My eyes, they burn.
August 8, 2008 3:24 PM   Subscribe

We have a street lamp in front of our house that seems inordinately bright. We currently have cardboard in our windows to keep the light out so we can sleep at night.

I don't think the city is going to turn it off if I ask, but I may be mistaken. The cheapest blinds I can find are about $70 a window. We get tired of pulling the cardboard down and putting it back up, so my kids' rooms are dark during the day and we look like we live in a crack house.

Please help me brainstorm a solution to this problem.

Some (admittedly lame) possibilities:

1. The lamp seems to be flourescent, so I might duct tape the side facing our house.

2. I'm tempted to get insulated clippers, open the access panel and cut the easily accessible power to the lamp and hope it takes six months to get repaired (ok, I won't do this for fear of blowing my hands off, but it is tempting).

3. Get a long pole and put a weighted black garbage bag over the pole.

4. Call the city and ask them what my options are.

5. Save up $700+ for light blocking blinds (ten windows)

6. Make euro-style light-blocking shutters (probably unrealistic)

7. Quit whining and live with it.



We have another lamp down the street, so it's not like the street will be totally dark. I realize that the answer is probably 5 or 7, but thought there might be a better (snark free) solution out there that I'm overlooking. Thanks.
posted by mecran01 to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Definitely call the city to complain! Call and call and call- the squeeky wheel gets the grease. They might be able to put a shade on the lamp so it doesn't shine right into your house.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:36 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


My little sisters had this same problem with a light outside of their old house. One of them wrote a letter to the city explaining that it was so bright that the other one couldn't sleep at night. The city did come out (in response to the letter) and switch it to a dimmer bulb.

So they may not turn it *off*, but perhaps they can do the same for you. I think a letter will be more effective than a phone call.
posted by 7ajax7 at 3:41 PM on August 8, 2008


Definitely call the city. In DC, around the embassy residences, they paint/cover the side of the street lamps that face the houses on that side of the street. Maybe you can get them to do that.
posted by zazerr at 3:47 PM on August 8, 2008


I have seen street lights outfitted with shades or sheet metal light guards so that the light illuminates the street in front, but not the house behind it. You should see if your city could provide one of these.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2008


Put some blackout curtains up. They're like ordinary curtains, but they're a thin layer of dense foam. I got mine off ebay for less than £20, and they do a fantastic job of cutting out the light from the street lamp outside my window.

This is assuming you have curtains in that room, of course. I tried several things, and this is the only one that's worked.
posted by Solomon at 3:52 PM on August 8, 2008


Ah, I'm a longtime amateur astronomer so I've been down this road years ago.

Does this light have a translucent shield? Use a super-long pole (Home Depot or online with Grainger, or assembled with 1" PVC) and put 3-inch dabs of sticky duct tape on the side of the lamp shield facing your house and tamp them down good. I would not bother with garbage bags (likely to disappear due to wind or maintenance removal).

FWIW, some amateur astronomers have had luck using a laser pointer to trip the photosensor, making the lamp think it's daytime. You may want to consider that route.

You will get a ton of help by searching Google Groups under the sci.astro.amateur group.. this type of thread has come up repeatedly there.
posted by tinkertown at 4:00 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not sure how wild wild west your area of town is, but you could always shoot it.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:05 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have seen street lights outfitted with shades or sheet metal light guards so that the light illuminates the street in front, but not the house behind it.

And this is the preferred method by people who (a) enjoy a dark sky and dislike light pollution, and (b) think it's silly that most of the light coming off a streetlight goes anywhere EXCEPT the street. So I second the call and complain; I bet if you complain enough, they'll put a guard up, so the light shines down, where it's actually needed.
posted by inigo2 at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2008


I would definitely ask the city to install the shade guards. But assuming they refuse:

Does this light have a translucent shield? Use a super-long pole (Home Depot or online with Grainger, or assembled with 1" PVC) and put 3-inch dabs of sticky duct tape on the side of the lamp shield facing your house and tamp them down good. I would not bother with garbage bags (likely to disappear due to wind or maintenance removal).


If you do this, for the sake of your children, consider first putting the tape in the shape of a small bat.

FWIW, some amateur astronomers have had luck using a laser pointer to trip the photosensor, making the lamp think it's daytime. You may want to consider that route.

With, like, a fixed beam that will work every night? Or does the OP just stand, beaming, at his/her window until the kids are asleep?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I use these peel-and-stick pleated blackout shades from Home Depot because they were cheaper than real blinds or shades but are pretty easy to clip up (at least to the midpoint of the window) during the day. If you leave them down, though, it's that same crack-den effect.
posted by xo at 4:16 PM on August 8, 2008


pellet gun
posted by wfrgms at 4:17 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


If it's the kind that turns on by itself when it gets dark, you could shine something like a car headlamp directly at it and it may shut off, if you can hit the optical sensor. I had a car with a screwy headlight that pointed straight up after an accident, and it used to turn off street lamps that I drove under.

Or yeah, the laser. Try a green one. Set it in a piece of plasticine clay.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:20 PM on August 8, 2008


we spent 5 bucks on black and gray material from walmart. 3 layers folded over of black, with 2 layers of gray on top, stapled together at the top, and affixed to the window (by a curtain rod or whatever). it has proved to be far cheaper than getting professional blackout blinds.
posted by nadawi at 4:27 PM on August 8, 2008


These are amazing answers! I just got home from work and am headed out the door but will return and respond. These are great!
posted by mecran01 at 4:43 PM on August 8, 2008


You could put a tinted window film up to cut the glare.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:26 PM on August 8, 2008


Just get some thick curtains, man.
posted by low affect at 5:29 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


blackout curtains are the best. some of them are quite ugly, but you can always hang another curtain rod above the blackouts and hang something nice over them.

also: blackouts will totally slash your energy bills if you use them on all your windows all the time. very good insulators.

you can make your own by lining thick, heavy fabric (velvet, chenille, washed corduroy) with a sturdy twill, canvas, or even fleece. you could even line the bedroom window with pieces of one of those metallic space blankets that will reflect all light out. (i had a similar problem with the sun rising directly into my bedroom window--no civic department i could write to about that one--so i pasted tin foil, shiny side out, to my window. i felt sorry for whoever i was redirecting the laser beam of morning sun at, but it worked.)
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:34 PM on August 8, 2008


First attempt should be complaining to the city. If it works, great, the best option paid off. If not you still have the other options.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2008


Light trespass.
posted by flug at 11:09 PM on August 8, 2008


I got a set of like-new, long velvet drapes on craigslist for $15 and they block light like nothing else. I don't know what area you're in, but you could look for drapes or blinds on craigslist if you live in a city. Much cheaper than $70 a window
posted by tejolote at 1:16 AM on August 9, 2008


That light trespass link will help me use engineer-specific language in my letter.
posted by mecran01 at 10:59 AM on August 9, 2008


To all the people suggesting that you somehow disable the light -- come on, don't be idiots. Not to be an old maternal fogey or anything, but streetlights exist for public safety. The light's annoying to one household? Fine. That household can deal with it. But it shouldn't be dealt with in a way that's detrimental to a random person walking down the street at night, or to the neighbor who parks in the newly dark space.

You people sometimes. Sheesh.

*walks away muttering about irresponsible youth*
posted by mudpuppie at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2008


I think people are suggesting covering the side that is beaming 300,000 lumens into my bedroom. There would still be plenty of light hitting the street and sidewalk.

Additional factoids:

1. It's a quiet cul de sac filled with elderly retired people and families that gets little, if any, non-local traffic

2. We're talking Orem, Utah. 12th safest city in a country of 300 million people.

and finally: ``In particular, while there is no statistically significant evidence that street lighting impacts the level of crime, especially if crime displacement is taken into account, there is a strong indication that increased lighting - perhaps lighting uniformity - decreases the fear of crime.''
posted by mecran01 at 2:51 PM on August 9, 2008


My mom had this problem. She ignored my offer to come shoot it with a paintball gun (Brilliant, eh?) and called the city. It took a couple of attempts but they eventually redirected the light and I believe also put some kind of a shield on it. She got the e-mail of whoever was in charge of the issue and just kept e-mailing her until they fixed it.
posted by HotToddy at 6:58 PM on August 9, 2008


1. Call the city.

2. Go to your local Fabric Depot or other big sewing mecca. Pick out some attractive fabric -- maybe a lovely stripe? Then go to the drapery section and you will find blackout material which will be the lining. Make the curtains wider than your window and longer than the sill. If you do not have a sewing machine, ask at the store for a recommendation for a seamstress or someplace in town that can make drapes. Google "measuring for curtains" to get measurements. (Roughly 1.5 times the width of your window x 2 (if you're going to carry the stripe all the way 'round) + lining at just 1.5 times. Add in a little fudge factor for the top and bottom and side hems.)

3. Shoot it.
posted by amanda at 6:29 PM on August 21, 2008


I've emailed The Man. We'll see if anything happens. I also have The Man's phone number.

One of the astronomy threads recommended putting a BBQ cover over the top with a pole.
posted by mecran01 at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2008


« Older FirefoxFilter: On certain site...   |  Does anyone have any tips or s... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.