Sea turtles are vital to the ecosystem of Southwest Florida, but some species are rapidly diminishing or becoming endangered.
Luckily, there are a few things coastal homeowners can do to help save the turtle population— one of which is installing a little thing called “turtle glass.”
But what is this fancy glass anyway, and how does it help our thick-shelled friends?
In this post, we’ll look at what turtle glass is and why it’s so important for coastal Florida properties. We’ll see if your home requires it by law and help you do your part to protect our state’s ecosystem.
What is Turtle Glass Exactly & Why is it Needed?
During sea turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida, female turtles bury their eggs in the sand before returning to the warm waters of the Gulf. Within two months, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles scramble into the water. Since seagulls and other beach enemies are all-too-hungry predators, evolution has taught the turtles to instinctively migrate at night, while threats are asleep.
The babies move toward the water by the light of the moon, using it’s natural illumination as a literal guiding light to the ocean. Unfortunately, these hatchlings sometimes mistake the light coming from coastal beach homes, condos and other nearby commercial structures for moonbeams directing them towards the water. When the baby turtles lose their way, their disorientation can cost them their lives from exhaustion, dehydration or death from predators.
To protect our coastal turtles, the Florida Department of Natural Resources adopted the Model Lighting Ordinance for Marine Turtle Protection in March 1993, which requires local municipalities to develop guidelines for controlling beachfront lighting and protecting the habitat of marine turtles.
As a result, many home and business owners in Southwest Florida need to adhere to laws for the use of outdoor lighting, and may be required to install special windows on Gulf-front properties to diffuse light coming from the inside.
Turtle glass is simply a glass that’s tinted green to reduce light projection, with a visible light transmittance of 45% or less.
Does Your Florida County Have Special Lighting Regulations?
The light regulation law applies to three dozen coastal counties in South Florida, including:
- Lee County. Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, etc.
- Miami-Dade County. Miami Beach, Golden Beach, etc.
- Monroe County. Key West, Marathon, etc.
- Palm Beach County. Gulf Stream, Juno, etc.
This law covers specifics such as the positioning of exterior fixtures, use of exterior light such as flood lights or spotlights, building campfires or bonfires, prohibiting vehicles on the beach at night, using flash photography, and light that emanates from residences and businesses.
On Fort Myers Beach, for example, regulations specify that "residents and property owners must shield all lights that can be seen from the beach from 9 PM to 7 AM during turtle hatching season. All exterior fixtures on the seaward and the shore perpendicular sides of the building (and on the landward side of the building if they are visible from the beach) should be well shielded, full cut-off, downward directed type fixtures. All exterior fixtures on the landward side of the building should be downward directed only.”
The town’s regulations offer many suggestions about positioning and shielding lights, what wattage to use, setting motion detectors, using amber LED lights, and protecting the beach by planting dense vegetation around your home to block lights. Beachfront residents and businesses are required to close their blinds or drapes and limit exterior light after 9 PM between May 1 and October 31 of each year, which is turtle hatching season.
Convenience or Requirement? Are You Required to Install Turtle Glass?
Let’s be candid: the law requires you to control your lighting near the coast. But do you have to install turtle glass to do that?
The short answer is…. For older homes without the special glass, you may not need turtle glass specifically. However, as an alternative to constantly opening and closing your blinds during turtle hatching season, homeowners can install turtle glass to keep windows uncovered at night and preserve their view of the outside.
Property owners may not be required to replace current windows, but for many counties, they must use turtle glass when installing new windows.
For instance, the Fort Myers Beach sea turtle lighting plan specifically requires that this tinted glass or a film be applied to all replacement or new windows and doors within the line of sight of the beach. This includes the seaward and shore-perpendicular sides of the structure.
The Special and Endangered Species Protection Ordinance of the City of Naples requires plates of tinted glass for windows that are visible from the beach. The tinted glass shall be any window or glazing that has an industry-approved light transmittance value of 45% or less. Such transmittance shall be limited to the visible spectrum (400 to 700 nanometers) and shall be measured as the percentage of light that is transmitted through the glass, inside to outside.
As you can see, different counties have different ordinances. All new Gulf-front construction must use turtle glass to comply with the laws— no exceptions.
Do Your Part to Protect Florida’s Turtle Population
Luckily, the special coating designed for turtle glass makes it easy for you to live freely within your home, all while reducing the impact on the environment. Given that many beachfront properties are rented out for part of the year, turtle glass can also spare renters from inadvertently violating laws while keeping hatchlings safe.
Want to protect the environment by making your home compliant with sea turtle lighting laws— all while protecting your property from storm damage? Storm Solutions has your solution. We install CGI, PGT WinGuard, WinDoor, and other top brands that meet the turtle code and protect your home or business from severe weather.
We serve Naples/Marco Island, Fort Myers/Cape Coral and Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation about installing fully code-compliant turtle glass windows for your home or business.
Just fill out our form on our Glass & Mirrors page to set up an appointment!