Vertical Lighting Vs. Even Light Distribution

It is common knowledge that when criminals are breaching a secure area at night, they avoid light and the risk of being seen at all costs. With that said, what is the best kind of light to install in order to keep them away? Whether you’re an end user or integrator of perimeter security lighting—looking to learn more about inexpensive, highly-effective low-voltage solutions—this blog is for you. In this post, we contrast the limits and problems of traditional pole-mounted vertical lighting and the benefits of even light distribution from fence-mounted lights. If this sounds like something you want to know more about or may have not considered in the past, you’ll want to read on.

3 Problems with Today’s Pole Lighting

Until very recently, the only choice for a perimeter security lighting solution has been lighting that is typically used in parking lots or roadways. This type of lighting is referred to here as “pole” lighting. Pole lights are generally mounted 18 to 30 feet high; because of this height and their spacing—typically two times the height of the light—they project light downward from a steep angle and a significant elevation off grade. This creates several problems including:

  1. Eye fatigue: The direction of the light emanating from an elevated pole light is not conducive to the human eye because glare is often created, causing the iris of the eye to close; this further darkens unlit areas and causes eye fatigue to those who are surveying the property such as a security guard. A security guard with compromised eyesight is an ineffective one. 

  2. Shadows and dark spots for intruders to hide: Because traditional pole lights are spaced about 100 feet apart, shadows and dark spots between the lights, also known as “black holes,” are created. These black holes are a result of plant material and inherent limitations with some light fixtures’ distribution of light. Criminals look at this compromised perimeter security as their opportunity, and will always choose a poorly light perimeter over a well lit one. Further, pole lighting lux levels do not provide even light distribution. They provide the strongest light directly below or in front of its light source at about 20 lux; at its furthest distance of its coverage, the light is significantly lower at about .05 lux—and in some instances creates uneven lighting, hot spots, and poorly illuminated areas in the coverage zone. Finally, inoperable pole light fixtures create large areas where intruders can hide in critical locations along your perimeter. Or, should an intruder to take out just one light, say with a BB gun, it would be very easy for him to create a very dark space to breach the perimeter. 

  3. Intruders’ faces are masked by shadows: Another inherent issue with vertical lighting from high-mounted pole lights is that they illuminate the tops of intruders’ heads and shoes perfectly, but not their faces, especially as they get closer to the light source. In fact, vertical pole lighting creates dark shadows over intruders’ faces because the light is only pointing downward. This makes it impossible to identify them on camera footage, and ultimately eliminates any chance of identifying them or providing any  incriminating evidence for the police or insurance companies.

4 Advantages of Even Light Distribution

Today, the security lighting game has changed. With CAST’s perimeter security lighting solutions, you now have a superior option offering even light distribution and much improved vertical illumination, which enhances the effectiveness of both camera security and physical security. How? Here are four distinct advantages of even light distribution over traditional pole lighting.

  1. Maximum visibility for security guards: By nature, pole lights aren’t dynamic; they aren’t customizable for properties. If a security guard comes across dark spots or glare while surveying a property, the lights haven’t been designed for that particular property or purpose. Pole lights also haven’t been designed for the human eye. Even light distribution is adjusted for the maximum ability for your eyes to see at night and your cameras to capture sharp crisp images. 

  2. Lighting designed for camera imaging: Because both vertical and horizontal lighting are provided, the perimeter is well lit. This allows cameras to perform optimally in daylight hours and, most importantly, at night. This also means that property owners do not need to make the steep investment on low-lighting cameras.

  3. Intruders hate it: Because even light distribution eliminates dark spots and illuminates intruders’ faces, intruders think twice about even approaching a property. They don’t have black holes to hide in, shadows created by natural plant material, and won’t want to risk being caught and identified on camera. Additionally, with low-voltage, low cost lights spaced 20 feet apart, even if an intruder takes one out, no black hole would be created, which is the case with pole lighting.

  4. Tactical glare: This is a term you may not be familiar with. Glare can be a disadvantage, limiting camera imaging and security surveillance, making it hard for the human eye to see. But with this knowledge, you can turn it into your own advantage. A “glare zone” is the area where glare is prominent; it runs about 22 feet to 45 feet on both sides of the fence, depending on the mounting height of the fixture. Intruders that approach the fence, enter the glare zone and are quickly exposed to blinding glare that disables their vision and deters intrusion. At the same time, guards and cameras can monitor this activity from a glare-free observation zone, providing a tactical advantage while remaining virtually out of sight.

Tips for Integration

Even light distribution isn’t the only feature of perimeter security lighting that matters. As you now begin to rethink perimeter security lighting, you should be aware of how easily integration of a lighting system should be with your security technology and third-party systems.

The ability for your lighting system to integrate with your existing technology—like your cameras, VMS recording system, access control and motion detection—is key. You should look for security lighting that can be seamlessly combined with your new or existing security system. This ensures that the lights will be turned on automatically in different zones when an intruder approaches. If triggered lights is an important feature to you or your customers when an intruder approaches, an easily integrated solution is a must. 

Additionally, the best system in the world won’t do you much good if it’s unaffordable. We recommend looking into low-voltage security lighting systems with fence-mounted fixtures, which will save you tens of thousands on the installation labor and the low cost of operation. We even did the math for you, dropping the average install and operation price from more than $80,000 using pole lights to just a hair over $20,000. With such persuasive facts and figures, we are staunch advocates of low-voltage fence-mounted perimeter security lighting systems and we’ve adequately explained why! We wish you success on your journey to finding the best security lighting solution and hope you’ve found this blog enlightening.