should outside lights be left on at night?

Should Outside Lights Be Left On At Night?


In so many ways, gleaming outdoor lights are beneficial to homes and their residents. They help people avoid tripping and falling after dark. In some instances, they can deter burglars and vandals. And, once the sun goes down, they create a truly inviting atmosphere. Yes, the right lighting could make your property glow like magic. 

Even so, is it a good idea to keep your outdoor lights on every night from dusk until dawn? It’s an important question for homeowners, one that’s worth exploring in some detail.

When Should You Leave Your Outdoor Lights On?

There are some instances when you and your family would probably feel safer with all those exterior lights shining. 

Walking at Night

Whenever anyone will be coming home late and using your walkways (as opposed to driving straight into the garage), it makes sense to keep your outdoor lights on. That way, they can see where they’re going. 

Plus, when people in your household are away for an extended period, it feels extra special if the home’s brightly lit upon their return.

Leaving Loved Ones Home Alone

If you must leave older children or vulnerable adults home alone after dark, you could turn on those exterior lights before you head out. It might make everyone feel better. 

Deterring Some Criminals

If there’s been any trouble in your neighborhood recently — car thefts, broken windows, or prowlers, for example — you might leave your outside lights on to keep an eye on things. 

Hosting Gatherings

Naturally, if you’re entertaining at night, you’ll want your outdoor lights to sparkle. Those lighting fixtures will establish a warm and welcoming setting for enjoying your guests’ company. 

Those lights will also help people walk to and from their cars safely. And that may protect you from certain legal liabilities if anyone were to fall down.

lights offWhy Turn Off the Outdoor Lights?

At other times, however, it can be useful to turn off your outside lights at night. 

Getting Along With the Neighbors

For starters, if your neighbors’ house is close to yours, your exterior lights might shine through their windows. And they might not want that extra light late at night, a scenario that could lead to some tensions. 

Avoiding Some Burglaries

We mentioned above that, in certain circumstances, you might leave the outdoor lights on to keep burglars away. However, there are situations in which leaving the lights on could actually encourage burglaries.

If your home is in a remote wooded area, for instance, turning off your exterior lights at bedtime may be the right move. That’s because, if a criminal drove by and saw your outdoor lights on with no other lights nearby, your home could seem like an attractive target. 

On the other hand, if your remote house is cloaked in darkness, home invaders are likely to leave it alone. For one thing, they might not even notice it. And, if they did, they probably wouldn’t want to stumble around in the dark, potentially encountering wild animals or other unseen hazards.

Similarly, it can be wise to turn off your outdoor lights at night when you’re not home. Burglars sometimes case their targets, meaning that they watch various houses and residents before selecting one to rob. And, if a burglar realized that you often leave your outside lights on when you’re away, those lights might not scare away that criminal. 

Reducing Your Energy Consumption

Are your exterior lights electric? If so, then leaving them on all night will obviously require a good deal of electricity. Thus, it’s not the most environmentally friendly of practices. Not to mention, this household habit could drive up your monthly utilities bills quite a bit. 

Therefore, by shutting off your outside lights each night, you’d save money. And you’d do your part to save the planet. Now that’s a winning combination! 

A Hybrid Approach

Fortunately, you needn’t choose between keeping your property dark all night and keeping it illuminated all night. There are other strategies you could employ: hybrid approaches to keep your home safe. 

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors can certainly be helpful at night — whether you’re home or not. 

With a motion sensor, the lights go on only when someone or something is moving around in the dark. As a result, if a burglar were on your property, that person might flee as soon as the lights went on. After all, the intruder may assume that someone’s home and is now calling the police.

In addition, motion sensors let people who are walking on your property at night — for instance, teenagers coming back from a party or from work — see where they’re going. Plus, if a stray dog or wild animal wandered into your yard, you’d be able to see it. Then you could call your local animal control office. 


With a timer — a device that can be used in conjunction with motion sensors — you could program your outdoor lights to turn on and off at certain times. Thus, if you typically go to bed around 11 p.m., you might have those lights turn off at 11 each night. 

As a result, even when you’re traveling, your exterior home lighting will follow the same schedule. And anyone who’s checking out your house will probably think you’re still home. 

Human Relationships

While this might sound odd at first, one of the best ways to secure your home — and get the most benefit from your exterior lighting — is to be friendly with your neighbors. Get to know them a little; every once in a while, invite them over for coffee or a barbecue.

That way, you can watch out for each other. For example, if your motion sensors triggered your outdoor lights one night, they might look over and see what’s going on. That’d be especially valuable if you were away from home. And, of course, you could do the same for them. 

For more tips on staying safe with outdoor home lighting, you could check with your local police department or public safety agency. Best practices differ from location to location, and those professionals could give you the most effective strategies for your particular home.

Here’s one final tip for your exterior lights: As often as you can, take a moment to stand outside and enjoy them. The right outdoor lighting will highlight your home’s most beautiful architectural and landscaping elements. And it’ll make your home gleam with a beauty and a mystique all its own. 


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