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The Ultimate Guide to Solar Security Lighting

SEPCO 11/7/22 6:30 AM
The Ultimate Guide to Solar Security Lighting

Security lighting is instrumental in deterring crime, improving public spaces, increasing the safety and security of businesses and residential areas, and improving site visibility. Adding illumination at night to these areas facilitates surveillance by authorities and communities after dark and enhances community confidence while increasing informal social control.


There are many objectives when it comes to installing a security lighting system. These include:

  1. Provide clear visibility of areas from a distance to see anyone moving in or around the area
  2. Remove potential hiding places around routes that pedestrians travel
  3. Provide facial recognition at a distance of about 30 feet
  4. Assist the use of other safety devices, such as cameras in the area
  5. Deter crime against property and people
  6. Increase nighttime pedestrian traffic and feeling of security


The responsibility of providing the security lighting falls on the property owner, business operator, or resident as it not only assists the surrounding area but also their sense of self-security. What is also beneficial in this aspect is that they know the surrounding area and traffic flow better than a stranger to the area; therefore, they know where to provide illumination better.


Installing security lighting benefits both personal homeowners and business owners in different ways. To a homeowner, the why is simple. Not only does it drastically lower the chance of a break-in or theft of outside property, but it also, in the case of theft or trespassing, gives a much better chance at being able to identify the perpetrator or catching them on camera. In addition, lighting provides the homeowner with a greater sense of control and safety should such a thing occur.


For the business owner, the same sense of safety and control would apply, but for them, it also brings a sense of safety and security to the surrounding area and the people and employees who frequent the business. Nighttime employees would undoubtedly feel much better about leaving their work if there were safety lights to light up their parked cars. Customers who shop at night are also much more likely to shop at a business that has taken the time and care to set up security lights to brighten up their area rather than a dimly lit, shady-looking store. As you can see, the benefit of security lighting for businesses is for the safety of the business's property and the people who use it.


As you can see the benefit of security lighting far outweighs the initial cost or hesitation of buying the lights. Nothing is worth more than the peace of mind and sense of safety that such a simple thing as lighting can bring to both the property owner and the business operator.


Residential Security Lighting

Residential security lighting comes in many forms, including landscape, perimeter flood, and access lighting.


Landscape lighting uses low light levels but helps show movement around the residence. These can be installed with each device having its own power source, but they also can be completed by using a string of lights all hooked to a single power source.


Motion-detected perimeter flood lights are a great way to secure the outside of a home as well as alert the homeowners of possible movement outside. These can be installed near entry points to a home or in dark areas not always visible to people and should be either wired to the home's power or solar-powered by individual solar power systems.


Finally, access lighting, typically installed in doorways, allows the homeowner and visitor to see each other clearly. These lights usually stay on all night and are hardwired into the home. Solar is also an option, but most big-box systems aren't reliable for all-night illumination.


All of these types of lighting can be purchased from a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowes and have easy installation methods, especially when using solar powered landscape and security lighting. Making sure you point the small solar panels towards the south and keep them in full sun will ensure that they operate as expected.


If you are working on the home's power, don't forget to turn off the breakers first!


Business Security Lighting

When a business needs security lighting, they require much larger scale lighting systems. These lighting systems are usually designed by a lighting engineer and require extensive electrical knowledge to install. In addition, the lights need to meet specific requirements, such as foot-candle and lumen output, as well as operational requirements.


Businesses that open after dark should have brightly lit walkways, parking lots, and entrances to ensure the employees and customers are safe. People coming and going should easily be able to recognize their vehicles, find fallen objects, and see people and obstacles with ease.


After the business closes, the lights can sometimes be dimmed down to lower the power consumption. Dimming the lights, or having them shut off completely, reduces the impact on the grid or lowers the required solar power system. In addition, motion sensors can be used to increase the lights, or turn them back on, if someone enters the area after everything is closed.


These lights are purchased through a lighting manufacturer or distributor and require electrical contractors for installation. If solar security lights are used, the voltage is much less, but hiring an electrical contractor will ensure the system is installed properly.


There are many variations of lighting levels required by different types of businesses and lighting zones, such as law enforcement, schools, hotels, gas stations, etc. The lighting engineer or manufacturing company you are working with for the security lighting will have knowledge of these needs and be able to help make sure the requirements are met. Talk to your lighting professional about your needs, and they will find the right light for your project.


Parks and Public Spaces Security Lighting

Parks and public spaces should install security lighting. Most of these areas are located nearby businesses and residential areas. The lighting would provide security to the people utilizing the space after dark as well as the surrounding areas.


Parks and public spaces are also popular, especially in the fall-spring months, when the sun goes down earlier in the day and the weather is pleasant. More people tend to go out to public spaces to spend time with friends and family and participate in community activities.


Illuminating these spaces allows people to continue to enjoy them with added safety and security. Solar security lighting would increase the visibility and usability of these spaces and provide a green way to provide power for the lights. The solar would be easily installed without displacing the area or causing considerable downtime.


Unoccupied and Storage Area Security Lighting

Storage yards and industrial areas typically employ perimeter security lighting to provide added security around the boundaries to prevent trespassers. In addition, container and rail yards sometimes have additional lighting between the containers to prevent tampering with the shipments.


These areas are a common place to have high-powered lights and are typically motion-activated. This way, energy isn't wasted when no one is on-site, but when the lights are necessary because people need to move about the area, the motion sensors kick them on. Loading docks and other sites like this can benefit from added security from lighting.


Office and Commercial Building Security Lighting

Entrances are one of the most critical locations for implementing security lighting for business owners. They are vital points that, in the case of robberies, having them well-lit will be instrumental in a successful identification.


Also, having well-lit entrances and surrounding landscapes makes the business much more respectable looking to prospective clients. Parking lots for employees and customers also need to be well-lit for the safety of people traveling to and from the building at night.


These are just some ways that different people implement security lighting depending on their particular needs. The location of where you chose security lighting is very important and should be thought over carefully so that when you decide to place the lighting, it works exactly as it needs to so the needs of your project are met.


Solar Security Light Components

The components that make up a commercial solar security light are similar to other commercial solar lights. Each light consists of a solar power array, battery backup, DC light fixture, controller, fixture bracket, and a pole. Everything exists on one pole, with the power located at the top of the pole facing south and the light fixture below, typically a few feet below the solar, and mounted to face the direction required to provide the light in the correct area.


Understanding these components and how to decide if they are appropriately manufactured will help you determine if the system you install will last. So let's look at each of those components in some detail.



Solar Power Assembly

The solar power assembly is comprised of rigid solar panels, a metal framework, and some bracketry for mounting on the pole. The bracket should attach to the framework properly and stand up to high winds, snowfall, and other weather conditions that may occur.


The solar should be sized up correctly to ensure plenty of charge is provided to refill the battery, even in the worst-case scenario. Even on cloudy days, there is some solar charge that will occur. Making sure that the solar can provide enough energy to recharge the batteries will ensure that the system will operate night after night without fail.


Solar Battery Backup

The solar battery backup needs to be adequate to safeguard the system has more than one or two nights of energy supply. This is because there are more than one or two days of bad weather during some times of the year. So instead, a minimum of five nights backup is used by most commercial manufacturers. This storage ensures that there is always plenty of backup power for times of inclement weather. This also allows the battery life to last upwards of five to seven years, reducing maintenance cycles and lowering maintenance costs over the system's life.


Solar Light Fixtures

Solar security light fixtures are a particular fixture that operates off DC power, not AC power. Most manufacturers have their line of fixtures and do not work with fixtures outside their main line. This is because extensive testing has been completed, and warranties exist for all components.


A solar fixture is also more energy-efficient than its AC counterparts. This efficiency is because the LEDs operate off the DC power provided by the solar by default, and no AC power adapter is required. This efficiency lowers the power requirement for the same amount of light because you aren't wasting power by converting it from one type of energy source to another. This also reduces the heat produced by the fixture.


Flood vs. Downlight Fixture Styles

Two main fixtures are used in a security light project; a flood light and a downlight. Depending on the needs of the project, sometimes a downlight will provide the needed illumination better than a flood. It depends on the light levels and pole placement on the site. A completed lighting plan will ensure that the correct fixture style will be used and the light levels will be met.


Flood lights have a NEMA 2x2-6x6 beam, depending on how large of an area you are illuminating. Downlights have Type 1-5 distributions available and can illuminate very different areas depending on the optics used. Each type of optic or distribution has its own specific uses.


Solar Controls

The controller acts as a gateway for the solar lighting system. It tells the batteries when they should be taking on the charge provided by the panels. It then will tell the batteries to operate the fixture when the panels stop producing power. The control makes sure that the batteries are not overcharged during the day and drained beyond a specified amount at night. All this control keeps the system operating at peak performance and increases the system's lifespan.


Solar Fixture Bracket

Brackets are almost always required for solar lighting installations. This is because the solar is almost always mounted to the top of the pole, and the fixture must be mounted lower. The fixture bracket allows the fixture to mount directly to the same pole and out away from the pole at times.


A standard bracket for a flood is a horn bracket with an upsweep to allow for the fixture to be adjusted for its angle. This bracket allows the fixture to swivel around and point directly at the area it is needed to illuminate.


An overhead fixture typically has a straight bracket, with or without an upsweep. The bracket allows for the downlight to focus its illumination straight down and relies on optics to illuminate a specific area.


The bracket also allows the fixture to be oriented properly, not constrained by the solar orientation. This is great as the solar must face directly south (or towards the equator), which doesn't always allow the fixture to face the correct direction if it is attached to the panel – here's looking at your all-in-one solar manufacturers.


Solar Light System Poles

The poles provided for standard light applications are quite different from what is provided for a solar lighting system. Solar poles are typically very large, with a 4-6" tip and an 8-14" base, and should always be round. Square poles do not allow for mounting the solar and fixture in any direction and tie you to four direction orientations.


Standard light poles are too weak to handle the weight and EPA of the system and can quickly fail, falling over, damaging property, and putting people in harm's way. This is all before a high wind or snow event, which can be even more dangerous if the pole is not manufactured specifically for the project.


As you can see, the benefit of security lighting far outweighs the initial cost or hesitation of buying the lights. Nothing is worth more than the peace of mind and sense of safety that such a simple thing as lighting can bring to the property owner, business operator, and community.