Dear Jim: I want to improve my outdoor lighting for better security and when entertaining guests. I want to do it efficiently and do some of the work myself to lower the cost. What are some outdoor lighting tips? – Tom G.
Dear Tom: It is important to plan your outdoor lighting scheme or it may increase your electric bills significantly. Keep in mind that the best lighting plan for security is not always the best for entertaining. It would be wise to make two lighting layouts on different switches.
To calculate how much it costs to operate outdoor lights per day, first total the wattages of all the bulbs. Multiply this total by eight hours and then multiply by your electric rate ($ per kilowatt-hour). Divide this by 10 to get the number of cents per day. You might be surprised at the total.
People often think that brighter lights provide better security.
Actually lower lighting levels are more effective. This is because it is difficult for the human eye to quickly adjust from a very bright area to a darker area. If the lighting is less bright, it is often easier to see and pick up movement in the darker areas where someone might be hiding.
The best security lighting plan is ineffective if your house is not reasonably secure. If someone can break into your house in a few seconds, they probably won’t be concerned about the possibility of being seen.
Make sure all your windows have latches and lock them when the windows are closed, even when you are at home. Install good quality, bump-resistant deadbolt locks on all the doors. These are more difficult to pick. Plant thorny shrubs under windows and install an alarm system.
Walk around your house and look for spots where someone might hide that may need some security lighting. Do this at night because street lights or neighbors’ lights might already provide adequate brightness. Try to minimize light pollution by using only as much brightness as is necessary.
CFL (compact fluorescent lights) and LED (light emitting diodes) produce much more light output per watt than standard incandescent bulbs. For example, an L22 array LED fixture uses less than 25 watts to produce the same light output as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. LED’s are not effected by cold temperatures. CFL’s are and take a little time to reach full brightness.
Motion-sensing lights are the most efficient and effective for security.
When the light comes on, a thief assumes he has been seen. Select one with two-level lighting. Switch it on for low-level background lighting and it only switches to full brightness when motion is detected.
Solar-powered LED motion-sensing models are the easiest to install yourself.
The following companies offer efficient outdoor lighting: Energy Focus, (888) 704-2276, www.energyfocusinc.com; Hadco, (800) 331-4185, www.hadcolighting.com; Idaho Wood, (800) 635-1100, www.idahowood.com; Kim Lighting, (626) 968-5666, www.kimlighting.com; and Wave Lighting, (877) 870-9283, www.wavelightingusa.com.
Dear Jim: I just installed foil-faced fiberglass batt insulation on the attic floor. I have a lot of extra insulation. Can I just roll out a second layer of insulation over the floor for double the savings? – Connie F.
Dear Connie: If you installed the recommended R-value level of insulation, you are probably better off returning the extra insulation for a refund. As you add more insulation, the additional savings per inch thickness diminishes.
If you cannot return it, it will help some to add a second layer on the floor. Make sure to cut the foil facing in many spots. This will keep moisture from collecting and condensing between the layers.