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What is Flood Lighting?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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Flood lighting is the use of high-powered light bulbs to illuminate a large, outdoor space. It is permanently installed in place and requires a great deal of electricity. There are three main types of flood lighting applications: facade, sign, and general area. Each of these locations has unique issues and challenges that must be address. Power supply, maintenance, and installation are just a few examples.

It is very common to use flood lighting to accentuate the architectural features of a historical or impressive building. The use of flood lights enhances the details of the building. When installing this type of lighting, it is important to consider placement, power, and maintenance.

The dimensions of the building determine the physical size of the lighting unit. To illuminate a very tall building, the lighting unit must be large enough to project the level of light required. In general, the unit should be placed at least 75% of the building height away from the base of the building.

These types of lighting require a dedicated power source. Work with electrical engineers to determine the best circuit design to ensure there is sufficient power. Keep in mind that exterior lighting should be attached to an emergency generator. Discuss the wiring options and decide if the flood lights are considered part of the emergency lighting system.

Flood lighting units will require maintenance and repair. Make sure that the design and layout selected can be both accessible enough for regular maintenance, and properly secured. These two items require advance planning in order to implement a practical solution.

Sign lighting often requires more than one flood light. These units should be installed equidistant from each other and centered on the sign. A standard rule of thumb is that the lights should be less than half the distance from the base of the sign apart from each other.

General area lighting is used for security and sporting events. These lights are usually installed on the top of very tall poles to illuminate a large area. The required height of the poles is based on the amount of space that is going to be illuminated. Take the total width of the area and divide it by two.

This is the required pole height. Take time to consider how these lights will be maintained. Common methods include the use of a powered lift to reach the top of the lighting pole.

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Discussion Comments
By KaBoom — On Jun 02, 2012

I think fluorescent flood lights are essential for businesses that are set slightly back from the street, especially during the winter. Business hours during the winter can extend past dark. But if your sign isn't lit, how are customers supposed to see your business?

I think most businesses probably make up for the cost of the lights with the amount of business their signs bring in!

By JessicaLynn — On Jun 02, 2012

@sunnySkys - Yeah, the cost of electricity is definitely a concern for the average person when it comes to flood lighting. However, I bet you could alleviate that somewhat by purchasing LED flood lights. I think they cost a lot less to power than regular light bulb.

I think it's nice to have flood lights outside your residence, especially if you come home late at night. My apartment building has flood lighting in the front, and I really appreciate it on the nights that I come home late. It makes me feel a lot safer that the parking lot is so well light.

But then again, I'm not the one that has to foot the bill for that electricity!

By sunnySkys — On Jun 01, 2012

@shell4life - Flood lighting fixtures do make sense in a situation like that, where a persons home is really large and expensive. However, for most people that just live in "regular" houses, it doesn't make much sense.

One of my friends lives in a decent neighborhood in a three bedroom house. The house is nice, but definitely not a mansion. However, she decided she absolutely needed flood lighting for her front yard after there were a few break-ins in the neighborhood.

However, the flood lights were extremely expensive to have on every single night! Her electric bill went up so much she decided the flood lights weren't worth it. Now she only turns them on if she is out of town.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 01, 2012

My husband uses halogen flood lighting to illuminate his work shed. During the fall and winter, he likes to be able to work outside past the time it gets dark, which is around 5. He can get a lot more work done now that he has a bright flood light out there.

His shed is way out in our back yard, and the halogen lamp is so bright that it will blind me if he aims it toward the house. He hangs it from a hook in the ceiling so that it won’t shine directly in his eyes, and it lights up the shed as well as several regular overhead light bulbs would.

He would be so bored if he couldn’t do his hobbies out there after work. I’m glad that he has that flood light, because the things he does for fun are a good outlet for getting rid of the stress of the day. He’s much more pleasant to be around in the winter months since he got that lamp.

By Perdido — On May 31, 2012

My workplace has exterior flood lighting that spills over into the parking lot. I often don’t get off until after dark, so I like the fact that my path to my car is well lit.

This flood lighting is much brighter than the average street light. I once had a flyer stuck under my windshield, and I could clearly read even the fine print in this light.

It’s good that the company lights up this parking lot for employees. We all feel pretty comfortable walking around out there, no matter the hour of night.

By kylee07drg — On May 31, 2012

@shell4life - I think most people with flood lights probably keep them for security. However, commercial flood lighting is always about both preventing break-ins and showing off their business.

There is a huge garden center in my town that keeps flood lights shining at night. They illuminate all the plants out front and the facade of the building, as well as the sign.

It’s located on a major highway, so it is highly visible. Anyone who glances in that direction can clearly see what they have to offer, even though they are closed at night. This might generate daytime business for them.

By shell4life — On May 30, 2012

My neighbors live in a mansion, and they have outdoor flood lights. Some people think this is just to show off their awesome house, but I believe it is to keep burglars away.

A house like that is a magnet to criminals. However, the intensely bright flood lights illuminate the front of the home almost as much as the sun does during the day. It is highly unlikely that anyone would be brave or dumb enough to attempt to break in under such a spotlight.

If I lived in a home like that, I would want some flood lights for protection. I wouldn’t care too much about showing it off, but I would really be concerned about security and my own safety.

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