We need artificial light around our homes whenever there is not enough daylight—not only for specific tasks, but also for safety and security. Lighting helps us to walk safely on the path or steps to the home, it lets us see who is at the door before opening it, and acts as a warning to criminals and prowlers. Light has been proven to be a major deterrent to crime.
What do we mean by security and safety?
The terms security lighting and safety lighting are not synonymous. Security lighting is concerned with crime prevention. It has three functions:
- Deterring crime. Most people believe that where there is light, there’s someone who cares and may be watching.
- Detecting crime. In a well-lit area, an intruder would find it difficult to approach unseen. Lighting makes detection highly probable.
- Preventing concealment. Lighting takes away shadows where someone could hide. Be aware of shadows thrown by shrubbery near entryways and walkways. Police experience indicates there are ideal hiding places. Safety lighting allows people to move safely in a given environment. For example, a light on stairs leading to the house will help prevent accidents by showing the edges of the steps.
Choosing your outdoor lighting system
Before installing outdoor lighting, you’ll need to decide on locations for the proposed lighting, types of fixtures and control systems.
Assess your security and safety needs. Walk around your house looking for areas that may be problems. Look at lighting a path from the entry at the street all the way to the door. If there is shrubbery near the entryway, use lighting to eliminate shadows. A long or steep flight of stairs should have a light at the top and bottom for safety.
Locate post lanterns at main entrances to driveways and walks. Avoid clear glass designs and exposed high-wattage lamps, as their blinding effect can be almost as hazardous as no light at all. Minimum height should be 2.4 meters (8 feet) above ground.
If you light your driveway with floodlights, make sure they are installed at least 13.6 meters (12 feet) above the ground. This keeps the light out of the driver’s eyes to preserve his or her night vision.
Walk lights are low-mounted fixtures that spread their light downward, used for steps, paths and driveways. They should be placed 2.4 to 3 meters (8 to 10 feet) apart.
Not only is an automatic control system a convenience, but it also saves electricity by ensuring that lights are on only when needed. The most common types are timers, photoelectric cells and motion detectors. Timers are the least expensive, operating lights at preset times. The settings must be adjusted to allow for longer or shorter seasonal hours of darkness. Photoelectric cells sense the lack of natural light to turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Motion detectors are especially convenient for safety lighting, for example on front steps, turning lights on only when someone is in the area.
Types of outdoor light sources
Incandescent light bulbs, the most familiar light source, are inexpensive and available in a wide range of wattages. Although they have good color rendering properties, incandescent lamps are less energy-efficient than other sources. Their shorter life span means they will have to be replaced more often.
Fluorescent lamps are less common for outdoor lighting. Because their ballasts are designed to operate efficiently within a certain temperature range, they may have trouble starting when the temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius. Their long, slender shape does not lend itself readily to outdoor use.
Metal halide or high-pressure sodium lamps are an excellent choice for outdoor lighting. They have a high efficiency, providing good lighting levels with low-wattage lamps although they require a warm up time of approximately 1 minute so they are not ideal for motion sensor lights.
Led Security lighting is quickly becoming the lighting standard of choice. They use a fraction of the electricity of existing lighting options, require no warm up time, and are very long lasting. They are initially expensive to purchase, but as most new technology should come down in price as time goes on. There are many led security lighting choices on the market today.