Not All Lighting Is Security Lighting: 6 Points for Added Safety – Article by Kim Weiss

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Article by Kim Weiss, co-founder and Vice President, Three Phase Electric

There is little doubt that good lighting makes community residents feel more secure at night. Nevertheless, developing an effective security lighting plan can be challenging. The planner must build a strategy that serves the specific needs of the community, accommodates the obstructions on the property, and does not create a nuisance for neighbors.


Crime is a complex sociological phenomenon controlled by many factors, which varies considerably from place to place. Still, great lighting allows the law-abiding to detect others in the distance and see details from far away, often far enough to take evasive or defensive action. As for the criminally inclined, better lighting raises concerns about whether they have been seen, their intentions recognized and their actions observed and reported. Thus, it can be argued that good lighting shifts the odds in favor of the law-abiding.


6 Points for Added Safety

1. Provide Enough Light. It is generally accepted that one to three foot-candles is enough light to ensure long-range detection and confident face recognition at night, but the required level varies by application. (A foot-candle is a measurement of light commonly used by the lighting industry.) More than 3 foot-candles may be needed in communities that serve senior citizens.

2. Keep the Light Even. If there are pools of darkness between or immediately adjacent to the lit areas, then the benefits of the lighting will be negated because criminals can lie in wait in the shadowy safe-havens.  Since the majority of shadows are created by vegetation or obstructions, lights need to be placed with the barriers in mind.


It is also important to plan for transitional lighting – the light that is available between areas of higher light levels and those of lower light levels – so that eyes can properly adjust. In general, all parts of the property should be lit at about the same level, with the average light level no more than ten times the light level at the darkest point.

3. Avoid Glare. Glare can diminish visual capabilities, and reduce a person’s ability to detect others around him. Glare is typically caused by upward facing floodlights or unshielded lights without refractive lenses.  A louver or refractive lens is a good way to block the visibility of a light source, direct the light down and toward the ground, and reduce glare.


4. Choose the Best Color. Light source color should be considered because it can affect the accuracy to which a witness can describe an offender. The two high-intensity discharge lamps that are most commonly used in security lighting applications are metal halide and high-pressure sodium.   High Pressure Sodium will generally provide more lumens per watt than Metal Halide, but it does not render colors as accurately.  Therefore, it is often a good idea to combine a white light source like Metal Halide or even Fluorescent, with High Pressure Sodium to gain the benefits from both light types.

5. Choose a Good Fixture. Fixture choice will impact the cost, maintenance and performance of the lighting system. In general, choose a fixture that directs light downward and onto the areas, rather than flooding outward or even upward into the sky. Wasted light wastes electricity and does not improve security.   Many fluorescent fixtures are designed with two lamps each, so that when one burns out, the area is not completely dark.

6. Maintain Your Lights. Finally, implement a light fixture-cleaning program to ensure that dirty fixtures are not reducing the intended light output. Typically, fixtures are dusted when they are re-lamped but with today’s long lasting lamps, fixtures may need to be cleaned more frequently. This is particularly true in wooded, dusty, or especially buggy areas. It is also important to prune trees and shrubs back away from light fixtures to allow the light to pass.

In the end, Lighting alone cannot guarantee human safety or eliminate crime, but it can be a key element to help to increase security, deter crime, and increase property values. If used unwisely, it can waste precious resources and detract from these goals. More lighting is not necessarily better lighting, but better lighting can be attained through careful planning.

– To learn more about Three Phase Electric, visit here



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