What Is the Proper Way to Illuminate a U.S. Flag?

 As Memorial Day 2012 approaches, it is once again a time to remember and honor those men and women who gave their lives while serving their country. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the fallen who helped preserve the liberty and freedom we still enjoy today.

Many homeowners like to honor all military veterans and current enlistees by displaying a flag on their property from dusk to dawn, and many choose to display it during the evening by installing lighting.

The U.S. Flag Code states that –

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

The Congressional Research Service in interpreting the U.S. Flag Code said that –

It would seem that the display of the flag in a respectful manner with appropriate lighting does not violate the spirit of the Flag Code since the dignity accorded to the flag is preserved by lighting that prevents its being enveloped in darkness.

Unfortunately, far too many homeowners will hang a U.S. flag on a bracket by the front porch, and when the front porch light is turned off – the flag will remain in darkness until sunrise. Fortunately, most homeowners who have actual flagstaffs on their property, realize that the flag must be lit properly.

Lighting Scheme for Residential Flag Poles

Most residential flag poles are up to 20 feet tall, and for this application low voltage quartz halogen or LED lighting will work just fine. As you can see in the drawing to the right, for flag poles in the 14- to 20-foot range and for a typical flag size (3- by 5-feet), we recommend the use of two well lights installed 180 degrees apart to uplight the flag pole and flag. Regardless of which way the wind is blowing, the flag will always be properly illuminated.  For shorter flag poles with the well light mounted less than a foot from the flag pole, sometimes only one well light will be sufficient. This is especially the case for installations in or near the foothills where the prevailing wind is typically from one direction most of the time. 

At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, we’ve also learned through experience that the wide flood bulbs do a much better job of ensuring that the flag is illuminated properly. While the narrow spot bulbs will make the flag really stand out when it’s exactly in the right spot, the wide floods seem to work better the other 95-percent of the time.

So display your flag proudly, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and last but not least – save some time to remember what the holiday is truly about.



Veterans Memorial Lighting Project Completed in Time for Memorial Day

Lighting for Veterans Memorial – Piney Creek Park

One of our most rewarding lighting projects was completed this week as we installed a new low voltage lighting system to illuminate a veterans memorial at Piney Creek Park located in Centennial, Colorado. The memorial consists of six flags – the U.S. flag as well as a flag for each of the 5 branches of the military – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. The flush mounted well lights with 35W quartz halogen bulbs were installed with tempered glass lens covers.

Since a grass lawn surrounded all of the flag poles, the lighting fixtures were additionally protected by poured concrete caissons to protect them from lawn mowing damage, etc.

Veterans Memorial Lighting - Flags in Motion

Another photo to the right shows the flags in motion due to a brisk wind last evening. In fact when our crew was on site earlier this week installing the lighting, they experienced wind gusts approaching 70 miles per hour. In fact, the flag contractor was there at the same time to replace two of the flags which required that the flag poles be lowered to a horizontal position. Because of the wind, it took the flag contractor along with some of our crew to help raise the flag/flag pole back to a vertical position.

With Memorial Day a few days away and with the recently completed HBO series The Pacific that was produced by Tom Hanks, the flag raising evoked images of the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. The ultimate sacrifices that our young men and women have made in the service to our country for over the last two centuries cannot be overestimated.
As we enjoy time off from work with our friends and family this Memorial Day weekend, please reserve some time to remember the millions of Americans who served our country both in war-time and peace-time, who were severely injured and/or are still suffering debilitating injuries, and those who paid the ultimate price of giving their lives. And if you encounter a vet during your daily activities, please extend the courtesy of thanking them for their service.  Or better yet, attend a Memorial Day Parade where some of the few surviving World War II veterans may be marching. I recently heard that 1,000 WWII vets are dying daily.