Integrating Your Lighting into Your Overall Security Plan and Systems

Dark building

Nothing deters property crimes at a business site like bright, consistent lighting.  But getting security lighting right requires more than installing bright lights.  Poor lighting design can actually degrade your security.  Also, if you have advanced electronic control systems in your building – an integrated security system, building automation system, or both – tying your lighting into them can increase the ROI from those controls.

To avoid repetition, we’ll refer to both types of systems as electronic control systems. Keep in mind that some of these best practices will apply to less complex security systems, such as relatively simple camera setups.

Assess your site so you can take full advantage of electronic controls

Just as electronics can control lights to save energy, they can ensure your outdoor lighting enhances your security.

The first step to the right control setup is a low-tech boots-on-the-ground task: Tour your grounds, carefully observing what your lighting is and isn’t illuminating well. Keep an eye out for:

  • Trees and other foliage that might block lighting during spring and summer months
  • Overly bright lighting that creates shadows for trespassers to hide in
  • Older fixtures that have a significant warmup time
  • Lighting from nearby buildings that works to your advantage
  • Lights at your facility that may cause glare for neighbors.
  • Areas that may be dark or bright for much longer periods than others during the depths of winter and height of summer.

Getting an experienced lighting designer involved at this stage will surely help. You can also review our previous article on lighting design for security.

A detailed knowledge of your outdoor lighting conditions will give you the information you need to update, install, or move fixtures. It will also help you program electronic control systems to get the most from your lighting. For example, knowing that a particular lighting set near an entry door needs to come on earlier in winter can prevent a months-long nightly security gap.

Ensure your lighting works with your cameras, not against them

Even top-quality security cameras rarely catch a good image without strong light, but many facilities fail to place lighting in a way that supports their cameras.

First, avoid using camera models that have lighting mounted as part of the unit. These seem like a simple solution, but have serious drawbacks:

  • The heat produced by the lights can damage the camera over time.
  • Camera-mounted lights will illuminate a field of about 30 degrees, while the camera will have a 90-degree field of vision. This means 2/3 of the image will be unlit.
  • The difference between the bright lights close to the lens and relative darkness elsewhere can lead to a “whiteout” effect, and footage that is much less than ideal.

Second, the best lighting for security cameras is LED’s mounted to give indirect light, diffused to cover the camera’s entire field of vision without glare or sharp, deep shadows.

Remember that interior lighting has a security role

When facility managers run their interior lighting from a BAS, the goal is often to save energy costs. But if interior lighting is set to respond to human activity even after hours, it will act as an additional deterrent to intruders—why break in if you’ll be in bright light wherever you go?—and help security personnel detect the presence of those it doesn’t deter.

Need a local partner to help you create a more secure outdoor lighting setup? We’d like you to consider Thayer Energy Solutions. We have decades of experience with LED’s, design, controls, and installation, and are right here in your region. Get in touch with us today at 815-282-1112 and let’s see what we can do together!