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Outdoor Lighting: Upgrade for Savings and Security

Key Points
  • Outdoor lighting can help enhance the security and appearance of your facility.
  • An effective lighting design should focus on proper light distribution and output.
  • By upgrading to LEDs combined with controls, you can save energy while ensuring security.

Outdoor lighting is critical for safety, but it's also a highly visible portion of your overall energy budget. With an upgrade that incorporates the right design elements, you can create an exterior lighting system that saves money, maintains security and enhances the overall appearance of your facility.

Brightest isn't always the best

Insufficient light can compromise safety. As a result, designs often focus on light output. Although light levels are important, poor distribution can create too much lighting in some areas and dark patches in others.

"The conventional wisdom is that more light is better, but from a security standpoint, too much of the wrong kind of light, aimed in the wrong direction, can cause glare," says Eric Richman, Senior Research Engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy. "Moreover, security camera functionality depends on various lighting factors including uniformity, contrast, light color and intensity. No one type of lighting will be best in all situations."

Footcandles measure the amount of light in a space. A study conducted by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) found individuals felt safe and secure at one footcandle; anything more didn't improve their impressions.

Covering for safety and security

Good lighting design integrates the most effective light sources with appropriate height and location for the best coverage. The Illuminating Engineering Society outlines the most important considerations for effective safety and security lighting:

  • Horizontal illuminance is the standard for assessing effective lighting because many tasks are horizontal in nature.
  • Vertical illuminance is critical for security issues because identifying objects and their movement is best done by viewing their vertical surfaces.
  • Uniformity is important for avoiding dark areas and enhancing the effectiveness of security cameras.
  • Glare is caused by light aimed in the wrong direction, reducing visibility.

To optimize savings and security, it's important to incorporate these design elements into an energy-efficient lighting strategy.

Strategies for energy savings

So, how do you maintain a safe, secure environment while minimizing lighting costs? Effective strategies include LED upgrades and controls.

LED upgrades. LED technology is an effective replacement option for conventional HID lamps. They offer a number of benefits for a rugged outdoor environment:

  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Durable; made from solid-state materials, they aren't easily damaged
  • Long-rated life (50,000 to 100,000 hours)
  • Light guide lens design for reduced glare

LEDs may cost more to install than conventional lights, but they can pay for themselves over time with lower operating and maintenance costs. For security purposes, LEDs provide more uniform distribution and whiter light for better contrast. As an example, retailer Walmart installed LED parking lot lighting at a number of new stores. Customers surveyed reported feeling safe and secure with the new technology.

Controls. Motion sensors and timers can save energy without compromising safety or security. Motion sensors activate all or some of the lights in an area when pedestrians or vehicles approach. For facilities with defined hours of operation, timers can switch lights on and off, or dim them according to a set schedule. LEDs, with their instant-start and dimming capabilities, are an excellent fit for integration with lighting controls.

With a well-planned lighting upgrade, you'll enhance the visibility and security of your facility, while providing your organization with some welcome energy and cost savings.

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Energy's Guide to FEMP-Designated Parking Lot Lighting and Lighting for Exterior Environments from the Illuminating Engineering Society.