"Outdoor Lights On, Dusk to Dawn"

Campaign to Light Up Our Neighborhoods

Q: What's the easiest and least expensive way to increase lighting of our sidewalks and street?

A: Get everyone on your block to use their existing outdoor lighting every night, dusk to dawn. (front doors, front porches, garages, etc.) Note that if you do not wish to use dusk-to-dawn installations, manually flipping the light switch each morning and night works just as well.

When people use their own lights, it complements large-scale block and neighborhood projects to increase the number of streetlights. Remember: Lights, like locks, must be used to be effective.

Q: Why is this a good idea?

A: It increases pedestrian visibility, makes people feel safer walking in their neighborhood, and deters crime-- all for pennies a day!

Lighting a 100-watt bulb every night (average of 10 hours/night) costs about 7¢ a night (less than $26 a year).

Q: Is there such a thing as too much light?

A: Yes. Lighting that is inefficiently used can cause light pollution (the glow across the sky you can see when approaching a large city is a good example). When we recommend adding lighting, we want to stress that you should not feel like you need to light up your yard in the middle of the night as if it were day time. Multiple points of low-level light are better than one very bright, large-scale light. The goal is ambient lighting that allows you to identify a person from 20 feet away.

The basic lighting recommendations are as follows:

• Have a dawn-to-dusk (photosensor) light on all the main entrance points of your home.

o This is for your safety as well as to help light the streets and alleys. In the middle of the night, a lit door is more welcoming than a dark hole. This is a safety concern for crime reasons (so someone cannot lurk there unseen or so neighbors can see if someone is trying to break in your door) as well as for more mundane reasons (for instance, in the middle of winter if there are ice slicks near your entrance it is best if you know and can accommodate your stride).

• Use covered lights.

o Bare light bulbs cause glare. It takes 20 minutes for the human eye to adjust between light and dark. Glare or going from dark to bright spots can make it harder to see. In addition, uncovered lights are easy to compromise by unscrewing the bulb, rendering the light an ineffective crime prevention tool.

• Consider motion detectors.

o For areas of your yard that do not need to be lit all night, consider motion detectors. These can deter criminal behavior and, depending on your use, can also alert you or neighbors to activity in an area that shouldn't be in use at that time of night.

• Look at your home at night to eliminate dark spots.

o The best way to get an idea of where there may be dark spots in your landscaping and what level of surrounding light is available via streetlights, etc, is to go outside at night and look at your home. Identify areas that may be hidden or dark and consider what solutions you feel work for you.

• Equalize lighting inside and out.

o The 'fishbowl effect' is common in residential neighborhoods. Oftentimes at night it is light inside the home and dark outside. This means that it is very easy for anyone outside to look in your home and see exactly where your valuables are or what you are doing, yet if you attempt to look outside it is made more difficult by the reflective quality of glass. From the inside on a dark night, windows can be like mirrors. To remedy that, low-level lighting outside to equalize the lighting inside can make it so you can see out. Think of commercial areas at night. Pedestrians on the sidewalks can see inside and patrons in restaurants, for example, can easily look out. This is due to ambient lighting inside and out.

• For cost-effective lighting solutions, consider:

o Compact fluorescents (CFL), Light Emitting Diodes (LED) or other energy-efficient solutions. (For information on Compact fluorescents, visit the government's ENERGY STAR CFL page)

o Landscape lighting, such as solar lights.

o Light strings with non-blinking white lights, which can be strung in trees or wherever you feel is best for your home. These are an inexpensive way of providing a great, non-intrusive glow at night.

For a great guide explaining energy efficient lighting solutions inside and outside of the home, visit the US Department of Energy's Efficient Lighting Strategies Technology Fact Sheet (pdf) or visit their Lighting and Daylighting page.

See also Improving Safety and Security through Landscaping and Lighting (pdf) or visit the Minneapolis Police Department's Crime Prevention Resources page for more tips and ideas.

Last updated Sep. 27, 2011