Video Surveillance Lighting 101

Sept. 10, 2015
Everything you should know from the growth of LEDs to proper specification

As video surveillance systems continue to be deployed at an exponentially increasing amount of locations, the critical need for proper lighting to aid in video surveillance efforts has never been more evident.

Lighting — as it has been from the days of all-analog deployments to the IP-based times of today — is a critically important part of installing a highly effective video surveillance system. And while the concept of lighting playing a huge part in the overall art of designing a good, reliable system has not changed much over the years, the technology to provide it has improved as much as the cameras.


Incandescent vs. Fluorescent vs. LED

As video surveillance needs and applications continue to expand, so does the need for proper lighting to aid in surveillance capabilities. Dealer education on how to specify and install LED lighting products to aid in surveillance capabilities is critical to ensuring solid surveillance results because: Most crime occurs at night; most cameras need light to see — especially IP and megapixel cameras; and, regular street lighting is usually not adequate to deliver clear surveillance footage, which is often needed to provide evidence for judicial purposes.

There are several types of illumination: incandescent bulb, fluorescent lamp, and LED (light emitting diode). Here's a glance of some of the perks and pitfalls.

Incandescent bulbs are low in cost; however, most are just 10-percent efficient (90 percent lost to heat; halogen bulbs are 15% efficient; 85% heat). This makes them, in the end, expensive to operate and maintain because they require regular replacement.

Fluorescent lamps are 40-percent efficient (60 percent lost to heat), and they last 10-20 times longer than normal incandescent bulbs. Drawbacks include the “flicker” they produce, and they also contain mercury.

LEDs are 80-90 percent efficient, with only 10-20 percent lost to heat. They do not cost a lot to operate, they have extremely long life, and they are durable and insensitive to vibration. LEDs offer huge savings over other the lighting options. Based on the performance of Iluminar's LED series, potential savings on one illuminator is $714 per year.


The LED Advantage

In a few short years, LED lighting has clearly established itself as a key technology in all video surveillance and security applications. There has been a huge global shift in lighting preferences from incandescent bulbs to LEDs — and with good reason. In contrast to incandescent and halogen bulbs, LEDs are 80-90 percent more efficient. The running costs are extremely low, long life expectancy (up to ten years) is extremely high, and they have proven to be durable and invincible to vibration.

LEDs deliver superior illumination quality, as they provide an even spectrum of light without any dark or bright spots. Their event-targeting capabilities are better, as well, especially with higher-end LED products. Unlike incandescent lights, which can run up high energy bills just generating heat, LEDs use less than 100 watts for the highest power units, keeping energy consumption quite low.

Other perks include: no maintenance needed, as there is never any bulb failure; they start instantly, with no warm up time for full light output; and they are ideal for challenging environments, with higher-end products being weather and vandal-resistant. They also allow for more flexibility in terms of installation and maintenance with the introduction of specialist developments such as PoE and explosion-proof lighting.


Invisible vs. Visible Illumination

Invisible light is infrared illumination, which is lighting that is invisible to the human eye, and visible only to black-and-white or true Day/Night cameras. Light is measured in Nanometers (nm), and infrared light ranges from 700-1000nm. Infrared, or invisible light is an ideal source of illumination for security cameras because it is a covert form of illumination.

Visible Light is White Light. It is used to illuminate areas to assist in CCTV camera capture and can offer a color picture 24/7. Benefits include increased safety, a welcoming environment, situational lighting not solely for surveillance and crime deterrence. Disadvantages are that it can cause light pollution and work at reduced distances, as compared to invisible light.


How to Specify Video Lighting

The angle of illumination should match the camera/lens angle. The table below shows the FOV angle for different lenses.

To choose the appropriate illuminator, select the angle of illumination needed; then, select the required distance of illumination (in feet or meters) and remember that, as angle increases, distance decreases.

Providing lighting for PTZ  cameras is often a challenge for CCTV professionals, as lighting cannot be fitted to move with the camera. Consider wide angle illuminators, which cover 120° — thus allowing allow the full 360° angle of a camera to be covered with only 3 illuminators; or target area illumination that targets a specific point of interest such as gates or doorways.

Iluminar recently announced its certified, “one-to-one training” offering on LED lighting products. Dealers and integrators are invited to share in this free educational training to help them specify the most effective lighting solutions possible to their end-users. Visit or email for details.


Mrs. Eddie Reynolds is President and CEO of Iluminar, a specialist manufacturer and supplier of infrared (IR) and white light illuminators. To request more info about the company, visit

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