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Outdoor Lighting for Savings and Security

Key Points
  • Outdoor lighting can be a valuable tool for enhancing the security and appearance of your facility.
  • An effective lighting design should focus on proper light distribution and output.
  • Energy-efficient lighting technologies and control strategies can reduce costs while ensuring safety.

Outdoor lightingExterior lighting is important for security as well as enhancing the appearance of your facility. While lighting patterns for parking lots and other outdoor spaces may seem simple, creating a design that makes the best use of that lighting can be complicated. The ultimate goal is to optimize light levels and distribution while minimizing energy use. Quality lighting design can be a valuable tool for increasing the overall security of your facility.

Brightest is not always the best

Insufficient light can compromise safety. As a result, designs often focus on light output. While light levels are important, poor distribution can create over lighting in some areas and dark patches in others.

"The conventional wisdom is that more light is better, but from a security standpoint, too much of the wrong kind of light, aimed in the wrong direction, can cause glare," according to Eric Richman, Senior Research Engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy. "Moreover, security camera function depends on various lighting factors including uniformity, contrast, light color and intensity. No one type of lighting will be best in all situations."

Foot-candle is the measure for the amount of light in a space. A study conducted by the Lighting Research Center found that individuals felt safe and secure at one foot-candle; anything more did not improve their impressions.

Designing for safety and security

Good lighting design integrates the most effective light sources with proper height and location for the best coverage. The Illuminating Engineering Society outlines the most important considerations for effective safety and security lighting:

  • Horizontal illuminance. The standard for assessing effective lighting because many tasks are horizontal in nature.
  • Vertical illuminance. Critical for security issues because identifying objects and their movement is best done by viewing their vertical surfaces.
  • Uniformity. Important for avoiding dark areas and enhancing the effectiveness of security cameras.
  • Glare. Light aimed in the wrong direction can cause glare, reducing visibility.

To optimize savings and security, it is important to incorporate these design elements into an energy-efficient lighting strategy.

Energy-efficient outdoor lighting

So, how do you maintain a safe, secure environment while minimizing lighting costs? Effective strategies include the following:

  • Reduced wattage lamps. Consider installing lower wattage lamps and fixtures in areas with excess light. Typically, one to three foot-candles of illumination at ground level is adequate for security. A simple, inexpensive light meter can be used to measure light levels around your facility.

  • Energy-efficient upgrades. Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is an effective replacement option for conventional lamps, offering increased energy efficiency, improved durability, and a longer rated life. LEDs provide excellent color quality, helping you save energy by reducing the amount of light output required. For security purposes, LEDs provide more uniform distribution and whiter light for better contrast.

  • Controls. Occupancy sensors and timers can save energy without compromising safety or security. Occupancy sensors activate all or some of the lights in an area when pedestrians or vehicles approach. Timers can switch lights on and off, or dim them, according to a set schedule. LEDs, with their instant-start and dimming capabilities, are a good fit for lighting controls.

Work with a lighting engineer or qualified design professional to evaluate each technology and your lighting and security requirements before making a decision.


Image source: iStock 

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