By Robert Schmidt
People don’t tend to think about lighting until there isn’t enough of it. They can’t help but feel uneasy when they can’t see where they’re going or who’s around them, especially if they’re in an unfamiliar place.
Personal comfort isn’t the only factor, either. Adequate lighting is critical for security, especially for the use of video cameras. Too little light makes the difference between recording actual faces vs. mere silhouettes.
Self-storage facilities have gained public fascination thanks to television shows that reveal the potential for wealth behind locked unit doors. As the popularity of these shows increases, so does the threat of theft from opportunists. Keeping your facility secure through quality lighting provides assurance to customers and employees. Everyone will feel safer knowing there are no unlit nooks or crannies to hide would-be criminals.
Secure lighting starts outside. It should protect visitors from the moment they drive up to your facility. More than one in 10 property crimes are committed in parking lots or garages, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Lighting can play a critical role in preventing these incidents. No one should be able to lurk near your facility unnoticed.
Good parking-lot lighting produces even light that enhances visibility and allows people to clearly see who’s approaching them. Higher light levels also allow security cameras to capture facial features. Overly bright or irregular light can create blind spots or cause a viewer to see only a backlit silhouette when someone approaches, which can provoke anxiety and make it difficult to avoid unsavory characters.
Aside from preventing crime, your customers need proper lighting to walk around safely and avoid tripping. Uneven lights can cause night blindness as they walk from a well-lit area to a darker one. They might not be able to see ledges, elevation changes and other hazards. Lights should illuminate the whole parking lot without dark spots between fixtures. This means no shadows where dangers can hide.
I recommend using pole lighting, as it gives you many options for output levels and mounting heights. Flood lights are commonly used for facility exteriors, but they can create extreme bright and dark spots. An LED pole light is better because it distributes the light evenly.
The inside of a storage facility also needs to be well-lit. Again, lights should illuminate all areas and leave no shadowed regions that increase customer concern. For the sake of saving on costs and energy, many storage owners prefer to use motion-sensor lighting. Done right, these are an excellent option. They prevent the struggle of searching for the light switch in a dark corridor. They also assure the customer that so long as he’s in the building, his path will be lit. Finally, they save you from lighting up an empty building.
The tricky part to designing a lighting-control system is sensor timing and placement. Sometimes a light will time out while a customer is outside the reach of the sensor. Suddenly, the hallway or unit falls into darkness. This creates anxiety and a hazardous scenario. Imagine a tenant in his unit filled with belongings, trying not to fall. To avoid this, work with a lighting provider that has experience in installing motion sensors and controls.
A Lighting Partner
Self-storage operators should partner with an energy-solutions company that complies with standards set by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES). The company should also use a lighting-design software to model your facility illumination levels. In fact, IES produces a file on each light fixture that can be uploaded into design software for accurate modeling.
The best lighting system is one designed with the specific needs of your facility in mind. It needs to create a feeling of safety and security for everyone in your business space. Fortunately, bright, high-quality lights can be affordable. I recommend using LEDs, as they offer the best energy savings, above and beyond fluorescent and incandescent lighting. These savings will provide a return on investment that will pay for the cost of the lighting upgrade.
Robert Schmidt co-founded Joule Energy, a New Orleans-based energy-solutions provider, in 2009. The company offers turnkey solutions designed to maximize clients’ return on investment, reducing maintenance and replacement costs. For more information, call 504.586.0625; visit www.joule-energy.com.