If you like to go off-roading and are adding a light bar to your vehicle, you know that LEDs are going to last the longest and give you some really bright light and good visibility. However, that bright light is also very visible from space, observatories, and other people's homes. As energy efficient as they are, LEDs are also responsible for an increasing amount of light pollution. Here are three ways to reduce the light pollution factor while still being able to use those nifty LED light bars.
Use LEDs That Give off Less Blue Light
One of the problems with LEDs is that the bright white light has a lot of blue in it. You don't see the blue as actual blue light; these are just wavelengths that are a part of the white light that you do see. However, the blue light has effects on humans such as disrupting sleep and melatonin cycles.
Your light bar can exacerbate this in two ways: by shining light over toward communities that are nearby, and by adding to the general haze of light that obscures what observatories can see. You don't have to have an observatory close by to affect it -- any glow from the ground can make it harder for observatories in the region to see stars. Plus, that light headed toward communities? It doesn't have to be a bright beam through someone's window to cause a problem. The lights can contribute to the overall brightness level at night around the community.
Try to find LEDs that use a more natural color spectrum and that give off less blue light. The packaging should note if this is the case.
Try to Prevent the Light From Heading Up
If it's possible for you to point the light bar downward a little, do so. LED light doesn't simply zip out front in a straight line -- it sends a diffuse blob of light in all directions, including up. That, again, can add to the general haze that makes it harder for observatories to see stars. Amateur stargazers have even more trouble with that haze since their telescopes are not nearly as powerful as an observatory's equipment.
Don't Use the Bars in Already Lit Areas
When you're out of the non-lit off-roading area, turn off the light bar. You really don't need it when you're driving down a highway with street lights, and you certainly don't need it when you're driving in the city. Light bars can be fun, but leave them for their intended use off-road in areas that don't have lights.
If you have other questions about preventing light pollution, talk to the stores from which you buy your lights, and look for dark-sky or astronomy organizations in your area. They understand that people want light and know of ways to compromise so you can have your light while not adding to the light pollution in the area.
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