Stay In The Light

Effective lighting is an important part of any security strategy. Even if lighting can’t guarantee safety or prevent disasters, it is a valuable tool that can increase safety in indoor and outdoor applications when used wisely. 

“A well-designed security lighting system should deter offenders from targeting a site, bring additional eyes to the property to observe persons walking or driving by the site, and create a feeling of safety,” said Greg Ott, solutions specialist, Hubbell Lighting Solutions Center, Greenville, S.C.

Trends and their drivers

According to Eric Gibson, value stream manager for outdoor area lighting products, Acuity Brands Inc., Atlanta, it’s important to distinguish between safety and security.

“The most important thing for contractors to note is that security lighting is not the same as general lighting for safety, and that a specialized design is required for most secured areas,” Gibson said. 

“Lighting for safety is when there is adequate illumination, typically at least 0.2 foot-candles for most people, to avoid falling into a pothole, walking into something, or tripping on a curb,” he said. 

Contractors need to understand where to place the lighting and what its purpose is.

Lighting for security requires facial recognition to be possible at around 50 feet away and determining the intent of a person to be possible within 30 feet.

“Thus, the vertical foot-candles is more critical than horizontal foot-candles when it comes to security applications,” he said.

“There are going to be some factors that contractors are not used to in a modern security lighting application, such as the electronic components in lights and controls, and it is important for them to learn the technology and demonstrate its benefits to clients,” Ott said.

In the area of security lighting technology, the trend is the same as in nearly every other lighting segment: the transition from traditional light sources, such as metal halide, to light-emitting diode (LED) illumination.

“Due to the advances in LED technology, the industry is achieving more lumens on task, lower maintenance requirements and better environmental responses due to both networked and integrated controls,” Gibson said.

Also driving the transition toward LED technology is the tendency of lighting designs with high-intensity discharge (HID) technology to have dark areas under and around the fixtures.

“The improved lighting uniformity found with today’s LED systems has enabled the technology to be used in more applications and to provide a better visual perception of the space,” Ott said. 

That same lighting uniformity is enabling security lighting designers to move away from average foot-candles and to use minimum light level and maximum-to-minimum ratios as more useful metrics.

LEDs’ low energy consumption is driving the use of the technology in security lighting applications.

“Fixtures designed with LEDs are reducing the energy consumption on typical exterior applications anywhere from 30 to 80 percent, resulting, in some cases, in a very quick payback for the customer,” Ott said.

With the electronic drivers now being used in conjunction with LEDs, most of which are 0–10-volt dimming-capable, control is much improved.

“Dimming was not possible with the older HID technology, so, in addition to energy reductions for retrofit projects, LEDs provide an opportunity to reduce energy consumption after hours of operations,” he said. 

Furthermore, utility rebates offer incentives to migrate to LED technology in security lighting applications.

Policy trends are also driving the security lighting market. Standards providers around the country are incorporating more control options, and more jurisdictions are adopting those standards to codify their community’s lighting needs for safety and crime prevention.

“A community feels safe when residents can see who is standing nearby, and when offenders are deterred, business and quality of life improves,” Ott said.

Most of the new legislative efforts concentrate on energy savings and the reduction of recommended lighting levels for many security applications that have historically been over-lit.

In the future, while the transition from HID light sources to LEDs is imminent, the basic tenets that drive intelligent security lighting design will continue in their current form.

“The biggest problem is that most security design is not performed by security specialists,” Gibson said.

Cities are 24/7 areas and security lighting plays an increasingly important role.

“There will be a continued drive to improve livability and quality of life through new lighting technologies that provide uniform lighting and energy efficiency,” Ott said.

About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer
Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.