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This quick guide will help you to select the best security light fittings for your home whilst also saving you money through minimising running costs and avoiding the creation of unwanted light pollution (to aid the darker sky initiative).
Obviously the main reason for installing a security light is to assist with your security, however the area to be protected may influence the choice and style of lamp.
When choosing a light to provide illumination for the dark areas around the garden shed for instance, the level of light produced by the lamp will probably be the key consideration,
...whereas if choosing a lamp to illuminate the area outside of your front door, the style or appearance of the lighting unit itself may be the significant factor in your choice.
There have been many different types of lamp units sold over the years, among which are; standard tungsten lamps, low energy tube type lamps, high output Halogen lamps and more recently LED lamps.
Some types have proven more successful and reliable than others, however the sheer variety of light units available has led to a plethora of connector types and bulb styles. So much so, that people who have purchased lights at different times, have probably found themselves with drawers full of different types of bulb to use with different types of light unit!
Over recent years, LED lighting technology has entered the arena and whilst early units often proved disappointing, the current generation of LED is capable of delivering high performance with very low energy usage and therefore running costs.
LED (light emitting diode) lamps draw much less power to operate than alternative lamps delivering the same level of light output. For that reason, it is now feasible to use mains or battery powered units for security lighting, although which would be the best option for you will depend on the location to be illuminated and level of light output required.
Where high intensity lighting is required, a mains powered floodlight type unit will probably be needed, however for many areas around your home, the new generation of solar powered LED lights may be adequate.
Solar powered units draw their power from the sun (or even just daylight on cloudy days), which is stored in an integral rechargeable battery. When activated, the LED lamp(s) illuminate to light up the area.
It is unlikely however that the stored charge will operate a solar powered light continuously through a night, especially through the winter months where shorter days and less direct sunshine inevitably means less recharging time during the day via the solar panel.
This type of Lamp however is normally activated by a combination of photocell (which switches the unit to operational mode as darkness falls) and a PIR (passive infra-red) sensor which identifies heat / movement in the detection zone. When activated via the PIR sensor, the light stays on for a pre-set period of time, normally just a few minutes (2-15 mins is a typical range for adjustable timers), then switches off until further intrusion is detected.
Mains powered units can be left on all night if required and because they draw so little power to operate, won`t break the bank to run. Light pollution however is a serious problem worldwide, so we would only suggest continuous operation where absolutely necessary.
Mains powered units can also be controlled with photocells which automatically switch the units off when there is adequate natural light available, and of course where not used to illuminate an area continuously, they can be linked with a PIR detector and timer to activate only when some form of intrusion is detected.
The positioning of your security light requires careful thought.
A neighbour recently installed a security floodlight to light up his driveway when returning home. Instead of angling the lamp downward however, thoughtless installation left the lamp angled directly toward the street, blinding any driver unlucky enough to be using the road outside when the light activated – it also dazzled the homeowner on his first return to his driveway after the installation, leading to a noticeable dent in his garage door as he misjudged the distance!
You will also need to consider the impact of the light on any neighbouring properties. Sudden bright lights could for instance wake babies or other sleepers, or simply intrude into the neighbours privacy and ambience.
As a general rule of thumb; – keep the light angled downward with the beam restricted to your own property to minimise inconvenience to others or light pollution of the dark sky. Where possible mount the unit above easy reach height, which will not only make it easier to angle the beam downward, but will also prevent the unit being tampered with.
When using a light with PIR activation, you will need to consider what is likely to happen normally in the area of detection. You may need to adjust the angle of the detector or even mask off areas of the detector lens to prevent false activations triggered by cats or foxes moving through the area, or even activations caused by bushes moving in the wind. As heat can trigger the sensor, you will also need to install the detector away from heat sources such as central heating vents, tumble dryer outlets and so on.
If you are looking for a light to mount outside of your building, you will need to consider whether it is weatherproof and the guide to look for here is its "IP" rating. In simple terms this is an internationally recognised guide to the level of protection the unit has against the ingress of dust, water, etc.
It is generally accepted that lights mounted externally where they will be directly exposed to rain, etc. should at least be rated as IP65. Many of the cheaper home security lights are only rated as "IP44" which is not ideal, but probably adequate for units installed in an entrance porch for instance where they are protected from direct weather (externally mounted mains powered units should always be IP65 rated).
The first number of an IP rating relates to protection against dust or solid materials – the second relates to liquids. The higher each number the greater the level of protection
– for a full list of IP Ratings, see "IP Classifications".
When looking at descriptions of the various lights on offer, there are 3 things to look for;
Watts; - for years, we have been buying lights on the basis of the their Wattage and using that as a guide to the amount of light delivered, after all we all know that a 60 watt or 100 watt light bulb is much brighter than a 40 watt bulb, but Watts are actually an indication of the power that the lamp consumes rather than the light output.
A 40 Watt tungsten bulb for instance will offer only a fraction of the light output by a 40 Watt LED lamp, so when comparing light outputs, we now need to look at the "Lumen" rating of the lamp (Wattage of course remains a useful indication of the running costs of the lamp).
Colour temperature; - where shown, this will be expressed as a number followed by "K" i.e. 4500K, 6000K, etc. The higher the number, the cooler the colour temperature, which in simple terms means the harsher and brighter the light. High colour temperatures such as 6000K are therefore ideal for floodlights, but less welcoming at your front door.
Lumens; - in simple terms, Lumens (denoted by lm) are a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from a lamp or light source. The higher the lumen rating the "brighter" the lamp will appear.
There are many aspects of reliability to consider.
Bulb life; - is obviously one factor and reading the technical specifications of lamps in glossy manufacturers brochures, it`s easy to get excited by the life expectancy of LED lamps – after all anyone with a tungsten bulb with an estimated 1,000 hour life, couldn`t fail to be impressed by the 30,000 to 50,000 hour life typically claimed for an LED!
But be warned, not all LEDs last that long. As with all goods, the quality of manufacture plays a large part in operational performance, and LED lamps are no exception. Small LED diode lamps for instance as used in low cost torches or work lights are a case in point.
A small 9 LED torch purchased last year for £3 or £4, performed well on removal from its box, however within a week it was an 8 LED torch and within 3 weeks, down to 6!
Even in this depleted state, the torch was still offering good performance in terms of light output compared to an older style torch with a conventional torch bulb, but it was not as reliable as a high quality LED torch costing around £50 sourced from a quality manufacturer.
Multi-function lights; – by which we mean lights with integral controllers such as Photocells, PIRs and Timers.
The electronics in many inexpensive home security lights are manufactured to a price rather than to a quality, which is why viewing customer reviews posted on many popular internet marketing sites make such dire reading.
Customers often complain about lights failing within weeks or even days and in many cases this appears to be down to the quality of components used and / or the quality of the manufacture and assembly of the unit.
In simple terms, the more widgets on the light, the more there is to go wrong and normally once any one component has failed, the unit has to be junked, as it is instantly beyond economic repair.
It is obviously more hassle initially to install separate photocell, PIR and Light units, however in the long term, this approach is likely to prove much more resilient and save you money.
If you decide that a solar or battery powered unit is the right choice for your application, DIY installation should not be a problem as no mains power is involved.
Electricity is however potentially dangerous, so if you are leaning toward using a mains powered unit, the use of a qualified professional installer is strongly recommended.
Security lighting units for the home are widely available from high street stores and DIY sheds as well as from internet based sellers. Choosing a unit however is something of a minefield, as many of the cheaper products on offer are of dubious quality and reliability, although many offer great features - and you could strike lucky.
Despite trialling many different products over the last 2-3 years, at Insight Security we have been unable to find any range of low to medium cost "Home Security Lights" which meet our performance and reliability criteria. We are therefore unable at this time to recommend any individual product, or to supply any outdoor security lighting units directly.
With products constantly developing and new products entering the market, the best advice we can offer is; using the general guidance presented above, find the product that looks like the best fit for your needs, but before parting with your cash, check out what existing customers have to say – remember on-line websites can be a great source of feedback.
Published by Insight Security – Nov.2015
For more useful information regarding security matters, or for details of a wide range of tried and proven safety and security products;
visit the website: www.insight-security.com
or call the friendly help team at Insight, t: 01273 475500
they will be pleased to help - and remember, their advice is Free
This message was added on Friday 6th November 2015
Need Help or Advice?
Call the Insight team
01273 475 500