The Ultimate Guide To Outdoor Lighting

The Ultimate Guide To Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting can create a more appealing ambiance to a home, especially if potential buyers see the home at dusk or night. When taking a drive down a neighborhood street, take note of which homes appeal the most. Chances are, they have attractive outdoor lighting. Outdoor lighting has a much more important function though, which is added security to the home. 

Well-placed outdoor lighting can prevent you from fumbling for their keys, decreasing the time you are in front of your entryway. Burglars often target people who aren’t walking with a purpose or look alert. The same goes for someone taking excessive time getting out their keys for their car or home door. Outdoor lighting is not, however, a guarantee of safety.

The common thought of outdoor lighting is the motion sensor floodlight. That is a great tool and will be explored in-depth later, but is only part of a comprehensive outdoor security strategy. Porch lights, lights near doors, driveway and landscape lighting, pole lights, smart bulbs, and lights with infrared night vision cameras are all great solutions and are more affordable than ever. Let’s explore how to combine these for a great looking, economical outdoor lighting strategy.

Porch Lights

Porch lights are most commonly seen near the front door and provide a bath of light on the areas near the door. They provide an aesthetically pleasing look and feel to the front (or back) of the house that signals to neighbors or friends that your home is a welcoming one. Porch lights come in just about all shapes and sizes imaginable, and as long as the proper electrical wiring and mounting boxes are supplied, you are only limited by your imagination as to which porch lights you choose.

Beyond aesthetics, porch lights create a more secure area for entry and exit from the home. If the proper lighting fixture and light bulb are chosen, the result should be an illumination of the surrounding area enough that you can see clearly enough to look into a bag or purse anywhere within a 15-20 foot area near the door. If wondering where that number came from, an attacker can cover an average of 12 feet before a person can react to avoid the attacker. Adding 6-8 extra feet will allow for increased reaction time. The illumination from the porch lights isn’t limited to that short distance though, as lesser intensity light will project much farther and allow a person to be seen at much greater distances.

Wall Lights

porch light with smart bulb

Wall lights, also known as sconce lights, are mounted to a vertical surface and the entirety of the light fixture hangs from the mounting base. For this reason, wall lights have to be attached to either an electrical box or other sturdy wall material (brick, cinderblock, wood frame, etc). They can be as simple as a bare waterproof socket with an outdoor bulb to as extravagant as a hanging outdoor chandelier.

Wall Light Options When Buying

Manual Wall Light

There are several types of wall lights that have different levels of built-in features. The most basic type of wall light is solely switch-operated and only turns on and off with a switch. This is good is you would like to have full control of the wall light’s operation. This type of wall light can be paired with a manual or electronic timer for setting the exact time the lights will turn on and off.

I know you’re wondering “why not just use smart bulbs in the wall light fixture and use an app to control it?”. That is an option, but not an economical one if (for example) there are 20 wall lights that need to turn on and off at the same time. The cost for all those smart bulbs, hub, and Wi-Fi extenders (if needed) to make all of that work together would be much greater than hard-wiring a mechanical timer to the lights. Additionally, mechanical timers are extremely cheap and can be mounted in remote locations that Wi-Fi can’t reach.

Dusk to Dawn Wall Light

The next type of wall light is combined with a small photoelectric sensor, also known as a “dusk to dawn” sensor. The sensor turns the light on at dusk and the light remains on until shortly after dawn. This type of wall light is a great option for those who don’t want to leave the light on during the day but don’t want to worry about turning the light on each evening.

The dusk to dawn wall light comes with regular maintenance. The photoelectric sensor eye is subject to UV damage from the sun, so it requires either regular polishing or replacement. For this reason, it is not a better but solely different option than a manual light with a mechanical timer.

Wall Light With Camera

A fairly new innovation is the wall light with a built-in motion-detecting camera. There are several makers of this type of wall light, and they all operate the same at the time of writing. The light functions as a regular manual wall light and when something triggers the motion detection of the camera, the camera begins recording. Most of these models also provide the ability for two-way communication. Some more advanced models have a subscription model that provides cloud storage and a well-made phone app for a monthly fee.

Security and Wall Lights

Wall lights are an essential part of the overall home security strategy. As they provide an inviting warmth to the outside of the home, they also provide a bright area that dissuades intruders from getting near the house. There is debate whether or not it is ok to leave lights on during the day because of the potential for people who see the house to think the owners are on vacation and left the lights on, creating a target. The fact is that there is no research supporting this theory. If you want to leave the lights on all the time, then that’s better than not having lights on at night.

Which is the best option of wall light – manual, manual with timers, dusk to dawn, or video? If you have a couple hundred to spend per light and want the option of possibly videotaping a person walking past the light, then the video wall light has everything needed. If you want a very DIY-friendly option that causes the lights to come on automatically, then dusk to dawn lights are a great option. Personally, I have manual wall lights with mechanical timers for the reliability without the need for maintenance.

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