The benefits of adequate outdoor lighting are often overlooked. Certainly, it can be expected that improved lighting will reduce the number of people injured due to slips, trips, falls, and bumping into things because of poor visibility. Equally important, although often overlooked, are the mischief-preventing benefits of security lighting. Mischief can range from late night rowdies to trespassers, prowlers, and other criminals. There is no question that light is the enemy of those who seek to commit misdeeds. No one wants to be observed doing something inappropriate, suspicious, or illegal, and for business owners who wish to prevent such acts, security lighting is a powerful and economical ally.
When considering a security lighting system, the illumination strength and configuration of the system will depend on a number of important factors at each location. An overall security lighting plan should take into account the ambient brightness of the surrounding area, the size and shape of the area, how and when the area is used, any obstructions that may block the area from view, and the local crime status.
Also, the relationship of the height of the lighting to the brightness and coverage must be considered. Higher mounting will provide a larger area of coverage, but the higher position also diminishes the strength of the light. Using higher strength lamps is one solution to this problem, but greater wattage means consuming more electricity and increasing the operation cost. These and other factors, like the type of lamp and shape of reflector, should be balanced to provide the necessary security lighting at a reasonable cost.
The lamps most commonly used in commercial security lighting systems utilize high-pressure sodium, low-pressure sodium, and metal halide technologies.
High-pressure sodium lamps are often used in streetlights or parking lot lights. They are very energy efficient and can cut through fog, offering high acuity or “seeing conditions.”
Low-pressure sodium lamps are even more energy efficient – producing a great deal of light from relatively little power. Gains in acuity are minimal, however, and the yellow light generated by these lamps tends to make most things look gray. In addition, low-pressure sodium lamps require a large amount of maintenance and are subject to more rapid burnout.
Metal halide lamps are typically used in large numbers to light stadiums and arenas for sports and other major events. They work well as they imitate daylight conditions and allow colors to appear “natural” as they would during the day.
LED replacement lamps, often referred to as corn lights because of their rows of LED chips, are one of today’s most efficient ways to replace metal halide, high-pressure sodium, and mercury vapor light bulbs. LED corn lights last longer than all three high-intensity discharge lamps, with a current standard life of 50,000 hours. This allows for greater cost savings and less maintenance over the life of the lamp. They maintain their bright light throughout their lifespan. LED corn lights come in two different base size options and are available in a wide variety of lumen outputs and colors. Some utility companies offer a rebate incentive for converting to LED replacement lamps. Contact your local utility provider to see if this is an option for you. When upgrading your system with LED replacement lamps, it is a good idea to work with the lamp supplier to ensure you are choosing the right lamps for your existing lighting system and needs.
One of the most important improvements in security lighting is the use of photocells with built-in timers to turn lights on and off. When the sunlight diminishes to a certain point during the evening, the system will automatically turn on. Many photocells available today also allow the facility to have the lights turn on and off at specific times, much like a home timing device.
Another advance is the use of motion detectors to turn security lighting on and off. In theory this would provide light only when it is needed. While such a system could certainly produce energy savings, it is not practical for most commercial applications because of the warm-up times required. Most commercial security lighting requires 10 to 20 minutes to warm up before full illumination is achieved.
An Important Ingredient
Experience has shown that security lighting is a highly effective, yet relatively low-cost way to enhance safety and protect facilities and property. It may also be a good idea to compliment lighting with other security measures – ranging from fences, gates, and locks to additional personnel, remote surveillance, and other equipment – depending on individual circumstances and needs.