If it hasn’t happened to you yet, the stats say it’s only a matter of time before your home is broken into. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds in the United States. Residential burglaries account for nearly 70 percent of all burglary offenses, and yet police solve less than 15 percent of the cases that get reported. And if you live in New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma or Louisiana, the risk is even greater, these being the top five states with the highest rates of burglary.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower the odds that your home is the target of a burglary. Outdoor lighting is our specialty, so we’re going to focus on how light fixtures can make your home less attractive to burglars who operate under the cover of darkness.
Lighting for Security and Curb Appeal
Illuminate common entry points
The goal of home security lighting is to make your home appear less attractive to criminals. Look for under-lit areas around your home where burglars may attempt to break in and use outdoor light fixtures to make them less “burglar-friendly.” This will also have the added benefit of creating layers of outdoor lighting around your home that will make it more aesthetically pleasing at night. Common burglary entry points to illuminate include:
- Front door
- First floor windows
- Back door
- Second story
Here are some landscape lighting design resources to help you get started:
- Landscape Lighting Design Overview
- Common Landscape Lighting Fixtures
- How to Light from Above: Downlighting Inspired by Nature
- How to Make a Landscape Lighting Installation Plan
Components of a Home Security Lighting System
What makes a good security lighting system? According to the Illuminating Engineering Society, home security lighting should meet the following aims:
- Provide a clear view of the area around the home, including perimeter objects such as fences, walls and barriers
- Allow facial recognition at a minimum distance of 30 feet
- Make tasks such as finding your keys, retrieving the mail or walking the dog easier and safer
- Help people avoid criminal threats and/or defend themselves when a threat is perceived
- Enhance your sense of safety and security
To that end, here are some of the components you should include when designing a security lighting system for your home.
Floodlights are ideal for illuminating large spaces thanks to a wide cone of light. Some fixtures also come with multiple adjustable heads for precise illumination in hard-to-light areas where burglars may attempt to hide or break into your home. Floodlight applications include driveways, backyards, entryways, corners, decks, patios, porches, and pools.
Although it’s rare, a small percent of home break-ins occur through second-story windows. Illuminating the upper parts of your home can be challenging since lights are best mounted in gutters or under upper-most eaves. An alternative is to position narrow-beam spotlights from the ground aimed up at second-story windows and patios. Downlights can also achieve this effect if mounted above these areas, as well as be used to cast downlight on first floor doors and windows.
Note: some homeowners prefer not to have light cast directly at or into their windows, so an alternative is to make sure the areas between windows are illuminated to prevent attempted break-ins.
Path lights serve two important purposes. Not only do they increase security by brightening up your home, but they also improve safety by illuminating frequently used paths and walkways. Path lighting fixtures may also be used for illuminating plants, bushes, tree trunks, and other landscape or architectural elements around your home. Path light applications include stairs, walkways, decks, flower beds, and around plants and trees.
Once you’ve selected the light fixtures, pair them with different lighting controls to give you more control over the lighting around your home. Light controls include dimmers, motion detectors and time switches. Other lighting controls may be available depending on the types of fixtures you install.
- Dimmers allow you to manually adjust the level of illumination. For example, you can make floodlights or spotlights less bright earlier in the evening when it’s clear that people are home and awake and increase the illumination when you go to bed for extra security.
- Motion detectors activate light fixtures when movement is perceived. This can add an element of surprise that may help scare away would-be burglars who suddenly find themselves “in the spotlight.” Motion detectors also eliminate the need to keep unflattering floodlights on all night. Instead, they only come on as needed.
- Time switches are designed to turn light fixtures on and off at specific times, ensuring that your home is never targeted simply because you forgot to turn on your landscape lights. Just set the time you want your lights to come on and these switches take care of the rest.