Touchstone Energy Cooperative branding
Main Menu
Show More +


Outdoor security lighting  Smart Choices Archive

Outdoor security lighting

The incandescent bulb in this existing outdoor light fixture has been replaced with an efficient compact fluorescent bulb.

Energy Efficiency: Lighting

Dear Jim:

There were some break-ins in my neighborhood this past year, so I want to install some outdoor security lighting that can also be used when entertaining. What are my options and which are most efficient? - Ann J.

Dear Ann:

Installing outdoor lighting is one method to reduce the possibility of nighttime break-ins. Talk with your local police department about what types and the amount of lighting they recommend for your home. Based upon crime statistics for your area, the police can also recommend the appropriate on-time for your security lights. Obviously, the less time they are on, the less electricity you have to pay for.

Keep in mind though, outdoor lighting should be used in moderation. It consumes large amounts of electricity, contributes to global warming and creates problems for wildlife that navigate at night. Also, in major cities, outdoor lighting makes it almost impossible to see the stars at night. If you have ever been on Pike's Peak in Colorado on a clear night, you know how many stars there really are to be seen.

When comparing lights and determining how many you need, compare their light output lumens ratings. This is listed on the packaging. The wattage refers to how much electricity a bulb uses, not its light output. The actual light intensity on your house or the ground is rated in lux (lumens per square meter).

The keys to energy and environmentally efficient outdoor lighting is selecting the proper type of bulb, light fixture design and shortest on-time period. Using just two 150-watt floodlights at night can increase your electric bills by up to $100 per year. With several fixed floodlights around your house, would-be thieves can often figure a way to get around them without being seen.

In areas where you will not need the lighting for entertaining, install motion-sensing fixtures or add-on motion-sensing switches. You can find these at most home center stores. Motion-sensing lights greatly reduce the amount of on-time and increase the bulb life. The light is not on when the intruder arrives, so they would not know to avoid it until it switches on from their movement and they are caught in a lighted area. This generally will frighten a would-be intruder. Better-quality models provide for adjustable distance sensitivity and on-times.

For areas where you want the outdoor lighting for both security and entertaining, select fixtures that direct the lighting downward in the specific areas needed. This minimizes light pollution in the night sky and may allow you to use lower wattage bulbs to save electricity. Add-on shields are available for existing floodlights you already have. Other complete outdoor shielded fixtures, with a mirrored interior for efficiency, are available (

As you would do indoors, use fluorescent tubes and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) in your outdoor lighting fixtures. Some may not operate well at very cold temperatures, so check with the lighting manufacturer before selecting them for cold climates. Fluorescent lights are four times more energy efficient than standard incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer. The light quality from the newer CFLs is similar to standard incandescent bulbs. For whiter light, select full-spectrum CFLs.

If you find a problem with CFLs outdoors during winter, use halogen bulbs. Although these are not as efficient as CFLs, they are still 15 percent more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. Halogen bulbs produce a very white light, excellent when entertaining and may enhance the appearance of your landscaping. Halogen bulbs can get very hot, so pay attention to the maximum wattage allowed for each light fixture. Mercury vapor bulbs also produce a pleasing light.

Although they are substantially more expensive to install, LPS (low pressure sodium) outdoor lighting fixtures are very energy efficient. These are the type of fixtures used in most commercial parking lots. They use less than 15 percent as much electricity as incandescent bulbs. The only drawbacks are they take a short time to heat up to full brightness and the light is a monochromatic yellow.

Some of the newest fixtures use clusters of white LEDs (light-emitting diodes). These are solid state devices, not actual bulbs, which produce a white/bluish light. LEDs are extremely efficient and they last almost forever, up to 100,000 hours. The brightness of the light output is limited so they are best for lighting a specific small area. They are often installed in groups to light a larger area.

The following companies offer efficient outdoor lighting:

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Publication Name, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

Photo Credit: James Dulley


Share: Bookmark and Share

Email a FriendEmail article to a Friend

Print Friendly VersionPrint Friendly Version