Properly installed security lighting is a real boost to your peace of mind, particularly if the road you’re living in isn’t very busy – it’s good to have a very visible signal that there’s someone moving about outside your house. (And, of course, it may well deter any would-be burglar from an attempt to break in.) However, there are one or two things you’ll need to bear in mind if you’re to get the most out of a security lighting system.

Electrical safety

First and foremost, since 1 January 2005 electrical work done outside your house has to be notified to your local authority’s Building Control Department before work starts.

If your security lights are attached to the wall of your house (or of your garage or shed, if they’re already wired for electricity), then the work’s not notifiable as long as there are no exposed outdoor connections and you’re not installing a new circuit or extending one from a kitchen, special location (eg bath/shower room, swimming pool or hot air sauna) or special installation (eg garden lighting, floor heating, solar panels). But if in doubt, tell the local authority – that way, you can be sure you’re not breaking any laws.

Fit and forget!

Installing security lighting is all very well, but it’s false security if you have to remember to switch it on at night – after all, you only have to forget once to allow an intruder an opportunity.

Better to get what’s known as dusk-to-dawn lighting. These are controlled by a light-sensitive switch – when it gets dark, the switch operates to activate the lighting system. You can generally adjust the sensitivity of the switch so that the lights switch on before it gets fully dark and switch off again in the morning when the daylight’s strong enough.

Waking up the neighbours?

You may feel it’s wasteful to have the Blackpool Illuminations in your garden all night every night – and it probably won’t make you terribly popular with the neighbours either.

If these are concerns, you’ll want to consider passive infra-red (PIR) lighting. These use infra-red detectors to sense the body heat of anybody coming within range – when that happens, the lights switch on.

Depending on the sophistication of your lighting system, by carefully planning where you site your detectors and your lights, you can set up your security lighting so that you have a few relatively discreet lights by your front door and pathways to help you in at night without disturbing the whole neighbourhood, combined with a bright halogen floodlight to illuminate your whole back garden if there’s someone sneaking around out there.

Sense and sensibility

When positioning your detectors, you’ll need to bear these points in mind:

Don’t put your dawn-to-dusk detectors in the line of sight of your floodlights, or they’ll be confused into thinking it’s morning and try to switch off the lights as soon as they come on!
Don’t put your PIR detectors near domestic heat sources, eg boiler flues or tumble dryer outlets
If your house is close to a public footpath, make sure your PIR detectors are angled so that passing pedestrians don’t keep activating the lights
Adjust the sensitivity of your PIR detectors so that they’re switched on by humans but not by small animals, eg cats
Why are these points so important? Well, if the lights come on when they’re not supposed to, then you’ll get fed up with the false alarms and be more likely to ignore the lights when there really is an intruder. So it really is worth taking the time to get your lights set up properly.