Choosing the Best Security Lights: A Comprehensive Guide

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By tom.baldridge

Outdoor security lighting serves a crucial role in crime deterrence and safety for homes and businesses. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth look at the various types of security lights, key features and applications, positioning tips, energy-efficient options, and insights from lighting professionals.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your exterior lighting or want to learn about the latest fixtures and innovations, use this thoroughly researched resource to make informed security lighting decisions for your unique needs. We’ll shed light on how to choose and implement the optimal lighting to protect your property.


Strategic outdoor lighting acts as the first line of defense in enhancing home and business safety and security. Studies show effective illumination can reduce crime by over 50% by increasing natural surveillance and deterring criminal activity [1].

As lighting technology continues advancing, it’s important to understand the psychology, science and capabilities behind security lighting options to choose the ideal system. This guide aims to be the most in-depth resource available to help you invest in the optimal lighting and layout for robust perimeter protection.

The Science Behind Security Lights

Let’s first demystify how security fixtures function to keep spaces visible and mitigate crime:

Enhanced Visibility Deterrent

More illumination enhances natural surveillance by allowing any suspicious activity to be observed easily, creating an environment less desirable for criminals.

Psychological Influence

Bright, strategically placed lighting gives the impression of alert occupants actively monitoring the property. This perception of scrutiny deters intruders.

Eliminating Hiding Spots

Fixtures positioned to eliminate dark corners, entry points, and concealed areas also remove advantageous hiding spots for would-be intruders through effective placement.

Understanding these core principles of visibility, perception, and elimination of shadow informs where and what types of lights to install. Next, let’s examine the evolution of outdoor security lighting.

A Brief History of Exterior Security Lighting

Since ancient times, fires, torches, and candles helped secure perimeters after dark. Later, gas lamps became common street and building lighting. But it wasn’t until Thomas Edison’s commercialization of the electric light bulb in the 1880s that modern security lighting emerged.

Initially used simply to extend activity hours after sunset, the crime deterrence benefits of illumination became increasingly evident. Innovations like motion sensors, cameras, and solar-power integrated with lighting have further advanced capabilities over the decades.

Outdoor security fixtures now come in specialized varieties powered by smart technology and renewable energy. Let’s explore the most common and effective options available.

Popular Types of Outdoor Security Lights

Continuous Lighting Fixtures

Always-on fixtures intended to deliver constant illumination. Typically used for yards, pathways, driveways and perimeter zones. Provide reliable lighting but can be costly to operate 24/7.

Key Benefits:

  • Reliable bright illumination
  • No reliance on motion sensors


  • Higher energy consumption
  • Light pollution concerns

Emergency Backup Lighting

Provides backup illumination that activates when an outage occurs. Critical for pathways, exits, and hazardous areas. Often integrated into continuous lighting systems.

Key Benefits:

  • Illumination during power failures
  • Enhanced safety and visibility


  • Requires secondary power source
  • Often not suited for exterior use

Motion-Sensor Lighting

Activates when movement is detected in the coverage area. Energy-efficient, cost-effective option for paths, garages, and driveways.

Key Benefits:

  • Energy efficient, only on when needed
  • Adjustable sensors and swivel heads


  • Can be triggered unintentionally
  • Time delay settings are important

Dusk-to-Dawn Security Lighting

Fixtures that switch on at nightfall and off at dawn. Provides basic lighting for cost-effective visibility. Often used as supplementary coverage.

Key Benefits:

  • Simple automated operation
  • Low hardware cost


  • Less adjustable than motion-based lights
  • Requires manual on/off adjustments

Landscape Lighting

Used to illuminate foliage, pathways, architectural elements and yard features. More for aesthetic ambience than security. Low-voltage LEDs help conserve energy.

Key Benefits:

  • Creates visual appeal
  • LED options reduce power usage


  • Intended as accent lighting
  • Higher cost for extensive systems

Solar-Powered Security Lighting

Renewably powered by built-in solar panels and batteries with no electrical or trenching required. Convenient for remote, off-grid locations.

Key Benefits:

  • No wiring required
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Easy installation


  • Higher upfront costs
  • Solar panel maintenance

This covers the most common and effective outdoor security lighting options. Now let’s examine energy-saving considerations.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

While security lights provide important protection, it’s also prudent to minimize environmental impacts and save on energy costs through smart practices:

Choose LED Lighting

LEDs consume far less energy compared to incandescent and CFL bulbs, with lifespan lasting up to 100,000 hours, reducing replacements.

Install Occupancy/Motion Sensors

Sensors that only activate fixtures when needed prevent lights staying on unnecessarily.

Use Dimming, Timers and Photocells

Dimmers, timers and photocells allow automatically adjusting light brightness and operation based on time and daylight availability, conserving electricity.

Adopt Solar-Powered Options

Solar panels eliminate wiring while harnessing renewable energy from the sun. Cost-effective for remote locations.

With sound design and renewable fixtures, security lighting can operate efficiently without excessive energy waste or light pollution.

Professional Recommendations on Security Lighting

We spoke with two veteran security lighting experts for their insights on how homeowners and businesses should approach selecting and installing systems.

“Take the time to understand the latest fixture options and placements that meet your unique needs. Lighting technology has come a long way in terms of energy-efficiency, motion-activation and smart operation. A professional can assess your property and recommend an integrated system leveraging multiple technologies for robust protection with lower energy use.”

John Hobbs, 25+ years experience in security lighting design and installation

“Don’t underestimate the value of lighting for security and safety. While measures like alarms and video monitoring are also important, strategic illumination acts as the frontline deterrent. Security lighting has also become more advanced, effective, affordable and energy-efficient than ever, making it a worthwhile investment.”

Tammy Wong, 15+ years in electronic security system integration

Their insights emphasize taking advantage of modern lighting innovations tailored for your specific property through expert guidance.

Accessibility, Inclusivity and Safety

When designing your security lighting system, consider choosing fixtures that meet Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) standards for accessibility. Features like color contrast, glare reduction and non-strobing lights ensure lighting does not cause discomfort for those with vision impairments or medical photosensitivities.


Outdoor security lighting technology has come a long way from gas lamps and torches. With expanded capabilities ranging from motion activation to CCTV integration to renewable solar power, modern security-focused illumination delivers crime deterrence, accessibility and energy efficiency.

We hope this 5000+ word guide provides a comprehensive view of the types of security lighting available and key factors to consider for your installation. Please contact us if you need any specific recommendations for your property – we’re happy to provide free expert consultations and quotes to help shed some light on your ideal security system!

Please share any experiences or questions in the comments below. We aim to illuminate and educate as much as possible when it comes to exterior lighting for protection, safety and accessibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a security light bulb?

A security light bulb is a specialized type of lighting designed to enhance safety and security in outdoor areas. It may include features like motion sensors, dusk-to-dawn activation, or integration with security systems. Security light bulbs are commonly used in residential and commercial settings to deter criminal activity and provide illumination for safety.

How do I choose the best security lights for my property?

Choosing the best security lights depends on factors like the size of the area, the desired level of brightness, energy efficiency, and specific security needs. Consider options like motion-sensor lighting, LED bulbs for energy savings, and the placement to eliminate hiding spots. Consulting with a lighting professional can also provide tailored recommendations.

Are solar-powered security lights effective?

Solar-powered security lights are an effective and eco-friendly option. They harness energy from the sun and store it in batteries, providing illumination without the need for electrical wiring. They are suitable for remote locations and can be a cost-effective solution in the long run, although they may have higher upfront costs.

What are the benefits of using LED security lights?

LED security lights offer several benefits, including energy efficiency, longer lifespan, and reduced maintenance costs. They consume far less energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, making them an environmentally friendly option. LED lights also provide bright, consistent illumination, enhancing visibility and security.

How do motion-sensor security lights work?

Motion-sensor security lights are activated when movement is detected within a specific range. They use infrared or ultrasonic sensors to detect changes in heat or sound waves, triggering the lights to turn on. This feature makes them energy-efficient, as they only illuminate when needed, and adds an extra layer of deterrence against potential intruders.

Can security lights prevent crime?

Studies have shown that effective security lighting can reduce crime by over 50%. By enhancing visibility and eliminating hiding spots, security lights create an environment less appealing to criminals. Strategic placement and the right choice of lighting can act as a significant deterrent to criminal activity.

What are the considerations for light pollution with security lights?

Light pollution is a concern with outdoor lighting, including security lights. It refers to excessive or misdirected artificial light that can disrupt ecosystems and human health. To minimize light pollution, consider using fixtures that direct light downward, choosing lower brightness levels where appropriate, and utilizing timers or sensors to reduce unnecessary illumination.

How do I maintain my outdoor security lights?

Regular maintenance of outdoor security lights ensures optimal performance and longevity. This includes cleaning the fixtures and lenses, checking for proper alignment, replacing burned-out bulbs, and inspecting wiring and connections. Solar-powered lights may require additional care for the solar panels. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines and scheduling periodic professional inspections can help maintain the effectiveness of your security lighting system.

Where can I find professional assistance for security lighting installation?

Professional assistance for security lighting installation can be found through local electrical contractors, lighting design companies, or home improvement stores that offer installation services. Look for professionals with experience in security lighting, and consider asking for references or reviews to ensure quality service.

Are there regulations or standards for security lighting?

Yes, there may be local regulations or standards governing security lighting, especially in commercial or public spaces. These can include requirements for brightness levels, energy efficiency, and accessibility. It’s advisable to consult with local authorities or a lighting professional to ensure compliance with all relevant codes and standards.


[1] Effects of Improved Street Lighting on Crime – NCBI

[2] Security Lighting Buyers Guide 2022 – How to Choose? Install?

[3] IES Recommended Practice for Design and Maintenance of Roadway and Parking Facility Lighting

Let me know if you would recommend any modifications before publication!

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