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Security Lighting: Best Practices for Your Home and Property

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

It should be no surprise to most of us that lights can discourage crime. Even the Bible says that the light exposes evil. However intuitive, it is hard to show to what degree lights alone reduce crime, as security lights are often one layer of an overall security strategy. Studies on this subject are less than definitive. Some showing no real change others reporting signification crime reduction. We do know that most burglars look for homes with no obvious security. Therefore well thought out lighting can be a red flag and act as a deterrent.

Basic Security Best Practices:

  • Start by lighting up your home's exterior, illuminating entry points, doors, windows, and gates.

  • Use a combination of continuous lighting and security, motion-activated lighting is highly recommended.

  • Light the small spaces around the home that are not getting light. The home's corners and architectural niches.

  • Light dark areas of the yard that may be heavily treed or areas not receiving any ambient light from surrounding sources.

  • Illuminate pathways to entry, drives, gates, and doors.

  • Consider energy sources for emergency lighting if power is interrupted. i.e. solar and battery-powered options.

  • Consider lighting the perimeter of your property

  • Think about extending your visual reach around the property

  • Post and illuminate your address, for first responders.

  • Beware of using too powerful a light, creating unwanted “light walls” and shadows.

  • Use weather-rated fixtures and bulbs. A 65 IP rating is considered weather resistant although slightly less can work in covered or otherwise protected areas.

  • Consider integrating lighting with your smart home, alarm systems and timers.

  • LED lighting is generally recommended due to their longevity and energy-saving attributes.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Don’t Rely on One Power Source.

Solar lights are limited in terms of placement based on their need for direct sunlight. Solar lights can start bright but decrease in brightness as the night wears on. In the same way, Battery powered lighting can get dim and need to be routinely checked for an adequate charge. Failure to maintain a routine may result in a lack of performance. Hardwired lighting can be hard to install in all areas of the property resulting in inadequate coverage and simply will not work when there is a power interruption whether intentional or not.

Avoid Light Pollution, too much Wattage, and Reach

To keep the peace with neighbors and stay in compliance with possible local government ordinances there may be limits to the wattage and reach of your security lighting. You will also want to avoid shadows that unintentionally create dark spots and “Light-walls” by installing high-wattage direct light that can obstruct your vision of objects behind a light source.

Installing Security Lighting can be an Art Form:

As you begin to implement the principles we have discussed it can demand a little creativity to produce a pleasing aesthetic and at the same time produce the overall coverage you need to maximize security. Below are some techniques to help create that balance.

  • Use "indirect lighting" to reduce the glare and blind spots that direct lighting can unintentionally create.

  • Take care when using direct lighting. As mentioned previously. A “light-wall” can be created, with high wattage fixtures, light so bright that anything behind it is concealed, effectively creating a hiding or blind spot around the light.

  • Consider multiple installation points directed toward singular focal points to help reduce shadows.

  • Some experts suggest 700 lumens as a place to start and 1500 lumens as an upper limit. Others say you can begin with a bit less. This can create an aesthetically pleasing yard and not disturb neighboring properties.

  • Use “down lighting”. A technique that seeks to mimic moonlight coming from above with a soft glow. This can work well to illuminate the home itself.

  • Use “up lighting”. This technique is typically used to illuminate trees and branches around the property in order to eliminating hiding spots.

  • Use “navigation lighting”. Light paths to entry around the home, including decks and stairs. Combinations of continuous and motion-activated lights are frequently used in these applications. Don't be afraid to get creative.

  • Use uniform wattage to create a great aesthetic and more consistent visibility around the home.

If all this gets to be too much for you there are security companies with the expertise required to help you with placement and lighting selection. If you are considering DYI start at the home itself, using these guidelines and work your way through our list. Work in stages to control your budget.

Plan for Safety,

Andy, Senior editor.

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Jul 21, 2023
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