Fun with flags

We’re in the process of moving into a home in Kentucky which has a towering flagpole with regulation-sized U.S. flag flying near the front entrance.

This is a nifty feature; however I was made aware by the home inspector prior to closing that we need to illuminate the flag at night (as per U.S. code).

*"§174. Time and occasions for display

(a) Display on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in open; night display
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 twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.*

There are no penalties for violating the U.S. Code as pertaining to the flag, nor (as far as I can tell) state sanctions either. While the flag does look nice at night when strongly illuminated, I am not eager to install powerful LED lamps at the base to illuminate it.

According to this semi-authoritative website, Whitney Smith, a noted vexillologist (flag expert) opines that it may be sufficient to have enough ambient lighting in the area so you can see the flag’s colors, which our porch lighting accomplishes.

I do not want to be ridden out of town on a rail by a procession headed by the local American Legion post, so am hoping that Dopers can advise me on the best course of action.

Source of Whitney Smith flag wisdom:

I voted to use the ambient light. Or couldn’t you take it down at night? Probably a hassle though.

Enjoy your flag! It’s nice to hear from someone that is proud to fly it.:slight_smile:

I fly different flags from the wall-mounted pole next to my porch. No particular lighting used. But then, I never fly the US flag. But if I did, anyone who didn’t like the lack of lighting could go jump in a lake.

I fly the American flag from a wall-mounted pole on my porch. I do not have any special lighting for it nor do I take it down at night.

Nobody has ever complained and if somebody did I would tell them to mind their own business.

Pretty much this.

Just fly the original 13-star flag and tell people they didn’t have electric flag lighting in the 18th century.

We already have too much outdoor lighting. And illumination for a flag is the worst kind for light pollution - i.e pointing directly at the sky. Don’t add to the problem. Just my opinion.

I’d think ‘if properly illuminated’ gives you a lot of wiggle room. Also, are you sure that code applies to private citizens, and not just official displays?

Why are the previous owners moving? Did they get run out of town by flag purists who were tired of them living there with their un-illuminated flag?! If so, then you best illuminate if you want a happy life. If not, then I’d venture to guess that nobody cares.

My dad (a Vietnam combat veteran, so, you know, he’s the official guide to flags or something?) flies a flag on a short metal rod that he has attached to the state’s chainlink freeway fence (probably illegal) and the only illumination is the freeway lights high above, and he never takes it down. Nobody says anything.

Use your power as buyer and have the current owners correct the situation before the sale. The sellers will most certainly cave on the request, as fighting it would look bad. If you’re lucky, they’ll just offer to knock the cost of installation off the purchase price. If they do, raise the amount by 30% and agree to it. Free money.

I think you should buy a bugle and start doing a whole flag lowering/flag raising event at sunset and sunrise.

I’m amused that the home inspector mentioned this. How did he or she do in terms of actually inspecting the building and its systems?

Just take it down at night. If there’s a Boy Scout in the neighborhood, maybe he can get a merit badge for doing Reveille and Taps ceremonies everyday, or once a week, even.

I’d take down the US flag and fly some other flag instead, perhaps a tribute to Teletubbies or something. A perk to this is you don’t have to worry about the flag suffering wear and tear or anything else that might cause it to violate the flag code.

I am under the impression that you don’t “need” to do anything; the “flag code” is more a set of recommendations than anything else.

Besides - didn’t the Supreme Court rule that at least part of the flag code was unconstitutional?

What you “can” do and what you “should” do are two different things. You “can” fly the flag with the blue part farthest away from the flagpole, but nobody actually does this. If it was me, I would probably leave it unlit unless enough people complained that it became “an issue.”

I don’t know how accurate this article is, but supposedly Disney gets around it by using a non-regulation flag. Brings up the question why they don’t just light it up.

Pick your favorite fictional nation and fly their flag/battle standard/coat of arms. No lighting regulations to worry about.


I would guess he also inspected it and put it in the report. SOmetimes they fall over.