, and recycle you help to conserve energyThere are many ways you can reduce that energy bill. Some are obvious, some not so obvious, but all require us to be forward thinking. With a new year at hand I thought it might be fun to put some thought into how to conserve energy at home. It’s fairly straight forward, but you’d be surprised at what a little creativity can do when it comes to energy conservation.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

When we talk about energy conservation we can easily think of several ways to reduce our energy consumption, but we often don’t think about how reusing and recycling saves energy as well. Reduction techniques, like the ones we will go over, are all great things we should be doing, but if we really want to know how to conserve energy at home we should be thinking of all three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle (you’ve heard the Jack Johnson song right?). Catchy elementary education songs aside, when we use all three R’s together we save energy not only in our own homes, but in the community as well. In the post we’ll tackle some low hanging fruit first, in hopes that some easy energy reduction methods will inspire further ways to creatively conserve energy.

How to conserve energy at home through energy reduction

Finding areas of wasteful use is often the first thing we do when we try to save energy. It’s a logical first step, because it makes us think of where and how we are wasting energy. If we know where and how to look, we can easily pick off some low hanging fruit. Here are some very large and low hanging fruit we have in our homes today.

Inefficient lighting technology

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (, lighting in the U.S. accounts for about 12% of all energy consumption. It’s a large amount, especially when you consider how much of that energy is wasted because of inefficient lighting technologies. In a TED talk by Gary Allen of GE, Gary explains that incandescent lighting wastes around 90% of energy as heat instead of delivered light (lumens) and florescent lighting wastes around 60% of energy as heat. LED lighting, doesn’t require heat to create light and is significantly more efficient because of this fact. So when we are looking for easy ways to conserve energy, we only need to reach as far as the closest inefficient incandescent or CFL light bulb. Change out your current light bulbs with LED household bulbs and reduce the energy you consume through home lighting by up to 85%. The switch to LED is the biggest, easiest, and most straightforward way to conserve energy. If you have the time to watch Gary Allen’s TED talk below I would highly recommend it. Gary also tells us that if every home and business switched to LED lights in the next several years we will be saving more energy than the energy delivered through all renewable energy sources combined.

Air leaks and inefficient insulation

Another large and low hanging fruit in our homes is that gap in the door or window you’ve been meaning to fix. Many of our homes waste energy because of easy to fix air leaks. If you haven’t gone through your home and sought out and sealed those air drafts this may be the first thing you do to conserve energy at home. This is easily done and inexpensive to do. Check all your doors and make sure the weather-stripping is making a good seal when the door is shut. Look at the threshold gasket at the bottom of your doors as well, and replace the weather-stripping and gaskets if they are worn out. Do the same thing for your windows, find any air-leaks, caulk to seal them, and/or replace weather-stripping. We also waste energy through poor or damaged insulation. This is a harder issues to fix, but in most homes, especially older homes, can improve the efficiency of your HVAC systems greatly and ultimately help conserve energy in a big way. Most HVAC professionals can help you conduct a home energy audit to diagnose insulation issues. There are several ways you can solve insulation problems, but we’ll leave that topic for a specialist in the HVAC realm.

Wasteful use of lighting and HVAC

Growing up, I don’t remember how many times I was told to stop leaving lights on or to stop cranking up the heat at night. Like it was in my parent’s house it may be a lost cause to constantly remind your family to turn off lights when they leave a room, but we have the technology to fix this problem. Lighting and HVAC controls have become quite affordable and easy to use. The average homeowner can easily install or have installed a programmable thermostat that helps to reduce wasted heating and cooling. Thermostat controls can range from very sophisticated to not so sophisticated, but all you really need is something that allows you to set a temp for specific times of the day. You need less heating when you are asleep so turn down the heat at night as well as hours you are out of the home. In the case of lighting, simple controls using motion sensors or timers can be used on indoor and outdoor lighting. Like thermostats, lighting controls can get quite sophisticated, but you don’t need to get too fancy to conserve energy with lighting controls. You can start by putting a simple timer on your outdoor lights or even placing a motion sensor light where you outdoor garbage is. If you want to get a more sophisticated system there are smart lighting and HVAC systems that can do just about everything you can think of. You’ve probably seen systems that control lighting, heating, and air conditioning through a smart phone. Some have the ability to show you where and what is consuming your energy. You can also find control systems that will work along with your entertainment center, window blinds, door locks, and anything else you’d like to connect it to. Obviously these control systems aren’t for every home owner’s budget, but I bet we’ll be seeing a lot of the functionality of these highly sophisticated control systems in the average home in the next 10 to 20 years.

smart= lighting and HVAC control systems help to conserve energy
This is an example of a highly sophisticated control system that can be used to reduce energy consumption. If a system like this is not used effectively it can increase energy consumption.

Phantom Load

Also called several other things like: idle current, vampire power, phantom power, and wall wart. Phantom power can account for about 10% of your energy consumption. So what is it? Phantom load is the epitome of wasted electricity. Extra energy is sucked from the grid and into your home through devices and appliances that are turned off but still plugged into your outlets. The simple way to solve this problem is to plug a handful of devices into one power strip and turn that power strip off at the end of the day. For a few more bucks you can also buy a power strip with a timer and have everything plugged into that strip turn off at a certain time.

Conserve energy by being creative

I started this post by talking about the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). We specifically focused on reducing our energy consumption in our home, but there are many more ways to conserve energy at home. Energy conservation is really only limited by your ability to be creative. Any time you find a way to reduce your waste or energy consumption you save energy. Every time you reuse a product rather than throw it away you save the energy that would have been used to create another product to replace it. Whenever you recycle something it takes significantly less energy to produce a recycled product than it does to create a product from raw materials. Be creative and come up with your own ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

An artist creatively reusing materials to create art and conserve energy
This Beatles art-piece made from an old tape cassette is a creative example of reusing materials to save energy.

Have a creative way to reduce energy consumption at home?

Birddog Lighting is always looking for ways we can reduce our energy consumption here in our office as well as in our own homes. If you have an idea or suggestion to help Birddog and our friends conserve energy, share them with us by leaving a comment.

Solar Lighting- let the sun be your light

solar lighting- daylighting

With all this hype around solar panels and alternative energy, I thought I’d write a quick but informative blogpost on the connection between the beginning and future of cartier replica solar lighting. If you think about it for a minute, the concept of solar lighting is kind of an oxymoron. Solar (or the sun) is and has always has been our main source of light, however in our artificially lit world it’s easy to forget that. As you read this post think of the ways we can better use sunlight during the day and how can we harness its energy for light at night.

Daylighting- The Original Solar Lighting

A quick and dirty definition of daylighting would be the use of windows and reflective surfaces to direct sunlight into a structure for indoor lighting needs. It’s actually something we’ve been doing since humans started building shelters. We put windows on them to let in light during the day. Simple enough, but well-designed homes and buildings put a lot of thought into how sun’s light will enter into the hublot replica structure. If daylighting is done right, it not only brings in lighting to accomplish your daily tasks, but improves our well-being, and adds to the architectural art of a building. A TEDtalk done a few years ago by lighting designer Rogier van der Heide really outlines the secondary benefits for daylighting. A main topic of Rogier’s talk emphasizes how bringing the sun’s light into our buildings enhances the quality of our lives.

Photovoltaic Lighting- Alternative Electric Lighting

In the absence of sunlight in our homes we turn to artificial lighting. We reap many benefits of having light when there is none, but one of the biggest drawbacks of artificial light is the amount of energy it consumes. Artificial lighting took up more than 10% of U.S. energy in 2014, which is 412 billion kilowatt hours. That is a significant cost both financially and environmentally when we think of the amount of fossil fuels used in the production of energy. There are ways to reduce the cost of artificial lighting and photovoltaic energy (solar panels). Pairing energy saving practices along with LED lighting make a significant impact. Photovoltaics is simply turning the sun’s energy into wattage and storing it into a battery. We can use that energy later for lighting or other power uses. When it comes to PV solar lighting you are probably more familiar with its outdoor uses, but many homes and buildings are beginning to take advantage of technology advances in PV solar panels and LED lights. Because LED lights consume less energy, last longer, and typically have a higher quality of light, it is has become the natural choice to use LEDs in a home or business using solar panels for energy. With the combined use of PV solar panels and LED lights we can almost eliminate lighting costs and come closer mimicking the benefits of natural sunlight. Solar lighting

Using Solar Lighting Day and Night

By now I hope you can see an ideal experience when it comes to solar lighting. Take advantage of the day’s light through daylighting techniques. Use PV solar panels and other alternative energy sources. Finally combine the use of hermes replica alternative energy sources with LED lighting technology. Voilà, you have officially used solar lighting to its fullest potential!

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Light Pollution: What it means to us and generations to come

Our night sky is disappearing

Many of us can recall at least one time when we were able to view the night sky and see wonders like Milky Way shown above. For a lucky few of us living far from city lights this may be a more frequent occurrence. Unfortunately, for the majority, the only celestial lights we see on a regular basis are the moon and a few of the brightest stars. I hope the loss of such a night sky is justification alone to take action, but it’s not the only thing us and future generations lose out on because of light pollution.

More than losing a star filled night

Living in the city, any city, it’s easy to let the bright lights distract us from what we are really giving up in replace of them. Although the Seinfeld skit above is comical, our mental health and even physical health is indeed affected by poorly used artificial light. If we go beyond ourselves and look at the effects light pollution has on our environment and ecosystems we can vividly see that light pollution is more than a loss of seeing stars.

How do we reduce light pollution?

Regardless of how you look at it, light pollution does affect us and our environment; so what do we do to change things for ourselves and for generations to come? If you’re reading this and learning more about light pollution you’re doing the very first thing you need to do. Second, we need everyone else to become aware of light pollution. Events like Earth Hour (an hour each year where millions of people turn off their lights) and organizations like the IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) can help us get the word out. Get involved and help others understand what light pollution is so we can all make efforts towards reducing it. Finally, reduce your own light pollution by making more responsible choices when it comes to lighting. Be considerate of where and how your lights are being directed through the use of proper fixtures, use more efficient LED lights along with lighting controls to reduce over-illumination, and determine how much light and what type of light is needed to again avoid over-illumination as well as light cluttering (excessive groupings of lights that confuse and distract humans and wildlife). If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, or would like to know about other resources on light pollution, please leave a comment or email me personally at

What do You Mean by Smart Lighting?

Commercial Light Controls

How I found out about Smart Lighting

“Smart lighting can be obtained through a system of controls and the use of high quality LED lights.” The first time I had ever gone to a Green Drinks event I spoke with a very interesting electrical engineer who kept throwing around the word controls and the term smart lighting. Being very new to the green community and not really understanding the conversation I had gotten myself into I had to ask, “What the heck are controls and what do you mean by smart lighting?” The question created a smirk on my newly found friend, but he was kind and passionately began to give me a detailed explanation of what a lighting control system is. He told me a few interesting points that I want to share with you as you begin to understand what smart lighting is. First, if used along-side LED and HVAC technology a lighting control system can reduce energy consumption in a very considerable way. Second, most businesses, regardless of size, would benefit from smart lighting. Lastly, he proceeded to say that smart lighting would help businesses more fully understand where they are using their energy and in what places they could reduce it.

So, What is Smart Lighting?

Before you get into the fun, but a little geeky side of smart lighting, let’s begin first with a little background on what a commercial lighting control system is and what it might look like. If you have spent a significant amount of time in a LEED certified building or have been taken through a tour of a LEED building in your area you may have noticed a few things about their lighting (the UofU Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building shown above is seeking LEED Silver certification). As you entered the building’s foyer you may have noticed it didn’t take long for your eyes to adjust from the noon-day light outside. When you entered an unoccupied room the light may have turned on by itself. Spending a considerable amount of time in the room you entered you noticed there was a lot of natural light from windows and as it started to get dark outside you saw the ceiling lights begin to rise in intensity. These are all examples of automated lighting controls. Having lighting controls in a building doesn’t necessarily label it as smart lighting. Otherwise the solar lights on the front of my house would be just as technologically sophisticated as LEED building you visited or will visit. There is a difference to be made between lighting controls and a lighting control system. Lighting control systems bring the individual automated controls together to make one or more intelligent networked systems. Data can be collected on each control and that data is used to make decisions on how you want the lighting to respond in certain situations.

Energy Savings from Smart Lighting

The biggest advantage to smart lighting is the energy savings possibilities: Reduce over-usage by specifying the amount of illumination needed at a particular time or in a particular area, get rid of wasted energy use when areas are unoccupied, and take full advantage of natural light sources by determining if or how much auxiliary light is needed. You can gain the knowledge of your lighting needs and effectively apply what you need and nothing more with a lighting control system. To put the energy savings into perspective, it’s estimated that around 20 to 50 percent of all energy use is from lighting. A significant amount of that can be reduced by switching to more efficient LED lighting technology (LEDs are roughly 80% more efficient than incandescent technology) and then when combined with a control system, waste and misuse of light can be almost entirely be eliminated altogether, seeing an additional 30% in energy reduction according to modern studies. If you think practically eliminating your lighting costs is awesome just wait till you apply these same control systems to your HVAC. For the sake of conversation we won’t get into the energy saving there, but in much the same way you can apply the same system you are using for your lights to your heating and air-conditioning.

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