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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dresher

Save Your Beach Home’s Lighting and the Turtles!

Residences along the beach fronts of the Southeastern United States are encountering a new challenge: keeping their spaces beautifully lit, while also meeting evolving local codes designed to protect endangered sea turtles.

What’s the problem? All seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered. Turtles spend majority of their lives at sea, only leaving the ocean to nest. Many of the dangers they face are encountered at sea, such as predators and pollution; however, sea turtles can come to land to nest up to eleven times in the season. May 1 and October 31 each year marks when they begin nesting to when the hatchlings make their journey to sea, also known as Turtle Season.

Hatchlings rely on the moonlight to navigate back to the sea, and sadly, only 1 out of 1000 will survive. And now with beach front development, both commercially and residentially, hatchlings are increasingly experiencing higher morality and disorientation rates.

Watch this video from PBS explaining how lights can confuse baby turtles.

What do you need to know for your beach front home?

Local ordinances have been popping up along the Southeastern coast of the United States for several years now in efforts to combat the impact of artificial lighting on the sea turtles.

Here are the three Golden Rules you need to know:

1. Keep it Low. Mount fixtures as low as possible. This can also be applied to the wattage of the fixtures used. The goal is to use the lowest lumens necessary for the space.

2. Keep it Shielded. Fixtures must be fully cutoff or exceed it. In other words, the lamp cannot be directly visible. There are many shielded fixtures with a breadth of styles, shapes, and customizations.

3. Keep it Long. This refers to the wavelength of the light. Remember, turtles’ see things differently than us. They are sensitive to not only visible light (we can see), but also ultraviolet and infrared waves. Not only do you want your lighting to stay above 560 nm, but in addition your lighting needs to be completely absent of wavelengths below 560nm. Unfortunately, the fixture companies are not in it for the turtles. Much like the random labels that have popped up on various food products at the grocery store, the fixture world is lacking in standards and enforcement.

Here are two different fixtures to your right. Both look like they meet the visual criteria, but when we measure these lights with proper electromagnetic devices, we can see that the one on the right is the only one that blocks out all the shorter wavelengths. Ultimately, these short wavelengths are the cause of disorientation in the hatchlings, which is why the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) created a wildlife lighting certification for fixture manufacturers.

This is the official certification stamp from the FFWCC. A turtle emoji or something similar does not represent a legitimate certificate from the FFWCC. Unfortunately, some fixture companies are going as far as copying and pasting the logo into their spec sheets. It’s outrageous, but the only action that can be taken is to request their certification letter or number.

But wait, its not just your deck or your exterior lighting.

Now it’s also worth mentioning some counties are requiring the interior of your beach front home to be compliant. Here are a few things you should be aware of:

· Tinting the beach facing windows may be required. For example, Hilton Head, SC calls out a specific transmittance value (amount of light intensity through an object). Consider dimmable or switchable glass for control and convenience

· Shading may be required on beach facing windows to close in evening hours, or even a particular shading coefficient (thermal performance metric). For example, Georgetown County in SC requires a shading coefficient of 0.45 or less and shades must have a 5-year warranty. Consider automated shading to set schedules for the season

· Interior lighting facing the beach may be looked at too. In Isle of Palms, SC all visible lighting from the beach must be turned off from sunrise to sunset during the turtle season. Consider lighting fixtures that are dynamic or can change color temperature and intensity. Consider a lighting control system that can automatically adjust both color temperature and intensity based on the time of year.

Honorable Lighting Mentions:

Lit handrails offer shielded light, at low mounting heights, and are available with turtle friendly options.

Submersible tape lighting around the pool offers a modern and beautiful aesthetic that meet requirements.

Today’s technology allows us to control so many areas of the home and automation of that technology has added tremendous value. By combining the latest LED technology and controls, we can keep your beach front property beautifully lit, while also saving the turtles.

Written by: Sarah E. Dresher


2. Figure 2 from FFWCC presentation found at

3. Figure 3 from FFWCC presentation found at

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