Outdoor security lights act as a very simple and very effective deterrent to burglars. But only 1 in 4 homes in the UK have motion-triggered security lighting. The knowledge that any unexpected visitors will be met with light gives homeowners an added reassurance, particularly going into the darker winter months. Additionally, some outdoor security lights can perform additional functions, such as decorative illumination. But how do you choose the best outdoor security lights and make sure that you end up with lights that work when they should – and not when they shouldn’t?
Outdoor security lights: How to choose
You don’t want your outdoor light on 24 hours a day, so you’ll have to make a choice on how you want to operate it. Some outdoor lighting acts on manual switches, but that’s only usually the case for entirely decorative lights – such as LED downlights housed in soffits or to illuminate trees or other focal points. Most lights with a security purpose operate by motion detector (using Passive Infra-Red technology, or PIR built into the light) or occasionally by dusk to dawn timers. If you want your security light to do more than scare off intruders, dusk to dawn timers are ideal. They can be used, for instance, where you want the light to act as a night-time welcome to friendly visitors or warning to unfriendly guests, and are ideal for operating exterior wall lights or driveway lighting. They also are suitable for lighting that has a decorative effect.
PIR sensors act on movement and are perfect for alerting based on activity. Don’t forget, not all activity outside in the evening is bad activity – you might need a bit of illumination when taking the rubbish out or putting the rabbit to bed. Standard outdoor security lights with built-in PIR tend to be activated by motion within a 120˚ range of the light itself and up to a distance of 6-10m. However, premium PIRs operate up to 180˚ and at ranges up to 18-20m, so assess your situation before purchase. Bollard-style lighting (by pathways, for instance) can include 360˚ PIR detection. Most outdoor PIR-equipped lights have a sensitivity switch which changes the activation of the light-dependent on the weight and size of the person or animal moving in front of it. Equally, almost all outdoor security lights come with a slidable switch which allows you to adjust the length of time the light stays on once activated.
What IP rating should my outdoor security light have?
A light’s IP rating shows how well the light is protected against water ingress (IP stands for Ingress Protection). For outdoor lighting, the higher, the better, with most experts agreeing that an IP rating of 65 or more is the best way to ensure that your new wall light doesn’t get ruined by rain in a matter of months.
What size and type of bulb?
An LED lamp is the best option if you want to minimise the amount of energy the light uses. You’ll also get a choice in terms of the warmth of the light itself (as opposed to the harsh white light associated with some halogen bulbs). Aiming for around 1,000 lumens for an outdoor security light (80 lumens/watt) means an LED of between 10-20W. You’ll need less for atmospheric lighting.
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Floodlights: The flashlight-style fitting that most of us think of when we think about outdoor security lights, floodlights are renowned for being robust and emitting a glaring light once activated.
Bulkheads: These lights are quite industrial looking but very strong and resistant to both weather and vandalism. Emitting a more subtle light once triggered, they are often better used for general illumination rather than simply security.
Sconce: Lights that have a lantern feel and are wall-mounted. They serve as the least alarming of the external security lights, but the most elegant and as such can combine decorative and security functions.
Where to Install Outdoor Security Lights
The most vulnerable elements of your property are the obvious places to install outdoor security lights. So entrances to side gardens, above garages, next to darker alleys and, of course, to the rear of houses next to vulnerable patio doors are the best spots. However, think too about where to install security lights with a dual purpose of either decoration or illumination. A well-lit house generally looks less appealing to intruders, so consider attractive sconce outdoor lighting by front doors and driveways or on front elevation walls.
How to Install Outdoor Security Lights
Although there is an increasing number of wireless outdoor security lights, most still require hard wiring. All electrical work in and around the house is subject to Part P of the Building Regulations and while it can be done on a DIY basis and signed off by a Building Control inspector, and most homeowners would be wise to get an experienced electrician to complete the work. As the combination of water and electricity is not ideal, you should look to ensure any external cable is housed in a sufficiently durable and protective conduit and the connection into the light itself is secured with a waterproof gland.
Smart Outdoor Lighting
In much the same way as the world of music, TV, heating and security have been transformed by the wireless smart home revolution, the world of outdoor security lighting has been affected, too. Ring, the company behind the well-known video doorbell, produce a intelligent outdoor security light which is as close to a total solution as you can imagine. In addition to customisable 140˚ motion detection, it creates not only an intense spotlight but can also be set to deliver a piercing 110-decibel alarm. It also records HD video day and night thanks to infrared night vision. The light/camera hybrid costs around £200 and comes in wired-in and battery versions, with all features customisable via an app.
Outdoor Security Lights: How Much Will They Cost?
You can buy wired-in floodlight-style outdoor security lights with a built-in PIR sensor for as little as £20. More designed lights that have a dual purpose cost between £20 – £200, while smart outdoor security lights cost in the region of £150 – £250.
An electrician will charge around £100 – £150 to install a wired outdoor security light depending on the complexity of the installation.
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