How to Prevent Light Trespass

One of the biggest issues you might encounter while RVing at night is bright lights that can ruin your outdoor experience. We’ve definitely had to deal with it often as stargazing campers. 

What is it and how do you deal with it?

Let’s look at this form of annoying light pollution and how to prevent light trespass while RVing.

Key Takeaways:
Light trespass is a type of light pollution that occurs when artificial light extends beyond property boundaries, disrupting both humans and nature.
Common sources of light trespass include streetlights and security lights, leading to sleep disturbances, mood issues, and reduced visibility while also affecting wildlife.
To prevent light trespass, consider using dark sky-friendly lighting, window coverings like blackout curtains, and controls such as timers, motion sensors, or dimmers for outdoor lighting.

What is Light Trespass?

Basically, light trespass is a form of light pollution that occurs when artificial light spills over the boundaries of a property and causes annoyance, loss of privacy, or other nuisance to neighboring properties. 

While RVing, this can mean that the light source disturbs you as you are trying to enjoy the night sky.

It can also affect the natural environment by disrupting the circadian rhythms of wildlife and plants. Simply put, wildlife has more difficulty at night when lights are bright around them.

Light trespass can also have negative impacts on human health, safety, and well-being. It can interfere with sleep quality, mood, and productivity. It can also create glare and reduce visibility, which can increase the risk of accidents and crime

Personally, bright lights drive us crazy at night when we are sitting out at night trying to enjoy the great outdoors.

What Causes Light Trespass?

Light trespass is often caused by poorly designed, installed, or maintained outdoor lighting fixtures that emit light in unwanted directions. Examples of common sources of light trespass you might be familiar with are streetlights, security lights, floodlights, billboards, and decorative lights. If they aren’t made with light pollution in mind, they can be major contributors to the problem.

You’ve probably seen some other forms of light trespass at RV parks and campgrounds. Some locations have lights that are blinding around the campsites, bathrooms, and even visitor’s center, which can make your outdoor experience less fun when stargazing.

Impact of Light Trespass

Effects of Light Trespass Humans Wildlife Environment
Sleep quality Light trespass may disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone regulating the sleep-wake cycle, potentially leading to insomnia, fatigue, and a compromised immune system. For nocturnal animals, light trespass can disturb their natural activity and rest patterns, affecting their survival, reproduction, and behavior. Light trespass may interfere with the seasonal and daily rhythms of plants, impacting their growth, flowering, and fruiting.
Mood and productivity Exposure to unwanted nighttime light can affect the mood and mental health of individuals, potentially resulting in depression, anxiety, and stress. Animals sensitive to light may experience stress and anxiety due to light trespass, reducing their ability to adapt to environmental changes and evade predators. The aesthetic and cultural value of the night sky diminishes with light trespass, reducing the overall enjoyment and appreciation of nature and astronomy.
Safety and visibility Light trespass can create glare and reduce contrast, impairing the vision of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, thereby increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Animals may be drawn to or repelled by light, potentially increasing the risk of collisions with vehicles or buildings. Outdoor lighting impacted by light trespass may contribute to increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

How to Prevent Light Trespass

There are several ways to prevent or reduce light trespass from your own campsite or from neighboring campsites while RVing. Here are some tips and recommendations.

Dark sky friendly lighting is lighting that minimizes glare, light spill, and sky glow. 

It has the following characteristics:

It is fully shielded or downward facing, meaning that no light is emitted above the horizontal plane of the fixture.
It is energy-efficient and uses the appropriate amount and color temperature of light for the task or activity.
It is controlled by timers, motion sensors, or dimmers to avoid unnecessary or excessive lighting.

When you are not on the road but at home, you can find dark sky friendly lighting fixtures and devices in the Dark Sky Approved Lighting database. Plus, you can see if your local area has a lighting ordinance that regulates outdoor lighting standards and practices. This way, you can make sure to be a good steward of the night when not RVing.

If you are RVing, check with your RV manufacturer to see if they are taking the necessary steps to fight light pollution with their installed lighting. It’s also a good idea to try a low luminance line like we do if your RV lights are brighter than you like.

Use Shields, Timers, Motion Sensors, or Dimmers to Control Outdoor Lighting

Some examples of devices that can control outdoor lighting to reduce light trespass are:

Shields: These are devices that attach to the lighting fixture and direct the light downward or away from unwanted areas. They can be made of metal, plastic, or other materials and have different shapes and sizes depending on the type and size of the fixture.
Timers: These are devices that turn on or off the lighting fixture at a preset time or interval. They can be mechanical or digital and can be programmed to follow a daily or weekly schedule.
Motion sensors: These are devices that detect movement and turn on or off the lighting fixture accordingly. They can be passive infrared (PIR), which senses heat emitted by moving objects; ultrasonic (US), which emit high-frequency sound waves and measure the reflection; or dual technology (DT), which combine both PIR and US sensors.
Dimmers: These are devices that adjust the brightness of the lighting fixture. They can be manual or remote-controlled and can have different modes and settings depending on the desired level of illumination.

If you have outdoor lighting on your RV like awning lights or front door lights, you should consider controlling the amount and direction of light emitted by your lighting fixtures. This can help prevent light trespass onto neighboring campers or public spaces.

Use Curtains, Blinds, or Shades to Block Unwanted Light

If you are bothered by light trespass from neighboring RVers or public spaces, you can always use curtains, blinds, or shades to block unwanted light from entering your bedroom or other rooms in your RV if they simply won’t turn off their lights at night. You can choose from different types of window coverings that vary in their opacity, color, and style.

Some examples of window coverings that can reduce light trespass are:

Blackout curtains: These are thick curtains that block out most or all of the light from outside. They are usually made of heavy fabric or have a lining that prevents light from passing through.
Roller blinds: Typically, they are blinds that roll up or down on a tube attached to the top of the window frame. They can be made of different materials such as vinyl, fabric, or bamboo and have different levels of opacity.
Cellular shades: These are shades that have honeycomb-shaped cells that trap air and provide insulation. They can be single-cell or double-cell depending on how much insulation you need and can also can also vary in opacity.

Choose Lighting Fixtures that Comply with Local Lighting Ordinances

If you are planning to install or replace outdoor lighting on your home base property when not RVing, you should check if your local area has a lighting ordinance that regulates outdoor lighting standards and practices. Many cities are starting to have lighting ordinances that aim to reduce light pollution.

A lighting ordinance may have the following provisions:

It may specify the maximum allowable light levels, wattages, or lumens for different types of outdoor lighting fixtures and zones.
It may require the use of fully shielded or downward facing lighting fixtures that prevent light from escaping above the horizontal plane of the fixture.
It may limit the hours of operation or require the use of timers, motion sensors, or dimmers to control outdoor lighting.
It may prohibit certain types of outdoor lighting fixtures or devices that cause glare, light spill, or sky glow.
It may provide incentives or penalties for complying or violating the lighting ordinance.

You can find out if your local area has a lighting ordinance by contacting your local government or planning department. Your local government is a great resource to help you determine whether there is a lighting ordinance in your town.

A Few Light Trespass Problems and Solutions

Problem Solution
Light trespass, a form of light pollution, adversely impacts humans, wildlife, and the environment. Utilize dark sky-friendly lighting solutions that effectively minimize glare, light spill, and sky glow.
The intrusion of unwanted light, known as light trespass, can disrupt sleep, mood, and productivity among individuals. Employ curtains, blinds, or shades to effectively block out excessive external light from entering your bedroom space.
Light trespass often leads to glare and reduced visibility, consequently heightening the risk of accidents and criminal activities. Implement measures such as shields, timers, motion sensors, or dimmers to efficiently regulate the intensity and direction of light emitted by outdoor lighting fixtures.
Poorly designed, installed, or maintained outdoor lighting fixtures are frequent contributors to light trespass concerns. Opt for lighting fixtures that carry certifications from Dark Sky [formerly International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)] or adhere to local lighting regulations and standards.

We hope you found this article informative and helpful. By preventing or reducing light trespass, you can improve your quality of life, protect the environment, and enjoy the beauty of the night sky.

Please help do your part while both RVing and at home.

Here’s another article you might also enjoy: How Light Pollution Affects Bird Ecology and Behavior

Takacs Family in front of Jayco RV
The Takacs Family

About the Authors

We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as Roadtrippin’ with Takacs. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog on RWT Adventures and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.