Article | Lighting the Flag in a Patriotic Landscape
Are you among the many who enjoy displaying the American flag and celebrating patriotic holidays? Or are you a professional designer with patriotic clients? If so, don't neglect to light up the flag – always a bold and powerful statement in a nighttime landscape.
It's also the law. According to U.S. Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6(a): "It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset . . . However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness."
Whether your aim is to make a strong statement, or to comply with the law, or both, illuminating the American Flag is a worthy project.
As with any project, start with the goal. In this case, your goal is to illuminate both the flag and the flagpole. Lighting the flag alone is not enough, you need to illuminate the pole so viewers have a visual path that starts at the ground and ascends, reaches into the sky, and ends at the glorious flag.
Strategies to Achieve that Goal
- The Illumination
- How bright? You want your flagpole and flag to be the brightest objects in your illuminated landscape. The dark red and blue colors of the flag require very bright lights because they absorb a lot of the light. Select integrated or lamp-ready LED fixtures with brightness levels of at least 7 watts or 300 lumens (35-watt incandescent equivalent).
- How narrow or wide? Since the flag could wave in any direction, you want your beam spread to include any possible position of the flag. See below for more details.
- The Lights
- What type? Directional Lights must be used since they are available in the narrow beam spreads required for lighting a flag. Of directional lights, both spotlights and in-grade (well-type) lights may be used. If you are forced to install the lights in turf, then an in-grade fixture is the best choice.
- How many? You need at least two (ideally three) lights to illuminate a flag. This ensures that the shadow of the pole will not obscure the flag.
- Located where? Since you need to illuminate both the flag and the pole, at least one of the lights needs to project light onto the pole as close to the ground as possible – this fixture needs to be within about 1 foot of the pole, or mounted on the pole itself. (See note below on Pole Mounting.) If more than one fixture is used then the others can be mounted at the most convenient locations at any distance from the pole. (Only one fixture is needed to illuminate the pole – it is nearly always white and needs much less light than the flag itself.)
- More on beam spreads: You want to find the narrowest possible beam spreads to focus as much light as possible on the flag. The beam needs to be wide enough to fully illuminate the flag regardless of its position around the pole. If, for example, you have a six-foot wide flag, the beam spread needs to encompass a circle with a radius of 6 ft. with the pole at the center. This beam spread can be attained with one or more fixtures. With multiple fixtures, be sure to aim them precisely so their beams overlap. See the below chart to calculate optimal beam angles based on pole height and flag width.
- Note on Pole Mounting: Mounting the fixtures on the pole is often the best choice. Use the VOLT® Flag Pole Mount to attach any VOLT fixture to the pole (note: aluminum models are preferred since the mount itself is aluminum).
Make your own Flag Lighting Kit
Here's some kit components to illuminate a typical 20-foot residential flagpole with a 3 x 5-foot flag.
- (2) VOLT® All-Star Aluminum Spotlights with 6W 38º LED MR16 bulbs
- (2) VOLT® Flag Pole Mounts
- (1) VOLT® 75W Low Voltage Transformer (includes timer)
- (2) 2-Pack DryConn Black & Grey Waterproof Connectors
- (100 Ft.) VOLT® 14/2 - Direct Burial Cable
- This system may need to be modified according to your specific needs - call for guidance (813.978.3700) or contact your local landscape lighting professional.
For Other Pole Heights & Flag Sizes
The chart below shows beam angles required for various pole heights and flag sizes. Instructions are located beneath the chart. For very tall poles, consider the Infiniti G3 60 LED Spotlight (Brass or Aluminum). This is an extremely bright fixture with interchangeable optics - including 12º & 24º - both likely beam spreads needed for your flag. (Use aluminum spotlight models when using the VOLT Flag Pole Mount.)