How a California Community Was Blindsided by LED Lighting Problems

By Franco Faraudo

In 1958, Flagstaff, Arizona, became the first town to enact “dark sky” legislation, aiming to encourage responsible outdoor lighting practices among its residents to minimize light pollution and safeguard the visibility of the starry night sky. This initiative marked the beginning of what would evolve into a global movement, with cities around the world adopting similar measures. But, adhering to dark sky regulations presents its challenges, eliciting a wide range of opinions from the community.

The city of Davis, California, a quiet university town nestled in the Central Valley, embarked on an ambitious project in 2013 to replace 2,600 street lights with LED bulbs. This endeavor, costing about $1.25 million after a utility rebate, promised to save the city millions in energy bills. But, as the project reached its midpoint, the city began receiving backlash with residents criticizing the new “prison lighting” and “zombie lights.”

Three main issues arose from the newly installed streetlights in Davis. First, the lack of covers resulted in glare that was uncomfortably bright for pedestrians. Second, the lighting design caused excessive light intrusion into homes, affecting even second-story bedrooms with unwelcome brightness at night. And, the emitted light color transformed the town’s nighttime ambiance, detracting from its cozy, collegiate charm.

In response, the city constructed new lighting mock-ups, soliciting community feedback to gauge preferences. A consensus emerged favoring lights with lower color temperatures, which cast a softer, more inviting yellow glow compared to the stark white light of the initial installations. Davis negotiated a contract modification with the installation contractor, stipulating that residential area streetlights would emit light at 2700K and operate at a reduced wattage. The adjustment incurred an additional cost of $350,000.

The Davis experience underscores that transitioning to LED lighting, despite its energy efficiency benefits, necessitates meticulous planning to avoid adverse effects on human comfort. A straightforward swap of incandescent or fluorescent bulbs for LEDs is insufficient. The transition demands an understanding of the emitted light quality and potential compatibility issues with existing lighting infrastructure such as switches and ballasts.

Cooler, bluer color temperatures of some LEDs, especially older ones, not only create an unwelcoming ambiance but also pose risks to human circadian rhythms, potentially affecting sleep patterns and overall well-being. This knowledge has led to technological advancements in LED lighting to offer warmer color temperatures and more versatile options.

As LED technology has advanced, the quality of light and system compatibility have improved significantly, addressing many of the initial concerns. Modern LEDs now offer a spectrum of color temperatures and are designed for seamless integration with various hardware and control systems. Achieving the ideal lighting balance—efficiency paired with comfort—often involves the expertise of lighting engineers and designers. These professionals can help make sure that LED lighting is efficient and enhances environments by balancing light quality, environmental considerations, and human well-being, potentially preventing a neighborhood revolt.

Lighting Technology

Cutting-Edge Data and Tech May Be Real Estate’s Best Hedge Against Soaring Risk

Quantifying risk in real estate investments has become increasingly complex, especially with new factors like rising interest rates, natural disasters, and high vacancy rates posing threats. To better calculate and mitigate risks while still pursuing rewarding opportunities, the industry is turning to new data-driven techniques. This includes leveraging technologies like advanced scenario modeling, computer vision for property assessments, and comprehensive climate data analysis.

To Get the Most Out of LED Lights They Need to Be Smart

LED lights are incredibly energy-efficient, but their full potential is realized when they are integrated into smart, networked systems. These smart LEDs offer benefits beyond energy savings, including personalized lighting for improved well-being, detailed energy tracking, and the ability to optimize energy use for grid stability. Smart LEDs can even form the foundation of a truly intelligent building. While the initial investment may be higher, the long-term benefits in efficiency, sustainability, and improved occupant experience make smart LED systems a wise investment for the future.

Feeling Unproductive? Your Office Lighting Might Be to Blame

While humans have long observed the impact of light on our daily cycles, recent discoveries have revealed the complex biological mechanisms behind circadian rhythms. This has spurred innovation in lighting design, with systems that mimic natural light patterns especially in workplaces and offices. Circadian lighting, though facing implementation challenges, offers potential benefits for sleep, mood, and overall health. As technology advances, it promises to become a personalized wellness tool, with AI-powered systems and potential applications in preventive medicine.


🔥 Burnt but not out: Scientists have developed a simple way to collect and recycle rare-earth metals from used fluorescent bulbs.

☀️ Legal presence: Legal firms remain committed to offices but their preference is for fewer counter offices in order to provide more natural light.

🛸 Empire statement: The Empire State Building is known for its light display but this month it has wowed onlookers with a Star Wars themed dynamic light show on its entire south-facing facade.

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