Light Nuisance

Artificial light has many uses such as the illumination of streets and hazardous areas, security lighting and increasing the hours of usage for outdoor recreation facilities but it can cause problems; light in the wrong place can be intrusive.

The home security lighting found in many domestic locations uses floodlighting controlled by a movement sensor using passive infra-red (PIR).

Using PIR controlled 250 or 500 watt tungsten halogen floodlights may not be the best choice for lighting your house or garden because these lights:

  • Can be unreliable and may be discredited by householders and neighbours (people may not check why a light has activated, assuming they have seen it activate);
  • Emit a harsh, intrusive and environmentally unfriendly light that can be a serious nuisance to neighbours. Permanent lights can also cause nuisance;
  • Are extremely energy inefficient;

How to Prevent light pollution

  • Is the light in the best position and angled correctly?
  • Is it lighting areas it doesn't need to?
  • Can you move it so it doesn't affect nearby properties?
  • Do you really need the light?

If you feel that the lighting is necessary the alternative is to use high efficiency, low energy lighting controlled by a photo-electric cell (a dusk to dawn switch). Such low wattage lighting, on permanently during the hours of darkness, provides a more than adequate level of illumination, provides a more constant level of illumination with fewer shadows, is not as harsh and is more environmentally friendly than tungsten halogen floodlights. A low wattage unit placed out of easy reach at a height of eight to ten feet could illuminate an average rear garden, helping to create a reassuring environment and hopefully playing its part in deterring the burglar from selecting that house in the first place. In cost terms, the low wattage ensures that even though the light is on all night the of running it is minimal - no more than a few pounds each year. Although popular, PIR switched halogen floodlights can cause problems and may provide little extra security for a domestic dwelling. Many domestic versions on sale do not cope well in the hostile external environment. For more information on this the institute of lighting engineers have produced an easy-to-understand guide to security lighting, balancing the pros and cons of both PIR halogen lighting and dusk-to-dawn low wattage lighting. They also outline how to fit a PIR light to avoid or mitigate some of the negative factors outlined above. (All of this assumes that the area being lit can be overlooked as there would be little point in lighting an area that cannot be seen).

What can I do if I have a problem?

Quite often the person causing the problem is unaware of the problem and contacting them informally can resolve the situation. In most cases all that is required is the proper placement of fixings sensors, lights and shielding accessories or replacement by a lower wattage light. You may find that they are unaware that they are causing a disturbance. Remember we may all be guilty of creating a problem from light nuisance at some time without knowing it. The problem is not always one one of inconsiderate behaviour.

Relevant legislation

The Clean Neighborhoods and Environment Act 2005 amended the environment Protection Act 1990 to bring artificial light from premises under the statutory nuisance regime as of 6 April 2006.

If a neighbour does approach you about your security lighting, please try to understand their complaint. It is not unusual to inadvertently cause problems from intrusive illumination of neighbouring properties or excessive glare. If your lighting is causing a problem, then you are not only wasting energy and money but could be deemed to be causing a Statutory Nuisance (under Sections 79 & 80 of the Environmental Protection act 1990 and Section 102 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005).

Further information is available from East Cambridgeshire District Council's Environmental Health Team. Please use our enquiry form or telephone 01353 665555

The following website may also be useful:

Insitute of Lighting Engineers