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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Streetlighting

We enjoy seeing the stars at night, and London has two disadvantages for the casual stargazer. First, the tall buildings physically blocked the view, and second the street lights blinded the eye. There is also the indirect glare of badly designed street lights throwing light up into the night sky.

Eugene is far, far darker than London, both on the main roads I drive regularly like River Road,  Beltline and Northwest Expressway, and on the local suburban streets, but light pollution is still a problem. In our cul-de-sac the street lighting is provided by the houses themselves, with no lamp posts. This was a canny move by the city to make the residents pay for street lighting, but it affords us the opportunity to reduce the problem.

Our house has two lanterns, one either side of the garage door, which happily for us were set to hold three  small bulbs each. This was probably a modification by the previous owners so they could use colored bulbs at Christmas, as other houses in the street can only fit one normal-sized bulb in each of their 2-3 lanterns. We recently switched to leaving just one bulb on in each lantern, and the total 8 Watts of light is ample to light the house at night - particularly as my car is fitted with lights anyway, and I've never yet failed to find my way home for lack of light.

That fixed our problem, and our neighbors on one side have taken their bulbs out entirely as a trial, and their house is still visible at night too. The other neighbors haven't yet been approached, and they have a couple of hundred watts burning away all night.

A quick calculation shows that using 3 x 60 watt bulbs to light a house for 8 hours a night for a year uses 520 KWhours more electricity than our 8 watt glare. From EWEB's website (our energy provider) this would be about $62 a year.  That's not going to break the bank alone, but adding up savings like this by turning off unnecessary lighting and other appliances all helps.

Our primary motivation is not really the cost, of course, but cutting down on light pollution.

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