How to Choose Outdoor Security Lighting

Security lighting is one of the simplest, most affordable ways to make your home safe, but not just any lighting will keep burlgars away. In fact, many burglaries happen in broad daylight. By choosing the right type of lighting and installing it correctly, though, you can improve visability in a way truly increases your security, not just your feeling of security.

Make Sure Your Security Lighting Does It’s Job
Just placing lights around your property won’t do anything to discourage burglars. In fact, badly placed, excessively strong lighting can actually make your home and garden less secure. This is because these likes cast dark, harsh shadows. Deep shadows behind trees and buildings, a common side-effect of bright flood-lights, make perfect hiding spots for would-be burglars.

In addition, overly bright lights that cause glare make it harder for you to see than if all you has was a dim porchlight. This not only increases the likelyhood of tripping and falling, it also makes it harder for you to see if any unwanted guests have invited themselves onto your property. What’s more, if your lights shine onto your neighbor’s place, you won’t be making any friends that way and may even be fined for “light trespass.”

Outdoor Security Lighting that Works
That said, having security lighting around your home is an essential step in making your home secure. The main source of security lighting on your property should be well-shielded light controlled by a dawn-to-dusk switch and positioned so that it points down towards your property, not into the sky. In most cases, you won’t need a lamp of more than 150 watts (2000 lumens). Lights with more power than that will create glare and deep shadows, and could easily get you in trouble with the neighbours, too.

A low-energy light with a dawn-to-dusk switch controlled by a photoelectric cell is the best option for several reasons. Low-wattage lighting that remains on constantly throughout the night provides sufficient yet gentle and even illumination and is cheaper to run than tungsten halogen floodlights.

A well-shielded low-pressure sodium (LPS) light is a good choice because, because it provides plenty of non-glaring light and is energy-efficient. These lights can also be operated by a photo-electric cell that turns them on at dusk and off at dawn.

The only problem with low-pressure sodium lights is the lack of color rendering-that is, under these lights, colors take on an unusual cast. The colors of plants, flowers, and garden decor don’t appear natural under this type of light, which can be a disadvantage if you’re interested in “nightscaping” your home’s landscape. If this is a consideration, talk with a local landscaper for advice. Alternatives include full-cutoff high pressure sodium (HPS) or metal halide (MH) lights or even low-wattage compact fluorescent lamps well-shielded fixtures.

The Crime Reduction College recommends installing low-level dusk to dawn lighting rather than lights triggered by motion detectors. Motion sensor lighting-spot lights that come on only when someone walks into the field of view of the infrared (IR) detector-does have it’s uses, but it isn’t enough by itself. Overall, a constant, gentle light source is a more effective deterrent than motion triggered lighting.

Floodlights: effecitive security or just wasteful and annoying?
There are some cases, such as on large estates, where well-controlled flood lights or spotlights can improve visibility and security. On most properties, though, they just create shadows and glare that make the security situation worse. As an alternative to floodlights, use low-power bulkhead wall units or porch lights.
In terms of cost, the low wattage of these lights means even though they’re on all night, the cost to run it is minimal. It also provides a gentle, constant illumination with fewer shadows.

Lighting to Avoid
Every home’s and neighborhood’s security situation is different, so you’ll want to see what’s out there before buying security lighting. That said, there are some types of lighting you’ll be better off avoiding altogether. These are:

Globes
Unshielded “wall packs” or similar fixtures
Mercury vapor (MV) lights

Globes splash light everywhere, but can’t illuminate one particular area. They waste so much light that you need a high-wattage lamp just to get enough light where you actually need it. They also create glare. Large wall-packs, usually used for industrial applications, have the same problems.

Mercury vapor lamps are so inefficient, glaring, and just plain annoying that they’ve been banned completely in a number of states, such as Arizona and New Mexico. No matter how little light they’re producing at any given time (due to an old bulb, for example), they consume their rated wattage. What’s worse, the poisonous mercury they contain makes it difficult to dispose of them safely.

If you need to buy new security lights or redisign you residential lighting system, you take the time to find out which lights will be most effective and efficient for your home. Well-sheilded low-pressure sodium lights work well on most properties, but if you have unique needs, talk with a landscaping specialist.

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