Lighting up your yard will keep the burglars away, right? That is mostly true, but like a lot of things in life, it is not that simple.
A brightly lit yard could make it easier for the bad guys to see during a break-in.
From streetlights to porch lights, studies show better outdoor lighting reduces crime. But those same reports say security lighting works best as part of a plan that takes into account what crooks look for.
The basic advice from law enforcement, insurance companies and home security system vendors is don’t just flip on the yard light before bed. In fact, you may want to turn it off before turning in.
The goal is to make it look like people are home. Turning lights on and off gives your home that lived-in look. If you are not home, there is an app for that.
Here are six tips to electrify your outdoor lighting and increase the security of your home:
Think Like a Burglar
Intruders tend to enter a home through a door. They would rather you not be home, so they watch for signs people are at work. That is why most burglaries happen in the day, and why leaving your lights on all day and night—or when you are on vacation—can be an advertisement that no one is home. Keep the yard lit while you are up and around to show normal activity. Turning off the porch light at bedtime can be a sign to a potential intruder that someone is in the house. Pay attention to spots that could cover up a break-in. Keep trees and bushes trimmed.
Light for the Right Reasons
Are you trying to light a walkway for guests or keep intruders away from an entrance? Place lights so they achieve your objective. Safety is not just about reducing crime. A well-lit outdoor space can prevent trips, falls and other accidents.
Electronic timers and motion-sensing lights can give the impression someone is home and can light the sidewalk when you return from an outing, without leaving the lights on all the time. Lights and fixtures can be linked to a smartphone so you can turn them on and off while you are out and about.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of a Home Security System
Security cameras, alarm systems and protection services offer a range of conveniences, such as fire protection or checking whether your pets hop onto the dining table when you leave. A security camera also can help identify someone stealing a package delivered to your doorstep. They can be expensive, so do your research carefully and consider what you are trying to achieve.
Protect Yourself From Internet Hackers
Internet-connected devices can be hacked by digital-savvy troublemakers. Whether a security camera or a smart lightbulb, the equipment can offer cyber crooks a way into your personal information. The basic internet security advice is to have strong passwords and change them regularly, especially on your home’s central router. Keep software updated on your devices. Those updates often add the newest cyber protections. Even though it is tempting, do not use social media to tell the world you are on vacation. Consider sharing your travel photos after you return.
Go Old School
In addition to lighting through electricity and technology, use people to reduce crime. Invite a police officer to give a safety briefing at a neighborhood meeting. They can describe the best steps for your area. Of all the crime-reducing tips, experts say the best one is to get to know your neighbors, who can recognize and report out-of-the-ordinary activity.
Lighting the path to safety involves making a plan, using technology wisely and seeking help from your friends.
App-Enabled Lighting Options
Smart lighting is one of the easiest technologies to integrate into your home. It can be easily controlled through voice command, your smartphone or a smart home hub, such as Amazon Alexa. Smart lighting also is among the most affordable smart home devices, starting at about $10 per bulb.
Consumers can schedule lighting to turn on or off at specific times, just before returning home from work or at bedtime. One of the most useful aspects of smart lightbulbs is the ability to control lighting while away from home.
If you leave for work and forget to turn off the lights, you can do so with a few taps on a smartphone app. If you are traveling but want to appear as if you are home, you can turn on your lights at a certain time to create that illusion.
To increase safety, many smart lightbulbs have motion-detection technology and can be programmed to send an alert to your phone when the lighting detects unexpected motion inside or outside the home.
Bulbs are available in a variety of colors and dimming options to create different moods. Blue light mimics daylight. Setting lights to warmer colors at night can help release melatonin and may lead to a better night’s sleep.
Most smart lighting options use LED bulbs, which are more expensive but use less energy than traditional incandescents. Incandescent bulbs cost about $1 and last about 1,000 hours. LED bulbs start at about $2.50, but last 25 times longer than incandescents.
Smart bulbs come with their own built-in dimming mechanisms, so avoid placing smart lightbulbs in fixtures that already have a dimmer switch.
Before buying, research which options work best for your home. Read reviews and stick with reputable brands to ensure a well-functioning bulb.