Security lights are a great way to keep your home safe. No potential burglar is going to stick around for long if they’re suddenly caught in bright light.
However, you need to always be careful when you’re adding new lights to the outside of your home. You have to be considerate of other people who live near you and any laws in your local area.
Security lights don’t need planning permission to install, but it is required to ensure it isn’t classed as a legal nuisance for neighbors by directing it appropriately and keeping it as dim as possible while still being effective.
You can’t just put up any light on the side of your property, so in this article I’ll take you through the following:
- The main regulations for any external lighting
- The rules to follow specifically for security lighting
- How bright your security lights can be
What Are The Main Building Regulations For External Lighting?
There is no one-size-fits-all set of regulations that cover what you are allowed to do in the US regarding external lighting. However,several states have established common regulations for you to follow.
Even if you live in a state where these regulations don’t apply, it makes sense to follow them.
If you don’t, and a neighbor accuses you of light pollution, they could have a legal case against you, and you may need to pay damages.
To prevent light pollution, a common regulation is that all external lighting should be fully shielded. This means that, unless you’re standing directly underneath the fitting, you shouldn’t be able to see the bulb – only the light it emits.
This is because shielding makes sure the light is only directed where it is supposed to be. If the bulb isn’t fully shielded, then it can cause glare and light trespass for your neighbors.
Some states offer exceptions to this regulation if using an incandescent bulb of 150 watts or less or an LED bulb that’s 70 watts or less.
This exception is because these bulbs aren’t bright enough to become a nuisance to a neighbor.
Other regulations will ensure that non-essential lighting is automatically shut off overnight, usually between 11pm or midnight and 6am.
If your lights have an automatic shut-off, they can be left on – which is relevant for security lights since they only come on when they sense movement.
It’s also important to remember to only buy bulbs that are certified for outdoor use.
You can’t buy any light fitting or bulb and hope to use it outdoors. If it isn’t equipped for all weather conditions, it could start an electrical fire or be an electrocution hazard.
I’ve discussed this already, but check the UL rating on any light you buy for a security light – it should be labeled as “suitable for wet locations” if you want to use it outdoors.
Generally, security lights are all designed for outdoor use, but it is best to check.
Finally, all outdoor lighting (and any outdoor electrical circuit) needs to be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
This cuts the electricity if it senses an imbalance in the current, to prevent electrocution.
Can You Install Security Lights Without Permissions?
So taking into account all of the above, you can install security lights onto your home without seeking planning permission.
However, you need to ensure that they are adequately shielded. Even if you are justifying the security light with safety, you can’t aim it to point into the window of another home near yours.
Your security light should be directed at a part of your own property – your driveway or walkway, or your backyard. And it should be aimed sufficiently downwards so that it doesn’t shine on other homes.
You don’t have to have your security light entirely switched off overnight, but it can’t be left on at all hours.
Make sure it has a motion sensor included – any good security light will. This will only switch the light on when movement is spotted. It’ll automatically shut off the security light after a few seconds.
Ultimately the responsibility is to make sure that your security light doesn’t prove to be a nuisance to those who live in your area.
I find it’s good to strike up a conversation with your neighbors about your outdoor lighting, so you can get them onto your side and even recommend them a lighting solution to make your whole community safer.
What Is The Maximum Light Output Allowance For Security Lights?
Just as there are no defined laws on needing permission for security lights, you’re also free to choose how bright you want your light to be.
Again though, you need to take into consideration your neighbors. Even if your security light is shielded and directed towards the ground, a bulb that is too bright could still prove to be a nuisance.
However, the point of a security light is to be bright enough to deter intruders – whether that’s a raccoon or a potential burglar. So you don’t want to opt for the lowest output bulb either.
I personally recommend a bulb that has an output of between 700 and 1,600 lumens. If you’re buying incandescent, this means a 60 watt or 75 watt is best, while with LED, it’s somewhere between 8 watts and 20 watts.
700 lumens is bright enough for smaller driveways, where you’re installing your security light just above head height.
Opt for something brighter if you want your light to be higher, but a higher bulb is more likely to leak light to surrounding properties.
If you go any higher than 1,600 lumens, I think you’ll struggle to make out details in the glare. And suppose you’re pairing your security light with a camera to record footage. In that case, it might be whited out, rendering your recordings useless.
I know how tempting it can be to pick the ‘best’ light you can afford, but that isn’t always the brightest, especially when you’re trying to keep the peace in your neighborhood!
The laws around outdoor lighting do vary depending on where you live. Still, by using common sense, you should have no problems installing security lights.
You don’t need to get planning permission in advance, and as long as you make sure your new light doesn’t impact your neighbors, there should be no problems.
I think security lights are a great way to protect your home. Because they only switch on when they detect motion, they’re an inexpensive security tool to have.
Do you have security lights at home already?
And are you worried about upsetting neighbors, particularly if you’re unlucky enough to have a poor relationship with them already?
I’d love to know more about your current security plans and add any useful information you need.