Outdoor lighting serves various purposes, from highlighting the architectural features of your home to keeping walkways safely lit. Well-placed lighting can also deter crime and make you feel more secure after dark. But there are also good reasons to turn lights off at night, like reducing your electricity bill, minimizing light pollution, and creating a better sleep environment. So how do you decide what's best for your home? Let's dive in!
Benefits of Leaving Outdoor Lights On All Night
Illuminating your property's exterior spaces throughout the nighttime hours provides homeowners with numerous valuable benefits that enhance security, promote safety, and elevate lifestyle convenience and enjoyment:
- Deters Criminal Activity - Continuous overnight lighting acts as an effective deterrent to would-be trespassers and intruders by indicating alert occupants are actively monitoring the home. Dark, shadowy areas often mask nefarious activities, while strategic illumination exposes and draws immediate attention to any suspicious behavior on the premises. Carefully positioned lighting eliminates blind spots, hiding places, and shadowed areas where criminals could otherwise lurk and maneuver undetected under the cloak of darkness.
For how to set lighting,feel free to explore How Does Landscape Lighting Increase Your Home's Security
- Increases Natural Surveillance - Brightly illuminating walkways, doorways, yard spaces, and vulnerable areas make it easier for residents and passing police patrols to actively spot any unlawful trespassing, breaking and entering, or property compromises as they occur. Motion-sensing security floodlights add further protection by suddenly and automatically activating when movement is detected, startling potential perpetrators.
- Enables Emergency Response - Well-lit addresses and pathways to your home's entrance enable first responders to quickly and effectively locate your residence in the event of an overnight emergency call. This rapid access can help save precious minutes when emergency medical, fire, or police response is critical.
- Prevents Hazards & Injuries - Increased illumination along steps, changes in grade, walking routes, and potential tripping points helps enhance household safety by reducing slips, trips, and fall hazards that peak in the darkness.
- Extends Daytime Usability - By essentially extending accessible daylight hours of usage, keeping outdoor areas continuously illuminated allows homeowners to conveniently enjoy yards, patios, decks, and gardens anytime without the hassle of fumbling for light switches. Relaxing, grilling, stargazing, and other activities continue uninterrupted after sunset.
- Enables Flexible Access - Keeping lighting activated throughout the night enables flexible access to garages, sheds, trash bins, and other exterior amenities as needed outside of standard daylight hours when such tasks unexpectedly arise. There's no disruptive necessity to manually activate specific lights when areas are already pre-illuminated.
- Creates Desirable Ambiance - Thoughtful façade, landscape, security, and pathway lighting designs showcase a property's architectural details and landscaping elegance while adding aesthetic curb appeal and comfort to the home environment when neighbors and guests visit or pass by.
Strategically eliminating shadows while also pairing always-on illumination and motion-activated lighting provides maximum overnight security while deterring trespassing and criminal mischief under the cloak of darkness.Accordingly, a correct and perfect lighting system is very important, feel free to look through How to Design a Landscape Lighting System in Your Home?
Disadvantages of Leaving Outdoor Lights On All Night
While keeping your outdoor lights illuminated overnight provides benefits in certain situations, perpetual 24/7 operation also comes with several potential drawbacks that should be carefully weighed:
- Increased Energy Usage - Continuous all-night operation can significantly increase electricity consumption since the lights are running at times when illumination may not be needed. The wasted energy adds up, leading to higher utility bills over months and years. This impact can be partially mitigated by using energy-efficient LED bulb options that produce the same brightness with less power. However, unnecessary usage should still be minimized.
- Light Pollution - Glare, skyglow, and excessive artificial brightness that comes with leaving large numbers of outdoor lights on overnight can contribute to light pollution. This can negatively disrupt the natural circadian rhythms and sleep patterns of both humans and wildlife in nearby habitats. It also reduces the visibility of stars and negatively impacts nocturnal environmental cycles.
For know more light pollution comprehensively, explore Leave My Outdoor Lights on All Night cause light pollution.
- Nuisance Lighting - Bright security floodlights and spotlighting beaming into neighbors' bedrooms and living areas creates an annoying nuisance that eliminates the natural darkness needed for proper sleep. This causes irritation and complaints over continual glare.
- Safety Hazards - With perpetual operation comes increased risk of electrical faults, wiring issues, electrocution risks, and fires. Continual electrical loads can also lead to damaged fixtures, bulbs, and surge problems during storms. Poor wiring by inexperienced DIYers compounds risks.Feel free to get How to Troubleshoot a Low Voltage Lighting System?
- Promotes Crime - Contrary to intuition, fully illuminated properties may actually signal to criminals that a house is vacant and unoccupied overnight. Most homeowners turn off some outdoor lighting at bedtime, so perpetual illumination can denote an unattended home ripe for break-ins.
To minimize these downsides, careful attention should be given to outdoor light placement, controlling excessive brightness, and using motion-activated fixtures that provide light precisely when needed instead of wasting energy illuminating unused spaces all night long. Following Dark Sky guidelines for responsible outdoor lighting also mitigates problems.
When Should I Leave My Outdoor Lights On All Night or Turn Them Off?
You should leave outdoor lights on all night in situations where continual illumination provides value, such as:
- Near entranceways and vulnerable areas prone to intruders - Motion-activated security lighting deters criminals and provides visibility when needed without wasting energy.
- Along heavily used pathways and stairs - All-night post lights and path markers ensure people can navigate safely after dark and prevent falls.
- For architectural and landscape accent lighting - Use timers so decorative lighting runs in prime evening hours but turns off later when ambiance is less important.
You should turn outdoor lights off overnight in situations where continual illumination provides little value, such as:
- Soffit/eave lights pointing at the house - These disrupt sleep and migrating birds but serve little security purpose at night.
- Bright floodlights that spill light in all directions - Contribute to light pollution without focal benefits. Use only where needed.
- Backyard flood lighting when area not occupied - Turn off and activate on-demand when using the space at night as needed.
Related backyard lighting design: Landscape Lighting: 10 Creative Landscape Lighting Ideas
- Lights shining into neighbors' windows or properties - Adjust aim or use lower wattage to minimize nuisance light pollution.
- Sections of large properties distant from the home - Focus ample lighting nearest the home and vulnerable areas, not farthest reaches.
How Long Should I Leave My Outdoor Lights On?
There are no universal rules for optimal outdoor lighting run times, as every home and family is different. However, here are some general time guidelines that typically work well:
- Dusk to 10 p.m. - Keep front-facing lighting on during prime evening hours for visibility and security as it gets dark out.
- Dusk to midnight - Extend lighting run times for backyard or accent lighting if you regularly host guests at night.
- Midnight to dawn - Only keep essential lighting like motion-activated security lights on overnight while residents sleep.
- 24/7 - Continual lighting might make sense for rare cases like illuminated pathways leading to detached garages that get accessed at odd hours.
You can also consider having certain lights turn on and off at varying times. For example, keep front patio lights on from dusk until 11 p.m. for ambiance during evening activities, then off overnight. Or have accent lighting in garden beds run from dusk until 10 p.m. only. Refining your schedule takes experimentation to find the optimal times for your home and lifestyle.
How Much Does It Cost to Leave Outdoor Lights on 24/7?
Electricity to power outdoor lights all day and night can lead to costly power bills over time. Exact costs depend on several factors:
- Number and wattage of lights - More lights and higher wattages mean more energy consumed
- Your electric rate - Check your utility's price per kilowatt-hour to estimate usage costs
- Bulb type - Traditional incandescents use more power than LEDs to produce the same brightness
To calculate potential costs, first tally the wattage of all outdoor lights you plan to leave on 24/7. A typical 20-watt LED porch light uses about 480 watt-hours per day (20 x 24 hours). At an average electric rate of $0.12/kWh, that single bulb would cost $0.06 per day or $1.80 per month if never turned off. Scale up from there based on your total lighting. Replacing incandescents with LEDs can significantly reduce power usage and costs.About how much can incandescent lamps be compared to led lights? Explore How Much Can You Save by Switching to LED Lighting?
Strategically placed motion-activated security lighting avoids the cost of lights running all night unused. Smart timers and dimmers also help minimize waste, along with selective placement of lights only where and when you need them. Taking these steps will allow you to balance visibility and ambiance with efficiency.
Deciding whether or not to leave your outdoor lights on overnight involves weighing several factors unique to your home. On the pro side, continual lighting can provide security, safety, and ambiance after dark. But downsides like higher electric bills and light pollution should also be considered. With strategic placement and schedules, you can maximize benefits while minimizing any drawbacks.