Tech Tips with Matt

Keeping your home safe with lighting choices

We'll start off this introductory section of safe and easy home security tips with lights. While these aren't any high tech "lasers" that will stop nefarious people in their tracks, it does make your house seem less like a target when it's all lit up and easy for people to see. When I say "target" I mean that a dark home with a dark or dimly lit driveway is more likely to be "visited" by people looking to make off with your hard-earned stuff. A dark driveway gives them an easy walk up to your car, where they can test your handles on your car to see if they're unlocked, or maybe they can make it all the way up to your garage, and see if there's an easy way in, or if you left something valuable outside.

Lighting is usually the easiest thing you can do to make your house "less attractive" to folks who are roaming the neighborhood, looking to cause trouble. It may not deter them, but it does make it a lot easier to see someone walking up your driveway when you have multiple bright lights throwing their shadow all over the place. Lights are meant to do two main things: protect persons and property between dusk and dawn, and they should provide enough light over an area so that anyone moving in or around it can be seen easily.

There are four different kinds/types of security lights in use today:

  • Dusk To Dawn Security Lighting: probably the easiest and cheapest kind of light out there. There's a sensor in the light that turns it on as soon as it becomes dark enough, and it stays on all night until it is light again.
  • Flood Light Security Lighting: Throw out a lot of light in a wide area. Good for big lots/driveways, corners of yards, etc. Some of the ones in use today can have a spread up to and including 180°.
  • Timer Security Lighting: This is becoming easier and easier to do in the home, as well as outside of it. You can use phone apps and other plug-in devices to run a program of when to turn on and off various lights in and around your home.
  • Motion Sensor Security Lighting: By far the most popular type of lighting used around the home for security purposes, a sensor inside the light detects movement and activates the lights. Different settings can dictate how sensitive the sensor is or how long the light stays on.
    • Note: all of these types of lights can be done solar, hard-wired electric, or in some cases, battery powered.

Buy new fixtures or buy new bulbs?

Now after reading all this, some might ask, "Do I need to go out and buy a fancy new light right now?" The answer is no. While some of these options aren't that expensive, or hard to set up, you can start with the fixtures you have at home right now, start by switching out some of the bulbs for LED units. In some cases, the cost of the new bulb will make you think, "Maybe I should have just bought a new fixture at this rate." LED bulbs can be pricey, especially if you're used to buying older bulbs that burned out every year, but they were cheap, so you didn't care or notice. Some of them maybe lasted longer than that, and that's great! I'm here to tell you though to leave the old tech behind and move on up with the brighter stuff. A lot of houses built in the last 50 years have 1 or 2 fixtures outside of their front doors, and people put warm and fuzzy bulbs in them over the years to give their house a warm and inviting glow. Well, they were (and still are) definitely inviting, because that warm glow almost did nothing for illumination. The problem with what those bulbs do is not only do they not illuminate anything, they also take some time to warm up, and that also is not helpful when you're trying to light up an area quickly.

There are a few advantages to installing LED bulbs in over the older incandescent or CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs:

  • LED's do not need to warm up, they are "instant on". They convert more power to light than either bulb, and they do it faster and cheaper
  • LED's do last longer than either bulb. They will dim over time, but a CFL or incandescent bulb will just go out after a while
  • LED's consume way less power. Too many people are concerned with "keeping their lights on all the time", and that's because those older bulbs did cost money to stay on longer. LED's cost significantly less to keep on all the time.
  • LED bulbs are also much cooler running, and they are less prone to breaking since they're not usually made out of glass, like CFL and incandescent bulbs.

There are a few drawbacks to using LED bulbs, and sometimes those are built into what they're being used in. An LED is almost a spotlight, their light is very focused. Older bulbs tend to do a better job of lighting more things around them. If you want 360° of light from an LED, you're gonna spend some money on one that has a few bulbs strategically placed to simulate full-coverage.

Let's see a few examples of lighting in action, and how helpful it can be.

Here we see a typical house in the neighborhood. Minimal lighting, with maybe some landscape or random lighting added.

Adding a small, inexpensive solar spotlight reveals a decent sized bush that someone could have hidden behind to access the window.

An LED motion-sensing floodlight in the back of the driveway reveals some cars up the driveway, but still pretty dark.

Two LED floodlights on the corner of the house take almost all of the mystery out of the driveway.

And finally, a nice and bright bulb in the front fixture illuminates the whole front lawn and the front of the house nicely.

In short, lighting can be very simple, or very complex, but the results speak for themselves! Find what works best for you and your budget and you can create many combinations to fit your needs. Stores like Home Depot have lights that fit all sizes and budgets, and the bulbs are a good start. It would be nice to see some of the darker streets in our neighborhood lit up a little bit more so we can deter thieves from helping themselves to our belongings. At least now we can see them when they brazenly walk up.

- Matt

Coming Soon: Security Cameras - Do you need one? What will work for you and not break the bank?