Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sept. 19, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Improve lighting for security and safety


It’s the season for summer vacations and weekend getaways. But before you head out for a trip, consider strategically illuminating your property to ward off anyone with ill intent.

“Security lighting is an efficient and affordable solution to protect your property whether you’re home or not,” said Clark Public Utilities Energy Counselor Mike Wallace, who has more than a decade of experience with lighting in commercial and residential spaces. “Even something as simple as a few lamps on timers around the house can be enough to make thieves think twice.”

You don’t need to sacrifice your home’s aesthetics, blind your neighbors with giant floodlights or call for help with a roof-mounted Bat-Signal to ward off trespassers. While it used to be that a person’s lighting options were limited to wherever wiring was present and could safely handle the heat intensity of a large incandescent spotlight, things have changed.

“Today’s homeowner has options that simply didn’t exist even a few years ago,” Wallace said. “Many companies offer a range of efficient lighting options that are weatherproof and often don’t need to be wired into the home, which makes them extremely versatile and easy to install.”

But, whenever there are lots of options, the smart thing to do is to assess your own needs and weigh both accordingly. You may find the products with the most features — and often a higher price tag — don’t strike the balance you need.

Before you begin shopping, step outside after dark and look at your home. Make a note of heavily shadowed areas, potential trip and fall hazards, dark walking paths, and windows where the interior of your home is easily visible. Pay special attention to driveways, parking areas, streets, backyards, entryways, corners, decks, trees and flower beds, walkways and perimeters. Knowing those details in advance will save you time and help you understand whether you need security lighting, landscape lighting or a combination of the two.

“The difference between them is subtle, but important,” Wallace said. “Landscape lighting highlights the home and property’s aesthetics after dark, but isn’t designed to startle intruders — that’s where the security lights come in. They’re designed to come on without warning and ward off people with ill intentions and alert homeowners.”

For a simple but effective security lighting setup, Wallace recommends illuminating the front of the home from dusk to dawn with lights on timers or activated by photocells and using motion-sensor lights at the sides and rear.

Worry not if your home has few or no external outlets. Solar-powered, LED exterior lights offer powerful, self-sustaining illumination at price points at or near those of wired lighting solutions.

If you already have exterior lighting wired into the home, it’s good practice to occasionally inspect it for any damage or electrical hazards. It’s also smart to replace any incandescent bulbs — especially in power-hungry spotlights — with LED bulbs. Not only are they as bright or brighter, but they use a fraction of the electricity and last much longer.

Don’t overlook your home’s interior when thinking about security lighting. Making your home seem occupied while you’re away can also convince thieves to steer clear. Set a few lamps and electronics, such as TVs or radios, on timers while you’re away. Smart outlets are an even more sophisticated solution. They can be programmed to activate on different schedules on different days, furthering the illusion that someone is home.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.