4 Tips for Smart — and Efficient — Security Lighting

Like everyone else, you want to feel safe in your home. And you want your belongings to still be there when you return from work, school, or vacation.

You may have installed outdoor home security lighting to deter would-be thieves. But is flooding your property with light the best way to protect your home from intruders?

How can you stay safe and energy efficient with residential security lighting?

Does Nighttime Lighting Really Scare Away the Bad Guys?

As it turns out, security lighting by itself has little impact on crime, and may increase your risk when used incorrectly.

  • We’ve all seen the Hollywood depiction of the masked man who sneaks up on you in the middle of the night. But believe it or not, most burglaries happen in the broad daylight — between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the lights are out and nobody’s home.
  • What about crimes that do occur at night — say, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.? Numerous studies from Los Angeles to Chicago to the UK have found that outdoor lights had only a negligible effect on criminal incidents reported to local police departments.

Lighting experts also caution that ineffective use of residential security lighting could actually increase your vulnerability:

  • Any light that stays on too long is likely to be ignored — by neighbors, criminals, and everyone else.
  • Flooding your yard with light makes it easier for intruders to “case” your property ahead of time.
  • Constant nighttime lighting also means that intruders don’t need to carry a flashlight, which makes them less conspicuous.
  • Lights with too much glare degrade your night vision — making it easier for an attacker to approach on you unnoticed if you are walking outside.
  • Burglars may hide in the shadows created by unlit areas on your property.

But don’t take down those outdoor security lights just yet.

Less is More When It Comes to Effective Security Lighting

The good news is that you can stay safe — and save energy — with these 4 tips for smart security lighting.

#1: Timing Is Everything

Burglars are more likely to skip your house if they think it’s occupied — and this is where lighting can do you the most good.

Placing a light switch timer on your indoor lights while on vacation is a popular — and effective — way to do this:

  • Set your lights to come on during the early evening hours of approximately 6 to 10 p.m.
  • Allow different lights to come on at different times. It creates the impression that you’re moving around the house, just like you would if you were home.
  • For added effect, some folks even put their TV on a timer!
  • Some timers will now let you turn your lights off and on from your smartphone — no matter where you are. That lets you operate them at more naturalistic, irregular intervals.

#2: Get into Motion

Leaving outdoor lights on all night is an ineffective waste of energy. So how do you use them effectively? Try connecting them to a motion detector.

  • Motion detector lights do a better job of alerting you and your neighbors to anomalous activity on your property.
  • A motion activated light will startle intruders when it unexpectedly comes on as they attempt to approach your door or hide in the bushes.
  • Some motion detectors can be set to ignore things like the wind, pedestrians on the sidewalk, or animals.
  • Some can be set to cause the indoor lights to turn on, as well as the outdoor lights.

As an added bonus, an LED motion sensor light will give you the same protection for less energy.

#3: If You See Something, Say Something

Get acquainted with your neighbors and let them know when you’re on vacation.

If they notice any suspicious activity in or near your home, tell them to contact local authorities and notify you immediately.

Offer to do the same thing for them when they’re away from home!

#4: Don’t Forget the Basics

Finally, remember to lock your doors and install a home security system.

  • Many of today’s home security systems let you adjust security settings and come with cameras that let you monitor your property online while you’re not home.
  • Most burglars enter through the front door, and many check the locks before attempting to enter. Deadbolt locks offer more protection than leaving your lights on all the time — and they won’t run up your energy bill.


If you have questions about installing and using outdoor security lighting, timers, or other electrical security devices, contact us at Complete Electrical.

We want you to stay safe without using more energy than you have to.

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