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How to Use Outdoor Lighting to Prevent Break-ins

Posted by Randy Tuma on April 11, 2022

Add Beauty While Deterring Crime

Landscape lighting on your home can increase its curb appeal at night. But, outdoor lighting is becoming increasingly important for home protection and crime deterrence.

A crime occurs every 10 minutes on average in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Property crime in the Pittsburgh region has been on the rise since 2008.

While the Pittsburgh area has an average crime rate compared to property crime nationwide, it is troublesome that numbers are increasing by nearly 2000 cases each year.

If your home hasn’t been broken into yet, statistics say it’s only a matter of time. Residential burglaries account for nearly 70 percent of all property crime offenses, and yet police solve less than 15 percent of the cases that get reported.

That’s why it’s so important to choose an outdoor lighting design that can help deter property criminals from targeting your home. In order to choose the landscape lighting that will work best for your home, it’s important to know how to make your home less appealing to home invaders.

Inside the Brain of the Property Criminal

Trespassers prefer to work under the shade of darkness. They will usually continue past a well-illuminated home in search of a more vulnerable target a few neighborhoods over. They don’t want to risk approaching a well-lit home when there are other homes out there that will protect them with larger areas of darkness. That’s where a good outdoor lighting design can benefit your home.
most vulnerable points of your home

How Landscape Lighting Can Help

Home security should be like an onion. The more layers you have in place, the more unappealing your home will be to intruders. From the moment a criminal approaches your property, they should be met with every layer of resistance at your disposal to cause them to reconsider proceeding.

This is the time your landscape lighting goes to work. As it relates to property crime, a good outdoor lighting design isn't always about having the loudest, brightest lights in the neighborhood. Instead, think more about the placement of those lights.

Let’s take a look at the functions of different outdoor lighting materials to help you start to consider designs that could work for your home.

Outdoor Lighting Considerations to Deter Home Invaders

Remember, a well-lit property is a property less trespassed graphic
The first thing you need to consider when developing your outdoor lighting plan is what types of lights and materials you will need.

The most popular considerations are:

  • Pathway Lights
  • Spotlights
  • Downlights
  • Moonlights
  • Controls (time switches, dimmers, motion detectors)

Your Outdoor Lighting Design - Laying the Groundwork

When you are designing your landscape lighting to deter property crime, you will first want to divide your property into two sections; private and public.

Public sections would be the front of your house and things others can see immediately from the road. Your private section would be in your backyard and any fenced in areas.

Uplighting and Moonlighting

To start lighting the public section, you will want to look at a technique called uplighting. Uplighting involves placing lights at the base of points of interest on your property to draw attention to those details.

You would be most likely to uplight fences trees and hedges. Then you could apply a technique called moonlighting, where you also place fixtures in the trees.

This technique prevents glaring lights that prevent you from scanning your property, providing you with better visibility.

Pathway Lights

This technique is not just for safety and keeping intruders out, but it is also beneficial for visitors and homeowners navigating the property.

This is done by illuminating walkways, entranceways, and places where there is a transition in elevation. Stairs and texture changes can be particularly hazardous and should be well lit. You can achieve this with path lights, area spotlights, area wash lights, and moonlights.

Illuminating walkways will help deter intruders from them.

Entryway Outdoor Lighting

The greatest number of incidents occur in entryways, especially places like the side or back door to the garage. To prevent home invasions, light entrances strategically, with a trespasser’s thought process in mind.

Criminals don't want to be seen. Therefore, a light shining directly on a door will become a door they don't want to approach. You can also illuminate your second-story window areas by directing lighting to the area in between the windows. This will allow you to illuminate the area while keeping the light from shining brightly inside the house.

Here are some places you may want to install entryway outdoor lighting,

  • Front door
  • First-floor windows
  • Back door
  • Garage
  • Basement
  • Second story

Motion Activated Outdoor Lighting

When it comes to deterring property crime, motion sensors aren’t always the answer. The reason for this is they don’t effectively deter intruders because the trespasser still has to enter your property before the lights will turn on.

However, using motion detectors in conjunction with other landscape lighting techniques can be very effective.

For example, because motion-activated lighting can startle an intruder, they should be used to illuminate exterior doors. Whether it be a floodlight, landscape lighting, or an outdoor security light, motion-activated lighting can have a startling effect that can deter criminals from proceeding to break into the property.

For maximum benefit, place this type of lighting 6-8 feet from the ground above a door.

Timing your Landscape Lighting

After you have decided on the perfect placement for your landscape lights, it comes time to set up a timing system for your outdoor lighting.

You will want to set your public space and your private space on different transformers because spaces have different needs and there are different functions for the lighting in them.

You can use a transformer to light spaces and set a time when they come on/off.

An astronomical timer is programmed by longitude and latitude. A bit more expensive, it will actually time your lights to turn on/off during sun up and sunset.

What Makes a Good Outdoor Lighting System

To sum it all up, here are the major points you want to look for when you’re developing a good landscape lighting system that will deter property crime.

Ask yourself, “Does my lighting system…”

  • 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

Remember, a well-lit property is a property less trespassed.


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