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Outdoor Security Lighting

Reliable Security Light – RAB STL360Q2

February 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

RAB STL360Q2

Reliability just might be the most important feature to look for in security lighting. The best motion light I’ve come across is the STL360Q2 by RAB Security. It isn’t so much about sensitivity, or brightness, those are all typical features.

What the RAB lights bring to the table is glitch free operation in modern electrical systems. I’ve had lights where the sensor just quits. Some have features where you can flip the light switch off and on in order to change their mode,  but with all the fluctuations in household voltage, it is common for motion sensor lighting to turn itself off, or stay on full time after a minor flutter in the power. RAB gets around this in their outdoor motion lights by requiring a double flip of the switch to change modes, which goes a long way towards overcoming the problem.

There are plenty of lights out there that are meant to look cute and vintage, which is a nice marriage of convenience and beauty, but this one doesn’t hide what it is. It looks like it means business, which, most of the time, is all the deterrent you need to keep away unsavory types.

RAB lights come at a bit of a premium compared to their run-of-the-mill competitors, but really, compared to other home improvements or security systems, they are still quite a bargain.

Amazon sells this one in black or white here.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Unbreakable Light Bulb Fixtures

May 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

unbreakable-light-bulb-fixture

I’ve been working with a company that has a lot of vagrant issues. Each night, homeless people come shuffling away from the bars in the center of town, looking for a convenient place to bed down for the night. They leave trash everywhere, so in an effort to discourage them, the company left the lights on at night. The bums just unscrewed the lights and shattered them on the ground.

What do you do when you are worried about vandals breaking your lights? There are remarkably few products out there that are specifically designed for the task, but I’ve started compiling resources here to help you put together a simple system yourself. These tips are primarily tailored towards commercial outdoor lighting, but may have use on your home as well.

Outdoor motion lighting is great for keeping out vagrants, even in poorly patrolled areas, because it keeps turning on and waking them up, and also exposes their location. The trick is making it vandal resistant. With this DIY motion sensor kit, you can make any light motion sensitive. The advantage with this kit is you can use lights built for durablility, and you can put the wireless motion sensor in a place where it isn’t lit up by the lights, and where it targets the desired area.

Finding durable lights isn’t easy, but they are out there. I’ll post links below to the better lights I found. I started my search by looking for what they use as prison lights. Prison lighting has to stand up to the worst sort of abuse, but prison light fixtures are also really ugly and surprisingly hard to obtain.

vandalproof-light-polycarbonate

There is a large selection of vandalproof lighting available out there. Henry  Ford once said that you could by his automobile in any color you want, as long as it’s black. These polycarbonate lights come in a wide variety of slightly different sizes and shapes, all of them ugly, none of them cheap. They redeem themselves in not having to be replaced, and by coming in a wide variety of light bulb styles. I don’t recommend fluorescent bulbs for motion lights. The ballasts just can’t take that many on/off cycles.

shatterproof-rough-service-bulb-teflon

Whichever light you choose, or even on existing lights in vandal prone areas, it’s a good idea to use a Teflon coated shatterproof bulb. This kind of rough service bulb is a bit more resistant to breakage, and removes most of your cleanup if a bulb breaks, as the shards stay inside the coating. Some of these bulbs are also 130 volt (works in a normal socket) which prevents them from burning out with small voltage spikes (the most common cause of an incandescent burnout). Once these bulbs are fortified and tamper-proofed, you don’t want to have to get In there to replace them all the time. Alternately, you could use an LED bulb or fixture. They are a bit more durable by nature since there is no filament to break, but they are also dimmer.

vandalproof-lighting

My choice for the moment are these lights by Designer’s Edge. It’s important to get the bulb up high out of their reach to reduce their options for tampering with the light. Vagrants aren’t going to stand around throwing rocks at a fortified fixture for any length of time. It may be that even the appearance of durability will be a good deterrent. These lights have a metal shell surrounding a tempered glass enclosure. They look durable, but not ugly, and they come in both wall mount (pictured top) and ceiling mount varieties (left). The ceiling mount light has 1/2-inch IPS thread on the top and sides for convenient wiring and a good weather seal.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Twin Security Lighting | Heath Zenith SL-5318

May 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

heath-zenith-sl-53181

If you are looking for inexpensive outdoor motion lighting that puts function above form, this is your light. At 240 watts for around $25, it is plenty bright for outdoor lighting, and the motion sensor will keep the bills down. It has some good adjustments for sensitivity and brightness, and features pulse counting to reduce false triggering from wind, adjustable detection range, swiveling sensor and lights, and duration controls. There is a dim setting for outdoor accent lighting that will brighten upon detecting motion, making this an excellent choice for exterior commercial lighting. It has up to 100′ range and 240° of sensitivity, making this double light ideal for corners. It isn’t built to handle a lot of abuse, but it it’s cheap, the manufacturer does provide a 10 year warranty, and it should hold up under normal outdoor use. The company provides good customer service. Many sites seem to be implying that 300 watt bulbs can be used in this light, but they are mistaken it has a 150 watt maximum per bulb. Click here for the very thorough owners manual (pdf). This lighting is available in black or white. If you want to just click and be done, you can get them through amazon, with free prime shipping if you have a prime account: Heath Zenith SL-5318 You can get bulbs for it here, or pretty much anywhere that sells light bulbs. If you don’t have an amazon prime account, it may be cheaper to get them through the Plumber Surplus links below. The price is a little higher, but they have free shipping and I’ll try to post any promotional codes I find below as well.

Heath Zenith SL-5318-BZ Dual Brite Motion Sensor Light Control with Full Metal Covers, Bronze

Heath Zenith SL-5318-WH Dual Brite Motion Sensor Light Control with Full Metal Covers, White

If you are willing to pay more for increased quality and construction, check out the Twin 300 Watt-Heath Zenith sl5512 Security Light

Outdoor Security Lighting

Heath Zenith SL-5511 150 Watt Security Floodlight

March 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

heath-zenith-sl-5511

 

 

If you are tired of dim security lights, then this is the light for you. With150 watts of halogen, this heavy duty security light will put out enough light to make sure you feel comfortable going out at night without all the bumbling and lurking shadows.

It has some good adjustments for sensitivity and brightness, and you will likely want to use them. This isn’t a good light to have pointed at your neighbors window and waking them up all night every time the cat walks through the yard. The wattage is such that you don’t want to pay for a lot of false triggers either, although motion lighting is much more economical than leaving them on full time. It features pulse counting to reduce false triggering from wind, adjustable detection range, swiveling sensor and light, and duration controls. There is a dim setting for outdoor accent lighting that will brighten upon detecting motion, making this an excellent choice for exterior commercial lighting. It has up to 50′ range and 100° of sensitivity. It is built to last with a heavy duty cast metal shell and the bulb is included.

Available via Amazon in white or bronze.

This security light also comes in a double setup ideal for corners, large spaces, or just to double light output to a whopping 300 Watts of light.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Twin Heath Zenith SL-5512-BZ-B 300-Watt Security Light

March 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

sl-5512-bz-b-security-light

 

If you are tired of dim security lights, then this is the light for you. With 300 watts of halogen, this heavy duty security light will put out enough light to turn any lurking vampires to ash.

It has some good adjustments for sensitivity and brightness, and you will likely want to use them. This isn’t a good light to have pointed at your neighbors window and waking them up all night every time the cat walks through the yard. The wattage is such that you don’t want to pay for a lot of false triggers either. It features pulse counting to reduce false triggering from wind, adjustable detection range, swiveling sensor and lights, and duration controls. There is a dim setting for outdoor accent lighting that will brighten upon detecting motion, making this an excellent choice for exterior commercial lighting. It has up to 70′ range and 240° of sensitivity, making this double light ideal for corners. It is built to last with a heavy duty cast metal shell and bulbs are included. Many sites seem to be implying that 300 Watt bulbs can be used in this light, but I believe they are mistaken. The product just advertises this number as a total.

Available via amazon in white or bronze.

A single version of this floodlight is also available.

Outdoor Security Lighting

Motion Sensor Security Camera and Floodlight by Stealth Cam

March 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

stc-slc2b_stealth_cam

 

This motion detector light with built in digital camera and card reader is at the top of its class because it is in a class by itself. To the look at it, it appears to just be a normal motion sensing light, but it has a hidden security camera (two megapixel) built in. The wiring is as simple as any motion detector. They accomplish this by incorporating a digital card slot for SD digital camera cards. Just pull the card out and put it in your computer to view the pictures. It records video in ten second increments as well! When the card fills up, it overwrites the oldest files, so no worry about having to empty it all the time. With a couple gigabytes of memory card, you can get a lot of data. It is full color. It time and date stamps every image. This gives you not just security, but evidence. The light is a 500 watt halogen, so this thing will really light up the yard.

There are some problems with this light. There is very little customer support. While the light will only be triggered at night, the camera takes pictures all day. This may be a good feature, but you have no option to disable it short of wiring it to a switch, which brings me to the next problem: when the light loses power, it loses track of time. There is an LCD screen for programming the device, but it is placed in an awkward location and upside down. The motion detector will detect things that are outside of the camera’s 52° viewing angle, which could be good considering there is a long shutter lag, but it will also give you some pictures with nothing in them. The camera does take two pictures each time it detects motion. The light can be swiveled up and down, but not side to side. There is no sensitivity switch, so end up with lots of pictures of your cat.

I hate to recommend a light that has so much room for improvement, but it really is in a class by itself for the moment. If you want this functionality at this price, this is your light. If you have a problem and the light snaps a shot of it, it has likely already payed for the additional price for the motion camera. Costco used to carry this camera, but I don’t believe they do any more. It is available through amazon.

Update: I recently had a trackback from a post on West Seattle Blog. Apparently, the author came home from work on a bright rainy afternoon to find that someone had squeezed through an eight by twelve window, stabbed their alarm system with a kitchen knife, and made off with their TV, wrapped in their favorite blanket. I know how hard it can be to come home to this. It is an awful feeling that doesn’t go away for a long time. After reading this, the feature set of this light really came together for me. The camera being hidden prevents it from ending up stabbed with a kitchen knife, and the photos being taken during the day is really nice when thieves don’t wait for dark. With this hidden camera light, the story above could have ended with them pulling the card out of their light and handing photos of the perpetrators to the authorities and having their favorite blanket returned, possibly still wrapping their television.

I’ve also found a near identical light under a different brand name with a slightly expanded feature set at Brickhouse Security: 
Catch ‘Em Motion-Activated Light, Camera & DVR (Black)

Or, alternatively, there is a very nice networkable security camera with night vision put out by Logitech, which is similarly easy to set up.

Outdoor Security Lighting

36 LED Solar Powered Security Light (motion sensitive)

February 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

36-led_solar_motion_light

 

These motion lights don’t need any wiring into your electrical system, so you can just put it wherever you like and put the little solar panel wherever it will get at least a little light.

The unit consists of a swiveling 36 LED light, a swiveling motion sensor, and  a solar panel with a cord that connects into the main unit. There is an on/off button (well sealed) and a duration adjustment. The place where the cord attaches doesn’t seem terribly water tight, but I’ve had it out in the rain for most of a year with no ill effects. A little sealant would allay any worries. Once the panel has charged the unit, the cord can be removed and the unit will still function as long as it has battery power. I just leave it plugged in, but I imagine it would be a breeze to switch this to a different DC power source. Maybe convert it to wind power for those winters in Alaska? It uses a 1.2 volt, 600mAh/6 volt NiCd rechargeable battery pack (included). The LED lighting is very efficient and puts out a moderately focused beam bright enough to get your attention and light up anything  in front of it with a brightness equivalent to several flashlights (rated to 16 feet). The sensor is sensitive to 120°.  Both the light and the sensor swivel, there are quick release screw mounts on the back, and the cord on the solar panel is several feet long in case you want to mount it elsewhere. This is  good light to stick in a hard to wire part of your yard to  alert you to people or discourage nocturnal animals. I’ve been using it to keep raccoons out of my pond.

I found mine at Harbor Freight. Amazon also has this light last time I checked here: 36 LED Solar Security Light on amazon.

They often have it quite a bit cheaper at the Harbor Freight website.


They also have a similar selection of lights here.