4. Lighting

Guidance notes on lighting

Much security lighting is installed without due consideration of its suitability for the task and its effect on neighbours and environment. Domestic security should provide the minimum level of illumination necessary to light a property.

Because of price and ease of installation, many people install tungsten halogen floodlights. These units can provide satisfactory security lighting if correctly installed and aimed, however, it is rarely necessary to use a lamp of greater than 2000 lumens (150W) in such fittings. The use of a higher power only causes more glare and darker shadows. Glare affects our ability to see and dark shadows offer a convenient hiding place for criminals.

Many of these floodlights are fitted with detectors to sense the movement of intruders. Unfortunately if badly installed they also detect small animals roaming around the garden causing the light to switch on and off throughout the night. This can be a nuisance to neighbours.

Movement detectors can be useful if they are correctly installed and aimed. Unfortunately, many systems do not allow the detector to be separately aimed from the floodlight.

Floodlights and detectors should be aimed to only detect and light people on your property. If the floodlight is fitted with a timer, this should be adjusted to the minimum to reduce the operation of the light.

[An alternative] solution for security lighting is to use bulkhead or porch lights fitted with a low power 600-900 lumen (9-11W) compact fluorescent lamp. These units can be left lit all night, providing all‑night security.

Besides being cheap to run, this type of fitting is kinder to the environment and provides a gentle wash of light with reduced glare. These units can be fitted with a movement detector if required. These are generally mounted lower and therefore less susceptible to complaints from neighbours.

When aiming floodlights make sure you only light the area that needs lighting. The aim of the floodlight can easily be checked at night when you can see the actual area being lit.

Be careful not to [aim] light onto other people’s properties or into windows as this can be very upsetting and a constant source of complaint.

If a neighbour [or boat owner] does approach you about your security lamp, listen carefully and try to understand their complaint. If you can adjust the light to shine in a different direction or angle it down to reduce the light then tell them that is what you will do and when you will do the work.

If after adjusting the angle and aim of the floodlight it is still causing annoyance and upset then consider fitting a hood or shield to control and restrict the light to the area to be lit.

(From the Institution of Lighting Engineers’ leaflet Domestic Security Lighting, Friend or Foe)