A Guide to Porch Light Safety: Leave It On or Turn It off?

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When it comes to your home’s security, porch lights are critical. They guide you into your house at night and keep burglars away.

But they’re most effective when you use them at the right times and combine them with other security products. If you do, you’ll feel safer and more secure—whether at home, work, or on vacation.

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Do porch lights deter crime?

The light also deters burglars who tend to avoid a home that looks occupied. But leaving the light on isn’t an automatic guarantee of safety. Burglars pay attention to how and when you turn on porch and deck lighting.

Here’s when to turn the porch light on

When you’re home at night

This is a good time to leave the porch light on. It alerts burglars to your presence, particularly if indoor lights are on too. The porch light also acts as a spotlight on the front door. You can easily see who’s approaching through either a window or peephole.

When you, a roommate, or a family member plans to return late at night

It helps to leave a light on for people who won’t get home until long after dark. Keeping the porch light burning helps people get to the door and unlock it safely.

Light Bulb
Pro tip

Use a smart lightbulb in your porch light so you can turn on the light fixture from anywhere. This means you’ll have a lighted walkway even on nights when you stayed out later than expected—or if you simply forgot to leave the porch light on.

When you leave the kids at home

When you step out for the evening, leave a porch light on. You won’t worry about the kids, and they won’t jump at strange shadows. Supplement the outdoor light with indoor ones so it looks like several people are home.

When you’re expecting a home delivery

It’s wise to turn on the porch light if you have a package coming. The extra light helps the delivery person find your home, and it reminds you to grab the package before settling in for the evening.

Generally, a porch light works best when it’s coordinated with deck, garage, and indoor lights. The pairing creates the appearance that people are home and moving about.

Here’s when to turn the porch light off

When you go on vacation 

If you’re out of town, you should turn the porch light off during the day. A constantly-lit porch paints a target on your home. You should either have a neighbor turn the light on and off or invest in a light timer. The preprogrammed settings maintain the illusion that you’re home.

When you go to bed

When it’s time for lights-out, your porch should be no exception. Turn off the porch light—the same as you would in any room in the house. Turning off a light regularly suggests that the home is in use. Plus, many porch lights available today use infrared sensors to turn on automatically if they sense motion.

When you feel anxious about being home alone

It might seem like the safest move, but if you’re on your own and feeling anxious, you may not want to turn on the porch light. Burglars often stake out a property for weeks before striking. If they notice you turn on the lights more often when your partner, spouse, or roommate is away, they could decide to intrude during one of those times.

If you live in a rural area

This is an instance where you may be more secure if you leave the porch light off. Intruders won’t be able to see where they’re going and their late night stumbling may give you warning that they’re coming.

If you’ve invested in motion sensor lights, potential burglars will experience night vision loss, again granting you more time to call the police and turn on every light in the house.

How to use porch lights for home security

Get a motion sensor porch light

Motion sensor light
LeonLite motion sensor flood light

*Amazon.com list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

You need a full smart home automation security system for enhanced safety and control. This includes smart outdoor wall lights, security cameras, and locks.

With a complete system, you can use an app to monitor and control both indoor and outdoor lighting, security cameras, and locks.

You can purchase home automation systems from security providers like ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint. You can also build your own system by integrating smart home products with a home automation hub.

Add a home automation hub

Smart Home Hub
Amazon Echo (4th gen)
Amazon Echo

*Amazon.com list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

When it comes to home automation hubsAmazon Echo leads the way. You can also use a Google device as a smart home hub. That means you can turn the porch lights on or off with the sound of your voice instead of with a light switch.

Smart home hubs simplify the day-to-day management of all connected devices. Instead of using multiple apps to control connected products, you use the hub’s mobile app to manage everything.

Combine porch lights with other smart security devices

Once your hub is set up, you can connect compatible smart security products. Make sure they work with your hub before committing to a purchase.

Best For
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Automating porch lights

Voice control

Adding keyless entry to your home

Built-in alarm

Answering the door from anywhere

Facial recognition

Taking video when lights are triggered by motion

Security camera

Knowing when someone's on your property

Customizable alerts

*Amazon.com and other List Prices as post date. (See full disclaimer)

Smart lightbulbs

Philips Hue is the leader when it comes to automated lighting. Its lighting system is easy to update, integrate, and synchronize.

Smart locks, video doorbells, and more to keep your porch (and home) safe

If you want to add more outdoor security than a porch light, these home automation devices are a good place to start.

Smart locks let you lock and unlock the front door remotely. With a video doorbell, you can see who’s at the front door (and talk to them) whether you’re in bed or at the office.

And a motion-activated driveway alarm alerts you when someone enters your property. Plus, if you use a smart home hub, you can create routines to make all of these security products work together—including your smart porch light.


No, leaving lights on can make intruders think that you're not home. Use a motion sensor light that turns on when you, or anyone else, comes near so you have light only when you need it.

Yes, they can. Security lighting makes it hard for them to conceal their identity, so they are more likely to find a darker home.

We recommend getting an outdoor spotlight camera with motion sensors and two-way talk. Lights with built-in sirens are also great crime deterrents. 

Compare the best home security systems

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ProfessionalBest professional home security$599.00No *Amazon,
ProfessionalMost trusted security brand$0.00YesAmazon,
DIY or ProBest customer ratingQuote required
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No *Amazon, Google
DIYBest budget-friendly pick$199.99NoAmazon, Google, Z-Wave
DIY or ProBest DIY home security$245.00NoAmazon,

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Read full disclaimer.
Full ADT disclaimer

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Read full disclaimer.
Full ADT disclaimer


Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

†Google, Google Nest Secure, Google Home, Google Nest Protect, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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