Artistic Outdoor Lighting Effective for Personal Safety and Security

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Proper Outdoor Lighting Techniques Create Inviting Atmosphere and Sense of Safety

Many homeowners use outdoor lighting for artistic reasons: to highlight the new Japanese maple in the landscaping, or to add a warm wash of light to a home's beautiful façade. While the artistic use of outdoor lighting is widely understood, the effective use of outdoor lighting for safety and security is often overlooked.

"It's intuitive to think outdoor lighting makes homeowners safer, but using it incorrectly can actually do more harm than good," said Winston Edwards, a lighting specialist with Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, OLP, a world leader in residential outdoor lighting systems. "Outdoor lighting is a proven way to deter burglars from targeting your house, but only if it is done correctly."

One of the most common mistakes in outdoor lighting is the overuse of floodlights. While they may seem like a safe option, floodlights can actually cause more harm than good, creating shadows in landscaping and blinding a homeowner who is looking outside. The same goes for eave or soffit lighting, which can be a good form of security lighting, but can also be a hazard to passing motorists or pedestrians and a nuisance to neighbors.

"More light is not always better light," Edwards said. "Anytime your eye is exposed to a direct light source, the pupil will contract, causing less light to enter and temporarily impairing your vision."

According to Edwards, using an outdoor lighting system with a series of energy-efficient, low-wattage lights strategically placed around the home is a safe and effective way to light a landscape. The lights should be positioned on the ground and shine up on distinctive features of the home, creating a pleasing effect and providing sufficient light to ward off intruders. The fixtures also should feature a shielded light source, which is less obtrusive and safer for visual purposes.

Besides serving as a natural deterrent for burglars, outdoor lighting can enhance the safety of a property in terms of walking and maneuvering. With more than 7 million slip-and-fall lawsuits being filed each year, outdoor lighting is an easy way to avoid risk. Pathways, stone pavers, decks and especially steps all deserve attention when it comes to outdoor lighting, according to Edwards.

"With unlit steps and pathways you risk tripping and falling and increase the chances of someone litigating," Edwards said. "Failing to correctly light stairways disrupts depth perception and one's navigational abilities."

Placing a light that shines upwards at the bottom of steps can be extremely dangerous. Lights should be used to create shadows on stairs to help the mind subconsciously create transitions. To achieve this, it is best to place lights above each step to shine downward.

Timing technology is another often overlooked component of outdoor lighting and can be especially beneficial for security reasons. Equipment such as OLP's Lighting Control Automation (LCA) device allows lighting to mimic natural behavior and give the appearance of someone being at home, even when the house is empty.

Homeowners can take the LCA technology one step further and install driveway sensors that trigger inside and outside lights when a car pulls into the driveway. More advanced than a motion detector, the LCA timer allows for a natural progression of light through the house, as if someone were walking from room to room.

"While outdoor lighting and timing technology are ideal ways to add beauty, comfort and convenience to your property, they also have an important functional purpose," Edwards said. "These days outdoor lighting is more of a necessity than a luxury."

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) is America's largest full-service outdoor lighting specialist and part of the Outdoor Living Brands franchise company based in Richmond, Va. OLP installers offer no-obligation demonstrations in the latest concepts in outdoor lighting to enhance the beauty, safety and security of a home. For more information, visit

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Amanda Williams

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