At a school board meeting in November 2017, concerns were raised about inadequate lighting for evening school events, so the Dodgeville School District directed Alliant Energy to install some additional lights. The lighting was installed during a warm spell in January 2018, and the photographs you see below were taken during the afternoon and evening of June 17, 2018.
Rather than being used only when school events are taking place in the evening, these terrible lights are on dusk-to-dawn 365 nights a year. They are too bright, poorly directed, poorly shielded, and the glare they cause on W. Chapel St. and N. Johnson St. could pose a safety concern for pedestrians not being seen by drivers experiencing disability glare. I can imagine that adjacent neighbors are not too happy with the light trespass into their yards and residences, either.
This is a perfect example of poor lighting design and unintended consequences. How could it be done better? Look for the solution below the following series of photos documenting the problem.
In fact, regardless of the lighting solution, the lights should be either turned off or dimmed down to a lower level later at night. (Security cameras will see just fine at lower light levels if that is a concern.)
Good neighbor outdoor lighting means minimizing GLUT:
Glare—never helps visibility Light Trespass—no point in putting light where it is not needed Uplight—sending light directly up into the night sky is a total waste Too Much Light—use the right amount of light for the task, don’t overlight
We haven’t met yet. I’m a non-confrontational kind of person (a typical Midwestern trait, I’ve heard), always eager to please and not to offend. But I want you to know how much your dusk-to-dawn floodlight bothers me. You see, I’m an astronomer. I even have a backyard observatory and I would love to show you the wonders of the night sky if you’re interested in seeing what’s up there. I’m probably the only person in Dodgeville or Iowa County doing astronomical research several nights a week, weather permitting. I accurately time when asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects pass in front of stars, blocking their light for fractions of a second up to several seconds. There is a lot we can learn from such events.
When I moved into my house, I had to install thick curtains in my bedroom because your bright light floods into the room all night long every night. In fact, your light floods into every window on the west side of my house.
I like it dark at night. It helps me to sleep better and, I’ve heard, sleeping darker is sleeping healthier. There’s even medical research that supports this.
Being an astronomer, I like to step outside and check the night sky from time to time, look at constellations—see if the northern lights are active. All of this is a struggle for me now. But it doesn’t need to be.
I think I know why you want to have this light. It seems you are trying to light the stairway from your backyard to your front yard for safety reasons when using those stairs at night. Have you considered putting those floodlights on motion sensors instead of a dusk-to-dawn timer? You’d save money on bulbs and electricity. Or, if you really feel you need the light to be on all night long, a better lighting system could be installed that would light your stairs without lighting up your neighbors’ houses and yards. Can’t afford it? I’m not wealthy either, but I’d be more than willing to pay for the lighting improvements, because I want to be a good neighbor and having a dark backyard and house at night means that much to me. Besides, one of the benefits of living in a small town in this beautiful area of rural southwest Wisconsin is getting a decent view of the night sky. No big city can compete with that.
I’ll even pay for us to hire a professional lighting engineer to do the job right so both you and I (and probably your other neighbors) will be thrilled with the results. I know enough about lighting to say confidently we will have a win-win situation. Guaranteed.
I’m looking forward to meeting you and discussing this. Thank you.