A Guide to Porch Light Safety: Leave it On or Turn it Off?

Aug 29, 2017 |

Colonial Home Entrance Front Porch Welcome Sign and Door Lamp

Porch lights help keep you and your loved ones safe. You don’t fumble for keys or the lock when the light is on; instead, you’re inside the door within moments. The light also deters home burglars who won’t enter a home that looks occupied.

However, leaving the light on isn’t an automatic guarantee of safety. Burglars pay attention to how and when people turn on porch and deck lighting. To prevent them from robbing your home, 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 in the home, particularly if accompanied by indoor lights. 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 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.
  • 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. Augment the outdoor light with indoor ones so that burglars believe several people are at 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 retiring for the evening.

Generally, a porch light works best when 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 (Amazon). 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, several porch lights available on the market today use infrared sensors and 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 time periods.
  • 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.

Review our suggestions for the best motion sensor lights

How to Complement Home Security with Porch Lights

A porch light comprises a single piece of your home security solution. You should incorporate it into a smart home automation security system for enhanced safety and control. With the system, you can monitor and manage indoor and outdoor lights, security cameras, and locks from a smartphone, tablet, or other connected devices in real time.

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

Home Automation Hubs

When it comes to home automation hubs, Samsung SmartThings (Amazon) and Wink (Amazon) lead the way. They work with the largest number of wireless technologies and devices. Other options, somewhat more limited in their current iteration, include Amazon Echo (Amazon), Apple HomeKit, and Google’s “Works with Nest.”

The hubs simplify day-to-day management. Rather than using multiple apps to control connected products, you use the hub’s application to manage everything.

Home Automation Security Products

With the hub in place, you can now connect compatible smart security products. Make sure they work with your hub before committing to a purchase.

  • Belkin WeMo offers a line of products perfect for automated lighting. Give the brand a look if you’re aiming for a lighting system that’s easy to update, integrate, and synchronize.
  • BeOn (Amazon) provides an equally excellent outdoor smart light bulb. The lights turn on automatically when the doorbell rings or an alarm sounds, and you can set them to follow your normal lighting patterns. The kit comes with three bulbs, making it easy to set up smart lighting for the porch, deck, and garage.
  • The KUNA Smart Security Light (Amazon) combines an outdoor light with a security camera. The app allows you to turn your light on and off, see anyone approaching your door, and talk to visitors remotely.

In addition to lights, you can use other home automation products to increase your porch security. Smart locks like those from August (Amazon) or Kevo (Amazon) make it easy to enter and exit the home, even if you forget your keys. The Dakota Alert Driveway Alarm (Amazon) sends an alert to your mobile device when a visitor, vehicle, or large animal comes onto the property. If you want an outdoor camera that’s separate from your porch light, consider Netgear’s Arlo (Amazon) smart camera or the Ring (Amazon) Wi-Fi enabled video doorbell.

Review our suggestions for the best smart doorbells and the best security cameras

When it comes to your home’s security, porch lights serve a critical function. They guide you into the home at night and keep burglars away; however, 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.

Written by Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is a home automation and community safety consultant for SafeWise.com. She enjoys writing helpful tips and in-depth reviews. Sarah believes that through entertainment, technology and the written word, we can all stay connected to each other and create a safe environment out in the ether. Learn more

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