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Show your colors on Independence Day: 4 ways to light the flag

Many Americans show their patriotic spirit by flying a United States flag on their property. But relatively few citizens are aware of guidelines from the federal government that determine how and when the flag can be displayed.

Traditionally, the American flag should be displayed on buildings only from sunrise to sunset and on flagstaffs in open space. However, the flag may be displayed around the clock if it is properly lit after dark.

If you wish to display your flag or leave it up all day, take the necessary steps to ensure proper illumination. While federal law does not provide specific details regarding nighttime illumination of the American flag, The American Legion suggests that a proper lighting setup includes at least two to three lamps pointed at the flagpole. These lights’ only purpose should be to illuminate the flag.

There are four basic methods for flag lighting:

  1. Base lighting
    • This lighting method illuminates a flagpole with a lamp mounted at ground level. Spot and bullet lamps are commonly used, because they project a strong beam that will reach the flag. Base lighting requires the use of more than one light to produce the desired effect from all viewing angles. 
  2. Uplights
    • Adding uplights to your flagpole involves attaching a fixture to the pole itself. Uplights are generally installed about halfway up the flagpole to light the flag. Small spotlights are the most common form of uplights for flagpoles. 
  3. Floodlights
    • Floodlights are often used for security purposes, because they illuminate a large, fan-shaped area. If you use a floodlight for your flagpole, you should only need one lamp. A floodlight can illuminate your flag and the surrounding landscape (Rodriguez). 
  4. Hidden lights
    • This method uses more than one light to illuminate the flagpole. Fixtures are buried in the ground around the flagpole, and beams of light are angled straight upward at the flag.  

If your flag is currently lit, make sure that it is easy to distinguish at night. The American flag should be recognizable in all light situations. Invest in a light that can be put on a timer or is equipped with a daylight sensor to save energy and ensure convenience.


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