The U.S. Government originated security lighting during World War II. Since then, terrorism incidents, growing crime rates and energy-reduction mandates have been increasing the lighting industry’s sophistication.

While experts disagree on security lighting’s effect on crime prevention, they agree illuminating outdoor areas gives people a sense of security—especially at night when people have the highest fear of crime. There’s good news for electrical contractors: The door is wide open on industrial, commercial and institutional applications. However, there are major considerations for successful contracts, such as economics, environmental issues (light pollution), municipal lighting codes and energy conservation.

Planning is essential. A security lighting plan should address six key issues, according to IESNA G-1-03 Security Lighting for People, Property, and Public Spaces:

1. Deter crime against people or property.

2. Provide a clear distant view to spot anyone moving in or through the property.

3. Eliminate hiding places adjacent to popular footpaths.

4. Make facial identity at a distance of at least 30 feet.

5. Facilitate the proper use of other security devices on the property.

6. Enhance the public’s comfort feeling and encourage nighttime pedestrian traffic.

When does security become an issue? When a property has a criminal history. When a property is poorly maintained with graffiti, broken windows, trash buildup or vagrants. When neighbors or customers fear becoming crime victims. If the property is in an area with bars, nightclubs, or gathering places for gangs or teens. Where people or property are prone to attack, such as at automated teller machines, night depositories, convenience stores and railway yards.

Security lighting trends

The latest trend is choosing more effective forms of white light sources, such as compact fluorescent (CFL), LEDs and induction. According to Dennis Spaulding, commercial engineer at Osram Sylvania in Danvers, Mass., the industry is moving away from standard metal halide light sources due to their poor light quality and traditionally shorter lamp life (especially when oriented horizontally). Pulse-start metal halide gets the nod for either building-mounted or parking lot solutions because of their longer life and higher lumen maintenance.

The current tendency favors CFL pin-based lamp and ballast systems for lower wattage building-mounted and other applications.

“CFL systems provide a higher quality of light and are easier to control than metal halide,” Spaulding said. “CFLs don’t have the nonpassive rupture concern of metal halide. Luminaire manufacturers need to engineer around the thermal concerns of the electronic ballast and maximum lamp temperatures to ensure reliable performance. Now that the efficacy of completed LED modules has increased to 50 lumens per watt or greater, a newer trend is towards LEDs. The LED configuration is easily integrated into a full cut-off fixture, and their extended life reduces maintenance.”

White LEDs can achieve a life of 50,000 hours at 50 percent lumen maintenance when luminaire and LED modules are properly engineered, Spaulding said. Moreover, LEDs perform consistently at cold temperatures, and their life is independent of the operating cycle. Induction, or electrodeless fluorescent, continues to increase in popularity because of its high light quality and impressive 100,000-hour lifespan. The higher initial cost is offset by its long life and reduced operation and maintenance costs.

Energy conservation plays a major role. A significant requirement is the ability to frequently switch products on or off in different applications. For example, in parking structures, lamps around perimeter spaces are cycled off during daylight hours, saving substantial energy.

In other applications, security lighting might be switched to one-half illumination in off-hours, Spaulding said.

“For this configuration, bilevel fluorescent ballasts or multiple light fixtures are most popular. To incorporate switching or to increase the quality of light and save energy, multiple lamp linear T5HO fluorescent fixtures have been used to replace 400-watt metal halide fixtures. Using photocells, occupancy sensors or building control systems continues to be the norm,” he said.

Barry Weinbaum, CEO, Renaissance Lighting, Herndon, Va., agrees LEDs get thumbs up for their lower energy costs and long lifespan. But growth in the video security/surveillance business has skyrocketed in recent years. Certain types of lighting do not necessarily provide the quality of illumination necessary to support the quality of video being deployed for security.

“Too much light or the wrong kind of light in the wrong place can be as bad as no light at all,” Weinbaum said. “Solid-state LED lighting comes up a winner because it’s well-matched to the technical requirements of closed-circuit television and other security/surveillance video applications. Plus, LED fixtures tend to be more tamper- and vandalism-proof than conventional lighting applications.”

Without question, LEDs cut maintenance costs. The city of Chicago came under fire last December when the news media took aim at city workers who cut down and threw away thousands of strings of holiday lights.

“What the media failed to realize was the value of a $1 used string of lights versus the cost of an hourly city worker whose job was removing the lights as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Weinbaum said.

Labor costs remain high regardless of location, and personnel budgets are stretched to the limit. Anything that can be done to control these costs deserves a long, hard look, given the current state of the economy.

“If there is lighting technology available that dramatically reduces the need for ongoing maintenance—in the form of solid-state LED lighting, anyone responsible for monitoring and analyzing maintenance costs would be derelict in his/her duty for not investigating the economic benefit of deploying this technology,” Weinbaum said.

Another budget buster is the cost of energy itself. Solid-state LED lighting produces the purest light and is the most cost-effective lighting technology available, Weinbaum said.

Energy conservation mandates can have a major impact on security lighting due to federal, state and municipal legislative requirements—all of which are tied directly to actual energy consumption and associated costs. Depending on the type of lighting technology and its ability to provide the proper amount of light and apply it to specific surfaces or areas, the electrical contractor’s choices are becoming more biased toward energy-efficient solutions.

From a municipal or building code standpoint, the field of available lighting technologies and fixtures that meet or exceed these codes is shrinking, Weinbaum said.

“The growing number of governmental restrictions regarding light trespass and light pollution are helping fuel the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude. Whether it’s the glare of alley or parking lot lighting, the added illumination of bus stops or commuter train platforms, the lighting intended to help secure and protect everything from ATM kiosks to our public and private buildings, a number of products are now available designed with these code and use constraints in mind.

Application is key

Contractors must consider the space they are lighting. Understanding an application is essential to outfitting lamps, following codes and installation, Osram Sylvania’s Spaulding said. Product and fixture decisions will vary in application. Parking lot security lighting is different from parking garage lighting. From placement to product to light quality, application is the determining factor.

Like all lighting, security has energy codes and requirements that must be met. In most situations, the regulations dictate the permitted wattage per square foot. With limitations on wattage, designers are challenged with finding proper fixture placement, acceptable products and fulfilling the customer needs within their budget. Most energy-efficient technologies, particularly LEDs, are more costly. Because most security lighting is outdoors, temperature and weather elements also are key considerations.

Dark-sky issues

Dark-sky considerations actually are part of the broader light pollution issues driving codes and use constraints, Weinbaum said. As more governmental bodies clamp down on light pollution, the number of security lighting options will diminish. As a result, electrical contractors are finding themselves in a position requiring them to explore and better understand how solid-state LED lighting is poised to fill the myriad requirements.

According to Spaulding, dark sky is not a law, but it is a serious consideration.

“Installers must evaluate the luminaire’s design optics. Outdoor lighting in open-faced or upward-facing fixtures not only wastes an enormous amount of energy, but also robs urban areas of star light. To avoid light pollution, designers choose fixtures that have a downward direction or position upward lighting at necessary angles to keep light on an object,” he said.

Other considerations

Demands on security lighting are increasing, which means more due diligence for electrical contractors and the more likely inclusion of a lighting designer.

Electrical contractors face possible risks in their design of security lighting, Weinbaum said. For example, if a particular application fails to accomplish its objective, is there a financial liability? How prone to vandalism is a particular solution? What happens if the light quality fails to meet a customer’s minimum requirements? What if the installation results in higher-than- expected maintenance costs? Then again, how well does the security lighting blend aesthetically with the overall architectural design of the structure?

We’ve entered into a new era of opportunity where long-life, low-wattage retrofit applications appear boundless. The “always on” stand-alone nature of security lighting requires both energy efficiency and operating longevity. Solid-state LED technology is the solution that’s poised to make a real difference for both the electrical contractor and the customer.

WOODS writes for many consumer and trade publications. She can be reached at patwoods123@hotmail.com.