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See the Light

01/17/2002
TROY, N.Y. -- Researchers at the Lighting Research Center released a report suggesting brighter is not always better when lighting gas station canopies.

"An Evaluation of Three Types of Gas Station Canopy Lighting" comes as increasing public concerns over light pollution and trespass, and the ever-present need to keep utility bills in check, are prompting more convenience stores to examine the way they light their businesses.

Besides illumination, attracting attention is a major function of outdoor lighting. Many gas stations, trying to be the brightest store on the block, are equipped with fixtures that throw a significant amount of light out the sides as well as down onto the fueling area. This horizontal light attracts attention but may create glare for drivers, add to the light pollution problem, and actually "trespass" onto adjoining properties.

Citizen complaints may prompt municipal officials to mandate stricter outdoor lighting regulations. Besides-sending light where you don?t want or need it simply wastes electricity and, therefore, money.

But according to the study, certain types of light fixtures can attract customers, light the area brightly and efficiently, and keep neighbors happy at the same time, Keith Toomey, director of communications for the Lighting Research Center, told CSNews Online. The study evaluated three different types of luminaires (fixtures):

* Traditional drop-lens, non-cutoff luminaries -- lamps (bulbs) are highly visible from afar, but they produce less light under the canopy, and more glare and trespass.
* Flat-lens, full-cutoff luminaries -- produce more light under the canopy and less glare and trespass away from the canopy, but they do not attract as much attention.
* Drop-lens, full-cutoff luminaries -- lamps are shielded but lenses that extend below the canopy provide a small area of high brightness to attract attention without sending too much light away from the gas station.

The study evaluated photometric conditions, energy efficiency, drivers? tendency to turn into the station, gasoline sales, patron opinions and the opinions of a panel of community leaders.

Copies of the report are available by contacting the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. For information contact Keith Toomey at 518-687-7100 or the center's Web site at www.lrc.rpi.edu.