Home Security Lighting – Choosing Security Lighting

Home Security Lighting

Home Security Lighting Lighting around your home at night can be an effective deterrent against an intruder, making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to work unobserved. It is most effective when applied as a part of a package of home security improvements.

Many people install lighting around their homes not only to deter burglars, but also to give them a sense of security when returning home at night. For example, a light that illuminates a front door provides a welcoming atmosphere, but in addition allows callers to be identified without having to open the door. A light fitted to the back of the house will help you see your way to the garage or dustbins, make it easier to unload the car after dark or light up a summer party in the garden. Moreover, lighting can highlight architectural and landscape features, enhancing the appearance of your home and garden.

This page will help you choose the most appropriate type of security lighting for your home. For further information, contact a lighting manufacturer or installer. Some offer a free lighting planning and technical support service.

Choosing security lighting

A wide variety of security lighting is available. Light units come in a range of sizes to cater for all types of installation. There are lights with sensors, some with high-wattage lamps, others with energy- efficient lamps, lanterns that fit on a wall, and others that fix into the ground, such as spiked lights or post mounted globes.

Choosing the right type can be difficult. You may base your decision purely on a particular style or shape of lantern, but you must make sure that it will provide the appropriate amount of light for its location. Alternatively, you may be more concerned about the running cost of the lamps. As a general rule, lamp and luminaire (light fitting) combinations that are inexpensive are more costly to run. There are specific advantages and disadvantages with all lamp types, as well as issues of suitability with certain types of luminaire.


A luminaire is a complete electric light fitting, the purpose of which is to direct, filter and distribute the light to where it is needed. It will contain the control equipment and possibly a detector or timer, as well as all the parts that are necessary to support and protect the lamp. It does not include the lamp itself.

The majority of outdoor light fittings have protective weather sealed casings, made of a robust material that should resist attack by a burglar. As a rule, polycarbonate light fittings offer the best resistance, but if glass is used, the fittings must be positioned out of reach. Ideally, light fittings should be mounted to, walls around the outside of the property or to outbuildings, and many people prefer the bulkhead type of fitting for this purpose. These are ideal for small properties or to light areas such as narrow pathways.

For a large garden and front driveway, consider using illuminated bollards to mark pathways and entrances. Alternatively, you could install lighting on tall posts to increase the spread of light. In this instance, seek expert advice before deciding on the type of lighting.

Light Pollution

Outdoor lighting can have a detrimental effect on the local environment. When installing lights, you must consider light pollution, and use a luminaire that directs the light downwards and horizontally, rather than upwards. You must strike a balance between the need to increase the security of your property and the possible side-effects that the light may have on your neighbours and local wildlife. Badly positioned fittings can direct light into neighbours’ homes and gardens, and can cause great annoyance, often leading to disputes. Preventing uncontrolled glare is equally important, as it can dazzle motorists and pedestrians. Vertical light spill from non-directional fittings, such as globes and some other decorative luminaires, not only wastes light, but also is particularly annoying to astronomers.

In an ideal world, outdoor security lighting, particularly at the side and rear of a house, would only come on when it recognised a criminal tip-toeing across the lawn. Unfortunately, this type of lighting does not exist, even if a number of ‘off-the-shelf’ products suggest otherwise.


The right choice of lamp can make a significant difference to the security of your home. When choosing a lamp there are three key features to consider:

1. Efficacy

This is the technical term to describe the efficiency of a lamp at converting electricity into visible light. The amount of light produced is expressed as the number of lumens emitted for each watt of energy input. The best lamp at generating light is the monochromatic (orange), low-pressure sodium lamp, which is commonly used in many street lights. Some of these can generate about 200 lumens per watt, compared to around ten lumens for a standard domestic tungsten-filament light bulb.

2. Colour

A key aspect of good lighting is colour rendering, which is the ability of a lamp’s light to make colours identifiable. Colour is important, as the human eye has evolved to use sunlight, which contains the full colour spectrum. Colour appearance is often expressed by such terms as ‘cool’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘warm’. This is particularly relevant if you want a security light to enhance the appearance of a building. For security lighting to be effective, you need to choose a light source that provides good colour rendering.

3. Controllability

It is essential to control where the spread of light falls. In general, the smaller the light emitting part of the lamp (the arc tube), the easier it is to control. This can be demonstrated by comparing the two most popular types of security light fitting: the floodlight and the spotlight. Both provide powerful illumination, but the spread of light is fundamentally different. A floodlight generates a wide spread of light that gradually declines at the edges, whereas the spotlight directs a concentrated beam of light with sharp edges at a fixed point. The correct positioning of fittings is essential to ensure that the light is aimed where it is required. For example, a front entrance light should be placed so that callers can be seen and are well lit, while the occupier can stay back out of the light. A poorly positioned light could leave the caller in shadow, which would detract from the purpose of fitting it. This consideration is equally important when siting additional lamps around the property, where pools of light may inadvertently create areas of shadow in which an intruder could hide.

Tungsten Light Bulb

The ordinary domestic tungsten light bulb is a filament lamp. It has an average lifespan of about 1,000 hours. Since the UK has over 3,900 hours of darkness annually, it is likely that this type of lamp will need replacing at least four times a year if it is used outdoors on a timer or solar switch. However, these bulbs are inexpensive and produce instant light as soon as they are switched on. They also give very good colour rendering, but they’re not very efficient, producing only 11 lumens of light for each watt consumed.

Tungsten-Halogen Bulb

The tungsten-halogen lamp is commonly used for floodlighting and probably generates the most complaints about light pollution – as a result of badly positioned luminaires These lamps have an average life of 2,000 hours. They range from the domestic sizes of 150 to 500 watts, but can be rated as high as 2,000 watts for commercial or industrial lighting schemes. They produce about 20 lumens of light per watt and give instant light, but, as the wattage suggests, they consume more electricity to work. This type of lamp is often sold in DIY stores as an external security light, complete with a waterproof luminaire and a passive infra-red detector that switches the lamp on when triggered. Invariably, they are installed on the back walls of houses and will illuminate the length of an average back garden.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp

The compact fluorescent lamp produces around 40 lumens per watt, so it is a great deal more efficient than a filament lamp. It requires special control gear between the lamp and the mains electricity supply. You can buy this type of lamp as part of a complete light unit, but more commonly it’s bought as a replacement lamp for a tungsten light bulb. Local authorities are keen to encourage the more efficient use of energy, and an easy way to do this is to swap your ordinary light bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps. Although they are a lot more expensive than ordinary light bulbs, they last much longer (typically 5,000 hours) and use a lot less electricity. Consequently, they work out considerably cheaper in the long run. When you switch the lamp on, it produces instant light, but needs to warm up for about a minute to reach its maximum output.

Tubular Fluorescent Lamp

This is a general-purpose lamp for short-range use, and it is more commonly employed indoors than outside. It produces immediate white light; in very cold weather, however, the light output can be significantly reduced outdoors.

High-Pressure Sodium Lamp

This lamp gives about 90 lumens of light per watt and produces a pinkish-white light, as compared to the orange glow of a low-pressure sodium lamp. The wattage range is between 50 and 1,000 watts. Its lifespan is in excess of 8,000 hours, which makes it very economic to run. This type of lamp requires a ‘strike time’ of between one and five minutes, which is the time required for the lamp to warm up before reaching its maximum output. High-pressure sodium lamps are used mainly to illuminate streets, but they can also be found along driveways and in car parks; sometimes they are used to illuminate wide frontages of large houses. The lamp’s colour rendition is not as good as the lamps described previously. In a domestic situation, the high-pressure sodium lamp is best used to illuminate the grounds of large houses, where background light is required for long periods during the night.

Low-Wattage Lamps

There is a wide range of low-wattage garden lights to choose from, including solar powered examples. They are available from DIY stores and garden centres, and are more suitable for creating lighting effects than for security. Most are designed to sit in flower borders, act as uplighters for trees and shrubs, or mark the edges of a driveway or path. They have a tendency to create dark shadows. For security, these lights should be supplemented with the brighter types already described.

19. December 2010 by admin
Categories: Home Security, Lighting | Tags: , | Comments Off on Home Security Lighting – Choosing Security Lighting


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