Q. Dear Umbra,

Like any proud American, I want to fly our flag 24 hours a day to show my reverence for this awesome country. I am torn, though, because section 6a of the Flag Code requires the flag to be lit up during hours of darkness and this conflicts with my desire to cut back on my energy use. Can this rule be ignored in the name of the environment?

Anne B.
Seattle, Wash.

A. Dearest Anne,

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“It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.” That’s direct from the Flag Code, section 6a. So one quick and easy solution to your dilemma would be to not display your flag at night. You would still be a proud American.

U.S. flagLong may she wave.NASA.govIf you wish to be proud around the clock, however, the flag does need to be “properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.” The obvious solution to your problem: a solar-powered, LED flag light! These are readily available on the internets; they make models that clamp directly onto the flagpole, as well as ground-nesting lights. 

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However, another rule that certainly applies to your dilemma is the rule about not flying a flag during inclement weather (6c). There are exceptions for all-weather flags, but on the other hand, the flag must never be soiled (8e). Since you live in Seattle, where inclement weather happens at least seven months out of the year, this means it might only be feasible for you to run the flag up the pole when you are at home. You need to be ready to ceremoniously lower (6b) your flag when the “wintry mix” drizzle starts. You will be home at night and it’s up to you, of course, whether you are willing to keep a half-awake ear tuned for the sound of rain/hail/sleet throughout the wintry nights. If you are forced to get up in the middle of the night and take down the flag, you may find yourself quite tired the next day and consuming extra energy to stay awake, via the making of extra coffee, driving somewhere instead of walking, taking a longer shower than usual, etc.

Here’s one more idea on how to handle the lighting situation during clement weather: If you keep a porch light on throughout the night, place the flag where the porch light will shine upon it. This could work even if you have an energy-saving motion-sensor light — if no one is there to see the flag, it will not be illuminated, but the minute a person comes within flag respect range, the flag will be brilliantly visible. The motion sensor light would also provide you and your friends with hours of philosophical conversation, along the lines of trees falling in the forest with none to hear.

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