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Kentucky Living Home

Step-by-step to security lighting

By James Dulley from March 2014 Issue

Step-by-step to security lighting

Credit: Hadco

This decorative die-cast metal landscaping light brightens a large area for beauty and entertaining, but also does double duty as a security light. The large diameter top directs light where it's needed.

I need to add outdoor lighting for security at my home. I'd also like to use the lights for entertaining. How can I brighten outdoor spaces without driving up my electric bills?—Paul H.

Security lighting is usually on all night; entertainment lighting is not. Since security lighting will be operating longer, choosing the proper security lighting will have a greater impact on your utility bills.

Before you add outdoor security lighting, make other low-cost security improvements to your home. Make sure window latches lock securely, install bump-resistant door deadbolts, and consider an alarm system.

Once you feel the perimeter of your home is relatively secure, plan your lighting. Do an outdoor walk-around inspection of your house at night to see where additional lighting might help. Make your security and entertaining lighting plans independently. Prioritize lighting need areas, then check to see where they overlap.

When planning your outdoor lighting, avoid using too much light. Bright lights can annoy your neighbors and create problems for wildlife. If you install floodlighting, mount a directional light shield over it. Consider the position of each light source, the light pattern it will produce, and what you really want to be able to see—and keep the night sky dark.

Lowest-cost choices
It is a misconception that brighter lights provide more security. It's difficult for the human eye to adjust quickly from a very bright area to a darker area. When there is less contrast between unlit and lighted areas, it's easier to see movement in the darker areas where someone might be hiding. Lower lighting levels can be more effective than ultra-bright.

The wattage of a light bulb does not determine how much light it produces. Wattage refers to how much electricity a bulb uses. Instead, look for light output—measured in lumens—on bulb packaging. The most energy-efficient choices produce the most light output using the least wattage.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) produce more lumens per watt of electricity compared to standard incandescent bulbs. For example, a 25-watt L22 array LED fixture produces the same light output (about 1,800 lumens) as a 100-watt incandescent bulb, but only uses one quarter the electricity.

Motion-sensor lights are some of the most efficient and effective choices for security. For the best energy efficiency, select a product with two-level lighting. You can switch it on for low-level background lighting; then when motion is detected the light temporarily changes to full brightness.

Wherever there is access to full sunlight, consider solar-powered motion-sensing floodlights with battery backup. Although they may cost more to begin with, using them won't add to your electric bill.

Mail requests and questions to JAMES DULLEY, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit