Whether you live in the middle of a city or out in the boonies, you always want to feel safe and secure inside your home. But, the unfortunate truth is that crime can hit any neighborhood. Criminals are constantly on the prowl for vulnerable homes they can get in and out of quickly. An unlit home on a dark street makes it easy for a burglar to break in quickly and then escape back into the shadows.
Thankfully, you can take control of this situation by bringing light to your entryways with a porch light. It’s one of the simplest ways to deter crime like package theft and burglary. So, we made this article to help you make the most of your porch light by covering the following topics:
- How Does Your Porch Light Impact Your Home’s Security?
- When Should You Turn Your Porch Light On for Safety?
- When Should You Turn Your Porch Light Off for Safety?
- Using Your Porch Light for Home Security
- Choosing a Porch Light for Home Security
- Working with Your Neighbors for Home Security
- Final Thoughts
How Does Your Porch Light Impact Your Home’s Safety?
Home security is a journey, and like any journey, you need light to guide your way. That’s where porch lights come into play. These simple fixtures do more than just illuminate your entrance. They can also play a pivotal role in your home’s security system. Here are a few ways your porch light can help keep your home safe:
If you were up to no good, would you pick a dark, shadowy place, or a well-lit stage for your performance? You’d probably choose a house without a porch light on a poorly lit street. Burglars think this way too. They thrive in the shadows, looking for any property that allows them to get in and out without being seen.
By lighting up your porch, you remove the cover of darkness from potential intruders. Light also signifies that your home is occupied. You send out the message that you’re home, deterring the 72% of burglaries that occur when a home is unoccupied.1
Spotlight on Suspicious Activity
Going beyond the initial act, a porch light also helps identify suspicious activity outside your home. Bright porch lights make it easier for you and your neighbors to spot unfamiliar people and unusual activities in your neighborhood.
You can also use motion sensor porch lights to draw more attention to anyone in your entryway. This flicker of light grabs attention and prevents intruders from planning out their entrance to avoid the light. Pairing your motion sensor porch light with a security camera can take your security up another notch.
Psychological Impact and Perceived Security
Lighting does more than just deter potential intruders. It also brings you and your family a sense of security and peace. When you’re home, a well-lit entrance can make you and your family feel safer knowing that you can see anyone who approaches your home. It’s also a comfort to know that you make your home less attractive to burglars by taking away the cover of the night.
Did You Know? Feeling safe at home can improve your kids’ academic outcomes according to an article by Social Science & Medicine.2
When Should You Turn Your Porch Light On for Safety?
Remember that scene in “Home Alone” when Kevin McCallister uses his house’s lights to make it seem fully occupied? It tricked the burglars into thinking the entire family was home! While it’s a funny scene in the movies, you can use your porch light in the same way to make intruders think you’re home. Here are four times you should turn your porch light on to keep your house safe:
- Home at Night: Whenever you’re actively in your house at night, turn the porch light on unless you live in a rural area (more on that later). When you combine your porch light with indoor activity such as a TV or a kitchen light, you clearly show any potential intruders that you’re home.
- Late Arrivals: If you’re expecting someone to get home late, always leave the porch light on. This lets them safely navigate to your entryway. You can make this even safer by illuminating one of your other entryways, as some criminals try to rob an individual arriving late.
- Kids Home Alone: Anytime you leave your older kids home alone, leaving the porch light on can make them feel more at ease. It lets them see what’s outside the house, preventing their imaginations from running wild.
- Nighttime Deliveries: When you know a delivery person is coming late, keep the porch light on. Walking up to your doorstep can easily lead to the delivery person tripping while delivering your package. This can lead to a lawsuit, like in the case Keith Sumlar v. Ivory M. Riley, which led to a five-figure award for the delivery driver.3
When Should You Turn Your Porch Light Off for Safety?
Have you ever heard of the classic movie “Rear Window?” The entire plot is based around a person in a wheelchair spying on his neighbors. Although most likely not in a wheelchair, burglars do the same thing. They spy on your house by lurking in the shadows to learn about your patterns and habits. Then, they use this information to plan their attack. To prevent a burglar from spying on you and learning your habits, here are a few times you should turn your porch light off:
- During Vacations: Before you head off for vacation, make sure to turn your porch light off. A porch light staying on all day and night is a clear sign to burglars that your home is empty. To make your house look occupied, you can put your porch light on a timer or ask your neighbor to turn it on at dusk and off before they go to bed.
- Bedtime: Turning your porch light off before you go to bed puts out a clear sign that your house isn’t vacant. While this leaves some darkness outside your home, showing that your house is occupied is one of the best ways to protect your home against burglaries.
- Adults Home Alone: Since some burglars spend time observing a property and learning the habits of its occupants, always turning the light on when you feel vulnerable can act as an intruder’s cue. So, if you do turn the light on when you’re home alone, make sure it’s not the only time you turn your porch light on.
- Rural Areas: In rural areas, a lit porch can guide an intruder to your home instead of deterring them from trying. Instead of an intruder already having some ambient light from nearby streetlights, intruders need to use flashlights in rural areas to find their way inside your home. A flashlight is easy to spot from inside your house or from the road while looking suspicious enough for any passer-by to call the cops.
>> Read About: Best Home Security Systems for Rural Areas
Using Your Porch Light for Home Security
To show how a simple porch light can enhance your home security, consider this scenario: After a string of burglaries in her neighborhood, Claudia decided to upgrade her home security. She put a series of motion lights on her porch and installed a smart porch light. One late night, a thief began to walk up toward her porch. The thief had no idea there were motion-sensor lights installed, which startled him. Then, the smart porch light which was integrated into Claudia’s home security system alerted her phone of the intruder so she could call the cops.
You can turn your porch light into a core piece of your home security too. By incorporating it into your home security system, leveraging motion-sensor lights, and keeping criminals guessing, you can keep your house safe.
>> Also See: Best Home Security Systems
Incorporate Your Porch Light Into Your Home Security System
Nowadays, a lot of home security systems can incorporate your smart home products. These smart systems can automate everything in your home from your lights to your A/C. Smart home systems can even learn from your routines to optimize your home’s security and energy efficiency.
Because of this, a lot of homeowners with security systems program their porch lights to turn on at dusk and off when they go to bed. This makes it so their home never seems unoccupied, even when they go on vacation. You can make it seem like you have one of these advanced security systems by putting your porch light on a timer. But, make sure to put a timer on a few interior lights as well, otherwise experienced burglars will see the darkness in your home as a sign of your home’s vacancy.
Pro Tip: You can outfit your house with a smart security system that brings the best of home automation and home security in a complete package. Check out our roundup of the top smart home automation security systems.
Leverage Motion-Sensor Lights
A static light left on allows an intruder to learn your entryway’s layout, find potential hiding spots, and use your porch light to their advantage. Motion-sensor lights add a layer of unpredictability. Not only does it prevent an intruder from learning the ins and outs of your entryway, but it also keeps them guessing where you might have other sensor lights.
Suddenly illuminating your entryway and nearby areas with a motion-sensor light draws attention to your home. And this attention is exactly what intruders try to avoid.
Automate Irregular Light Patterns
Although you should maintain somewhat of a routine for your porch light, a completely predictable pattern allows intruders to learn your habits. Instead, change it up every once in a while by turning your porch light off later than normal every few days or leaving the light off once a week. If you automated your porch light, consider manually turning it on and off a few times a week to break up the pattern.
Choosing a Porch Light for Home Security
Of course, you want your porch light to look good. But, it’s not all about aesthetics. When choosing a porch light, also think about how it can help make your home safer. To help you figure out the right porch light for you, here’s a quick breakdown:
|Uses up to 80% less electricity than incandescent bulbs
|Entirely removes the cost of electricity
|Reduces energy consumption by limiting unnecessary use
|Reduces energy consumption by keeping light off until motion is detected
|Bright, white light makes LEDs quickly attract eyes
|Inconsistent brightness levels varying based on the weather
|Optimizes the safety capabilities of a porch light. Pair with a security camera for even more security.
|Better than a static light, but smart lights offer more flexibility
|Most outdoor LED lights last for 4 to 6 years
|Solar lights can last up to 25 years
|Smart lights last about 10 years if on about 6 hours a day
|If placed in a shaded area to avoid sun damage on the lens, they can last up to 10 years.
|Some can emit different light colors to attract attention
|Even if the power goes out, solar porch lights still keep your home safe
|Automation, remote control capabilities, and integration into your security system make smart lights an excellent choice for home security
|Pair a security camera as well as your porch light to the motion sensor for additional security
Working with Your Neighbors for Home Security
You know the saying, “It takes a village?” Well, when it comes to home security, that saying couldn’t be more true. Although, it’s more like, “It takes a neighborhood.” By joining forces with your neighbors, you can brighten up your neighborhood to deter crime.
While you can’t force your city to install more streetlights in your neighborhood, you can work with your neighbors to increase the ambient light on the street. Bright porch lights can easily extend out into the street. With enough of your neighbors keeping their porch lights on and installing bright bulbs, you can make your house and neighborhood safer.
A well-lit street also clearly signals to any intruders and criminals that your neighbors watch out for each other. You remove dark hiding spots criminals can use to escape and make it easy to see suspicious activity because you know your neighbors are watching too.
FYI: According to a University of Pennsylvania study, a properly lit street can reduce serious crime by 36%.4
The soft glow a porch light can create acts as a beacon of comfort. It tells anyone arriving at your house that they are welcome and safe. But, you can also use your porch light to take your home security up a notch. When used correctly, a bright porch light sends a message to any potential intruders that your home isn’t an easy target.
So, take the time to think about what message your porch light sends. Pay attention to when you turn your porch light on and off. Are you inadvertently signaling to intruders when you’re not home? Also, plan out how you can use your porch light to bolster your home security and work with your neighbors. With a bit of effort, you can create a welcoming atmosphere and secure your home using your porch light.