porch light on the front of the house at night

What does leaving the porch light on mean? And when should you turn it off? Find out in our guide to porch light safety.

Porch lights help keep you and your loved ones safe. You don’t fumble for your keys when the light is on—instead, you’re inside the door within moments. 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. To prevent your house from being robbed, think about when it’s best to keep the porch light on or off.

When to Turn the Porch Light On

Most of the time, you can leave a porch light on.

When you’re home at night, you should leave a 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 come home late at night, you should turn on the porch light. It helps people get to the door and unlock it safely.

Use a smart lightbulb in your porch light so you can turn on the light 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.

Pro Tip

Use a smart lightbulb in your porch light so you can turn on the light 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 go out but leave the kids at home you should also leave a porch light on. You won’t worry about the kids, and they won’t jump at strange shadows. Add to the outdoor light with indoor ones so it looks like several people are home.

When expecting a home delivery, it’s wise to turn on the porch light. It helps the delivery person, 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.

When to Turn the Porch Light Off

While you can leave the porch light on most of the time, it’s better to leave it off on some occasions.

When you go on vacation, 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, turn off the porch light same as you would in any room in the house. Turning off a light regularly shows that the home is in use. Plus, many porch lights available today use infrared sensors and will turn on automatically if they sense motion.

When you feel anxious about being home alone, 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, you should leave the porch light off. Intruders won’t be able to see where they’re going and 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

A porch light is just one piece of your home security solution. You should incorporate it into a smart home automation security system for enhanced safety and control. With a complete system, you can use an app to monitor and control both indoor and outdoor lights, plus security cameras and locks.

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

Add a Home Automation Hub

When it comes to home automation hubs, Samsung SmartThings and Wink lead the way. They work with the largest number of wireless technologies and devices. You can also use an Amazon Echo device as a smart home hub. And that means you’ll be able to turn the porch lights on or off with the sound of your voice.  

Smart home hubs simplify 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.

Samsung SmartThings Hub Amazon Echo Plus Bundle + Philips Hue Smartbulb
  • Works with Amazon, Google, etc.
  • Connects with Amazon Alexa
  • Finds and adds new connected devices
  • Free smartbulb included
  • Different finishes to match home decor
  • Voice control
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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.

Smart Lightbulbs

Philips Hue is the leader when it comes to automated lighting. Give the brand a look if you’re aiming for a lighting system that’s easy to update, integrate, and synchronize.

Smart Locks, 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.

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 be more secure, whether at home, work, or on vacation.

 
Product Zmodo Greet Pro Smart Video Doorbell August Smart Lock Dakota Alert Driveway Motion Alarm
Best For Answering the front door from anywhere Adding security for renters Knowing when someone’s on your property
Why You’ll Like It
  • 1080p security camera
  • Voice control with Amazon Alexa
  • 180° viewing angle
  • Sleek design
  • Great reviews
  • No need to replace existing door lock
  • Range up to half a mile
  • 4 tones to choose from
  • Weatherproof design
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Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more

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