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

One common trick homeowners use to help deter burglars is leaving the porch light on while they’re away. While it has its benefits, there are times when this might not be the best idea.

When You Should Leave it Off

Burglars will sometimes stake out a house for a few days, or even weeks, before attempting a break-in. A porch light left on at all hours for days at a time can signal you’re away on vacation.

  • During the day when you’re on vacation: Yes, you want to have the light on at night so your house doesn’t look abandoned, but leaving it on all day can show that no one is there to turn the light off. To counter this, consider installing a timer that’ll turn your porch light on and off at predetermined times. It’s important to replicate the times you’d normally turn these lights on and off, to help maintain the illusion you’re home. You should also add timers to other lights in your home to help make it more believable.
  • Once you’ve gone to bed: There’s no reason to leave your porch lights on all night whether you’re home or not. Lights today often come with passive infrared receivers, known as motion sensor lights, that’ll turn on automatically when they sense someone approaching. They’ll turn off automatically once motion is undetected after a given amount of time.

When It’s Okay to Leave The Porch Light On

You have a porch light for a reason, and there are several times when we encourage you to leave it illuminated.

  • When you’re home at night: The best time to leave your porch light on is when you’re home at night. It’ll help alert burglars to your presence and can even give you peace of mind that there’s a spotlight on the main entrance to your home. This can also give you better visibility to see who is at your door, whether you’re looking out the window or through the peephole.
  • When someone is coming in late: It’s also a good idea to leave your porch light on when a family member or roommate is going to be late getting home. It’ll help make it easier for them to get safely to the door, as well as see to unlock it.
  • When you want to alleviate nerves: Leaving the porch light on when you’re feeling anxious about being home alone is okay, too. You can even pair it with a light inside the house to help with worries of what’s in the dark.
  • When you’ve gone out, but left the kids at home: When your kids are home alone, it’s a good idea to keep your porch lights on. That, combined with multiple lights on inside the house, might help provide added comfort.

One thing you might not have considered is having both back and front porch lights on at the same time. Only leaving one light on can leave the other opened to increased scrutiny and threats. With all the light and attention on one area of the house, the other might look like a more promising option to potential thieves.

Pairing Home Security with Porch Lights

Some home automation security systems allow you to turn lights on and off remotely through your smartphone, tablet, or any other connected device. This is a great feature to have, especially when you’re on vacation. Turning lights on and off at random intervals could help mimic normal behavior in your household. Some systems even let you connect to electronics in the house, so you turn the TV on and off so there’s sound coming from your house. And, if you’re running late at the office, you can turn the porch light on so you don’t come home to a dark entryway.

Using your porch lights as a branch of your home security is a great idea, but it’s important to know when turning them off is a better idea than leaving them on.