Thursday, 10 January 2008

Security Lights - Waste Of Energy


I have just come in after taking my dogs for a walk and one thing really struck me tonight, the number of badly fitted security lights which were on, or came on for no reason wasting energy. Many of them reacted to me walking past in the road outside the boundary of the property and often floodlit the houses opposite, casting a shadow of a fat man with his dogs rather than them lighting up the area intended!

Security lights with PIR which are automatically triggered by movement have become increasingly popular among homeowners in the fight to prevent break-ins and to provide much needed lighting when arriving home. I have quite a number installed around my house to light up the driveway and the gardens when out at night. When I fitted them I made special care to select models with adjustable timers and darkness threshold settings so that they only came on when dark and only for a short period of time only (their on time is automatically extended if movement continues) I also ensured that they were angled such that they were triggered by movement on, and only illuminated my property and didn't illuminate the surrounding gardens or houses. I have also replaced the unnecessary bright 500W halogen bulbs for 300W ones.

I seem to be in the minority as I understand that there have been a rise in the number of complaints to councils about security lights that go on too easily at night, pouring light into neighbours' homes. There was talk in Scotland recently about introducing legislation to cover these floodlights.

The new provision will apply to any floodlights home owners choose to erect in order to light up their house at night. Members of the public will also be able to complain about street lamps outside their homes which they consider intrusive. The Public Health Bill is currently moving through the Scottish Parliament and is expected to made law later this year.

To prove that nearby lighting is a genuine nuisance, neighbours will have to show that it disturbs them even when their curtains are drawn. What I didn't realise was this law is already in force in England where the "Campaign for Dark Skies" is gaining support, triggered by several accidents caused by bright lights at night.

In Oxfordshire, a man was hit by a car and killed after a floodlight outside a pub temporarily blinded the driver. The case against security lights has also been made by a study for the British Journal of Criminology, which concluded that security lights on houses have no noticeable effect on deterring criminals.

Interestingly on the CfDS website they point out "Assume that, throughout the UK, there are 2.2 million home "security" floodlights that are on, on average, 30 minutes per night (see the Environmental section, above). They will cost a total of £10 million a year for 500 watt lights alone (assuming the electricity used costs 5p per KW/hr)."

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