FAQ’s

Do I have to change my outdoor lighting immediately to comply with shielding and CCT guidelines?

No. The Town’s updated lighting ordinance grandfathers in existing outdoor lighting. However, the ordinance requires and the Dark Sky Association strongly urges that any new or replacement lighting meet the new standards.

Does the Dark Sky Association advocate inadequate lighting?

In no way does the Dark Sky Association advocate no or inadequate outdoor lighting. Rather, it is smarter lighting that’s being advocated, i.e., properly shielded lighting in the amber color range (CCT of 3000K or below) and lighting with adaptive controls (motion detector or timer) so that lighting is not on at times it is not needed.

By not leaving my outdoor lights on all night, will there be a greater chance of crime?

No. It can’t be emphasized enough that there is no scientific evidence that increased lighting deters crime. The truth is that increased outdoor lighting can decrease safety by making victims and property easier to see. A Chicago Alley Lighting Project showed a correlation between brightly lit alleyways and increased crime. In fact, most property crime occurs in the light of the day. And some crimes like vandalism and graffiti actually thrive on night lighting.

Will lighting of athletic fields or holiday lighting be discouraged in any way?

No. Lighting controlled by timers or used for special events, such as the lighting of the fountain, ball fields, holiday lighting, etc. is not affected by the Town ordinance nor is it a concern of the Dark Sky Association.

Why are lumens used to define brightness rather than watts?

Until recently, incandescent bulbs were predominantly used for lighting. For those bulbs, the power used (watts) was an effective way to determine relative brightness. With the advent of new, highly efficient technologies, such as LEDs, watts as a measure of brightness is no longer relevant. For that reason, lumens, which is a measure of brightness, is now used and you will find the lumen specification on new lamps that are purchased.

Is there a growing trend to restrict the use of bright white, high Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) outdoor lighting?

Yes. There is a national movement to either limit or eliminate high CCT lighting. Due to harmful effects to human health, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted in June 2016 a groundbreaking report that affirms known and suspected impacts to human health and the environment caused by LEDs that emit excessive amounts of blue light; hence it recommends all outdoor lighting should be 3000K or less. Late in 2016, the Town of Fountain Hills updated the outdoor lighting ordinance to address new technologies and adopted the maximum 3000K guideline for all new or replacement lighting. Below is a synopsis of the AMA report:

“The AMA report presents significant implications for the ongoing, worldwide transition to LEDs as the outdoor lighting technology of choice. The report details findings from an increasing body of scientific evidence that implicates exposure to blue-rich white light at night to increased risks for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Not only is blue-rich white LED street lighting five times more disruptive to our sleep cycle than conventional street lighting, according to the report, but recent large surveys have documented that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep, impaired daytime functioning and a greater incidence of obesity.

“As a result of a potential risk to public health from excess blue light exposure, the AMA report encourages attention to optimal design and engineering features when converting from existing lighting technologies to LED. These include requiring properly shielded outdoor lighting, considering adaptive controls that can dim or extinguish light at night, and limiting the correlated color temperature (CCT) of outdoor lighting to 3000 Kelvin (K) or lower.”

Are there potential economic benefits to preserving our night sky?

Yes. The recently formed Fountain Hills Astronomy Club already has over 400 members and has begun to offer talks, viewing nights, and other programs related to astronomy. This, along with Fountain Hills Library’s telescope loaner program, has attracted people from beyond Fountain Hills and will only increase as the program matures. The goal of the Astronomy Club is to develop an observatory and develop astro-tourism as an additional reason for people to visit Fountain Hills.

Second, people who prefer dark skies might choose to live in Fountain Hills rather than an overlit community.

Third, there are potential unforeseen economic opportunities. Flagstaff, the world’s first officially-designated Dark Sky Community now has the Dark Sky Brewing Company.

Fourth, Fountain Hills restaurants might develop unique promotional ideas. The following is an excerpt from a June 30, 2016 article in USA Today:

“Guided starlight excursions are an enchanting way to marvel at the Milky Way and galaxies beyond, and evening al fresco meals are often made more magical when accompanied by the glistening night sky. Featuring premier stargazing experiences, restaurants in prime constellation-viewing locations now offer celestial-inspired dinners, accompanied by on-site astronomers, high-powered telescopes — and even glow-in-the-dark desserts. From places like Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson and Scottsdale’s Four Seasons Resort at Troon North, resorts are pairing stellar dining experiences with packages that look to the sky for stellar guest experiences.”

Is it okay for businesses to have electronic message boards?

Yes, provided it meets the guidelines in the Town’s sign ordinance. An important requirement is that the sign not exceed 100 nits (a measurement of brightness). A study by ASU found that a brightness above 100 nits causes temporary blindness for drivers; hence the 100-nit maximum is now being adopted by communities across the country.

How can I help protect the night sky asset that Fountain Hills is fortunate to currently have?

There are four ways you can help:
1. Use fully shielded light fixtures so that the light source (bulb) cannot be seen directly by neighbors.
2. Use only the amount of outdoor light needed – avoid light pollution. There is no scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime.
3. Use warm, not bright white lights. Look for lights that have a CCT of 3000K or less when purchasing new or replacement lights.
4. Avoid light trespass. Turn on outdoor lights only when needed or use timers or motion sensors.