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What you need to know about installing outdoor lighting

Does light pollute? You bet, says Mark Mosello of Design Lighting By Marks.

But it's not what you might think.

Light pollution is when the glare from lights blinds you, Mosello said, and it's everywhere.

Think of it as visual contamination -- like when ground lights make a statue or tree look great from afar but walk close and the candlepower shoots like lasers into your eyes. Or when home security lights give passing drivers the feeling they're under the naked bulb for interrogations.

"You can have a light that has so much glare that you can be 100 feet away and you count how many fixtures are on the front lawn," said Mosello, whose Elmsford, N.Y.-based company does about 20 percent of its business on Long Island. "Lights on the house shining down -- they look very good from the person's window, but from the neighbor's house, it's so offensive they want to shoot the person who lives there."

People should know they don't have to be ravaged by light pollution, Mosello said. He's a guy who lives by a lake and who once, perhaps only half jokingly, told his neighbor he'd "come over with a sledge hammer" if he didn't let Mosello reposition the tree lights shining at him from across the water at night. His neighbor said yes.

But others need not resort to the hammer. Mosello advised using more lighting fixtures but with bulbs with fewer watts. For exterior ground lights, he said, use fixtures that don't have glass covers because glass causes glare. Or recess the lights six to eight inches into the ground, he suggested.

"The key to any good lighting is not to have glare," said the expert, 62, who specializes in outdoor lighting. "The whole thing to proper lighting is the placement of the fixtures and the type of fixtures . . . I learned it from the last 40 years getting beat up and having to do things over."

The light man saw the light years ago when he was lighting up the trees at the Scarsdale Country Club. Sure, it was subtle and elegant, but only from a certain angle.

"From the dining room, where they wanted to see the lighting, it was great, it looked beautiful," he said. "But from the parking lot, when you pulled up, oh my God, it was God awful. We had to change the fixtures, reangle them and you learn."

He said he blames some of the light pollution on manufacturers and designers, who can create pretty-looking lamps and track lights but don't have a clue about preventing glare.

"You can have security lighting that's not offensive and still looks good aesthetically," Mosello said. "People live with it because that's just the way it is. But it's terribly annoying when you have light shining into your face."

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