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PoE vs. High-Voltage Outdoor Security Lighting – Part 1 of 2

Security experts agree that outdoor lighting – in particular, lighting trigged by motion detectors – is an effective crime deterrent for both residential and commercial properties. The concept is straightforward: when burglars approach a dark or dimly-lit building, sensors detect their movements and trigger the building’s lights to increase from off or dim to full brightness, thereby surprising the thieves and fully illuminating their every move. Such an installation is indeed a great security feature, but how can it be powered? There are two options: high-voltage power or Power over Ethernet (PoE). Let’s start by examining the high-voltage option.

High-Voltage Power: The Expensive, Inflexible Solution

Today, most outdoor security lighting installations rely on high-voltage power. Unfortunately, this solution is not only expensive and difficult to install, but also has certain limitations.

Let’s take the property shown in Figure 1 as an example, and let’s say that we’d need to install 8 lights and 9 motion detectors in order to secure the entire property. We’d then configure each motion detector to trigger multiple lights, enabling all security lights to brighten when just one sensor detects motion.

The use of high-voltage power in this installation may require a permit and would definitely require an electrician, as high-voltage wiring must be installed in compliance with regulations. All fittings, fixtures, and connections would need to be completely water-tight to mitigate the risk of electrocution. In the case of a retrofit installation in which the exterior walls could not be easily opened-up, the electrical wires would need to be run through a conduit, which would be unsightly.

Additionally, in order for the motion detectors to trigger multiple security lights, all high-voltage wires would need to connect to a central high-voltage switching box, as shown in Figure 2.

Once the wires are connected to the central high-voltage box, the motion detectors can trigger multiple lights by using either a series of relays (in smaller installations) or a DP Control Contactor (in larger installations). Figure 3 shows a DP Control Contactor configured in such a way.

Figure 3

Using high-voltage power, the relays and DP Contactors are fixed. In other words, once the system has wired connections between specific motion detectors and lights, the relationships cannot be changed without rewiring the entire system. This solution is quite costly and not practical in retrofit installations which would require walls to be re-opened in order to expose and reroute the wires.

Smart switches could be used to control the system, but with limited efficacy, as the lighting would still be dependent on its high-voltage wiring. Furthermore, most smart high-voltage switches operate over Wi-Fi, which is unreliable.

If we wanted to additionally equip the property with security cameras networked and powered by PoE, we’d be working with two different technologies, which would require both an electrician (for the high-voltage lighting) and a low-voltage security installer (for the PoE cameras). As a result, significant coordination and planning among the tradesmen would be required in order to determine the placement of each device and achieve a smooth design.

In conclusion, the use of high-voltage power is expensive and inflexible in a sophisticated outdoor lighting installation when considering the cost of labor, the difficulty of installation, and the inability to easily reconfigure the system once it’s been wired.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we’ll examine the alternative option: powering an outdoor lighting installation with Power over Ethernet (PoE)!

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