It seems like a no-brainer to leave the lights on outside your home to deter burglars while you’re away (or even while you’re asleep). But does that really work? Or is it just a waste of electricity — particularly this time of year, when the days keep getting shorter and shorter?
Those answers can differ depending on a number of factors. However, one thing is clear: With more than 1.5 million residential burglaries in the U.S. in 2015, according to the FBI’s Crime in the United States report, it takes more than flipping a switch to prevent property crime.
So, if you are relying on lights as part of your home security routine, be sure to put some thought into how you’re using them. Here are recommendations about when to light things up — and some instances where it may be better to go dark. Contact your local law enforcement if you’re curious about recommendations specific to your area.
When to Keep Your Lights On
There are plenty of instances where it makes sense to leave your porch light on:
When you’re home (and awake). This doesn’t simply alert people to the fact that someone is home; it allows you to see anyone approaching or prowling around outside. Having a variety of interior lights on, of course, also shows that the home is occupied and not the best target.
When you go out at night. You’ll be able to get to the door easier and unlock it more quickly when you get home — which is nice, but also important if someone happens to be lurking nearby.
If possible, combine a porch light with other lights. If you have lighting in your back yard, for example, or by the garage, use those in conjunction with the one by your front door and interior lights. This can add to the appearance that someone is home.
When to Keep Your Lights Off
Despite what many people think, having your lights on all the time isn’t helpful. In fact, it may actually attract burglars. Here’s when you should think about leaving them off:
When it’s light out. Exterior lights left on all day can give the impression that nobody is home. After all, wouldn’t someone turn them off during the daytime?
When you’re on vacation. The same principle applies here — if a burglar notices lights on for several days at a time, that’s a pretty clear sign that you’re gone.
When you go to sleep. This seems counterintuitive, but most residential crime happens during daylight hours, according to SecurAmerica, a firm providing security personnel for businesses, schools and residential communities. So, that porch light at 3 a.m. might not make much of a difference.
If you live in a rural area. In this instance, lights might help burglars more than deter them by providing light to help them see. And, unlike in an urban area, there are few people around to spot them milling about suspiciously in the glow of that porch light.
An Even Better Option: Automate Your Lights
The goal of lighting, at least from a security standpoint, is to make burglars think someone is home. The most effective way to do that is through lights, both inside and out, that turn on and off at varying times. You can accomplish this through systems that automatically turn lights on after sundown, or even new options that allow you to control lights from your phone or other mobile device.
And, don’t forget motion-sensing lights. They’re affordable, and they can startle burglars and even impair their vision in the moments after they illuminate.
Other Things to Consider
However you use your lights, it might not matter if you don’t take other security measures. For example, are your trees and shrubs trimmed, or do they instead provide cover for someone casing your home? Do you have a good relationship with your neighbors? Will they notice if someone suspicious is outside? Do they even know when you’re going out of town?
Remember, turning on your lights may only be truly effective as part of an overall strategy to keep your home secure.
For more tips on keeping your home secured, visit Burglary Prevention: Should You Leave the Lights On?.
We all look forward to a nice family vacation, but it’s natural to worry about your home while you’re away. Let’s look at some home security tips to help you leave feeling relaxed and confident that your property is safe and protected.
Choose home automation
If you can’t arrange for a close friend or relative to house-sit while you’re on vacation, you can deter burglar by giving the impression someone’s home. With a home automation system, you can program your lights to come on at certain times, such as for a few hours in the morning and evening. Anyone watching your home will assume it’s occupied.
A smart home also lets you check in at any time and from any location. Using your smartphone or tablet, you can monitor your property and detect intruders with automated cameras, enable your locks remotely and ensure the house is properly alarmed.
Should someone need to gain entry to feed a pet or water the plants, you can let them in via your device and then relock and realarm the property as soon as they leave.
Additionally, make access to your house as difficult as possible to an intruder. If they see a flashing alarm box on the wall inside and multiple locks to work through — driveway gates or a locked porch door that leads to your front door, for example — they’ll think twice about breaking in.
If you have bikes or other valuable sports equipment in a shed or garage, don’t forget to protect those buildings with automated home security, too.
Most people cancel or postpone deliveries while they’re away, but this may not be necessary if you have a Vivint doorbell camera. It lets you talk to any delivery guys via your smartphone, instruct them to leave the parcel in your garage, unlock the door for them and relock it once they leave.
Cover the basics
In addition to protecting your home with smart solutions, there are lots of simple, practical and low-tech home security tips you can employ, such as:
Don’t tell everyone you’re going to be away, only the people who need to know. Social media often makes us overshare our whereabouts, so be careful not to announce to the world that your home will be empty for the next week or two.
Try to remove any obvious signs that you’re absent. Leave your curtains or blinds open or partially open — nothing looks more obvious than closed curtains during the day — and see if a friend or neighbor can remove any newspapers from your mailbox and water your porch plants to keep them from wilting. If you have time, mow your lawn before you leave; it’ll make it look like someone’s tending to the place, not to mention making your life easier when you return.
For more useful tips in protecting your home for a vacation, visit Home Security Tips for a Stress-free Vacation now.