Porch Lighting for
Safety, Security, and Warmth
The infamous porch lighting...it gets little attention but has been a well-known parent's tool if turned on at the right moment to interrupt that first kiss!
Left on, lights signify that "we're home!" which became Motel 6's branding: "We'll leave the light on for you."
Of course, my parents left the porch light on until each and every one of us kids were home, snug in our beds.
And what parent has never left the porch light on for their son or daughter out on a date? On Halloween, the symbol for "don't bother" is to leave the light off!
Light fixtures, light placement, controls, and bulbs are all part of your porch's anatomy.
Don't forget to visit our
Outdoor Porch Fixtures section where
we have pictures and explanations of the many different kinds of outdoor light fixtures available to you.
The right fixture can make all the difference; see the many styles available to find one to complement your porch!
Porch Light Placement
Locating porch lights in strategic places will maximize their effect.
- Use wall sconce lights beside the front door. This will ensure you have lighting even if one bulb burns out
- Placing exterior porch lights to shine directly down the wall will enhance the texture and color of your porch - (Photo is courtesy of juhansonin)
- Use "down" lights at the top of the steps
- Use step lights to illuminate each or every-other step. These are easy to install and will help you, your family, and guests negotiate the steps a lot easier (think of it as an insurance policy!)
- Place down lights or wall lights to illuminate your sitting area or privacy nook
- Exterior chandeliers are great for creating an intimate look on your porch
- Solar porch lights are also a great option
- Install mood lighting. Nothing makes a porch more inviting than soft low lights placed strategically on your porch. These are great for conversation areas, for dining, or just enjoying a fine glass of wine
- Use party lights to set the tone for your event
Planning for or remodeling to include light controls will make your porch stay much more enjoyable.
Have at least one motioned, timed, or photo-cell activated light. It's not much fun fumbling up the steps, trying to find the keys, and unlocking the door in the dark. Add some packages and the need to use the bathroom - well, you get the picture.
A photo-cell activated light automatically comes on at dusk and off at dawn. Attach your bulb to the device and screw it into the socket.
You can purchase time-activated lights in kits or by the individual component. You will then have the option of setting the actual times the lights are turned on or off.
A note about timers. Ensure you locate them in an easily accessible place. They aren't the most attractive devices to have on or near your porch so we tend to hide them. Just make sure you can get to it easily. Take a lesson from us. Mary or I had to crawl under a bush to get to ours to make periodic adjustments.
When we had to purchase a new transformer, we bought one with a photo-electric cell. Now it turns off and on
- Plan for additional on/off switches on your porch to operate ceiling lights, down lights, etc. It's a very good idea to have a switch at each end of the porch so you can operate them from both locations. If you only put the switch near the light you'll have to turn it off and walk in the dark to the door. Having another switch by the door solves that issue.
- Also consider having a switch on your porch to control any external lighting in your yard.
- Here's something most don't consider. Children and those in wheelchairs. Make sure your switches (or least one) are located at a height convenient for children and those in wheelchairs. If building a new home, add this into your planning. You'll be very glad you did!
Don't try to overpower the light fixture. A too-large bulb or high-wattage bulb in a fixture creates too much glare and appears harsh. If you need more light use more than one fixture. Additionally, place clear bulbs in clear glass globes and frosted bulbs in frosted globes.
Many are opting for CFL bulbs (as incandescents will be replaced altogether in the future). These bulbs now come in many varieties to include holiday decorative bulbs. What will they think of next!
A note about CFL safety especially if you have children and pets: If one breaks make sure you dispose of it correctly; CFL's contain a small amount of mercury and have the potential to be harmful).
LED lighting is also becoming very popular. It's safer for the environment than CFLs and the bulbs last a very long time.
Lighting adjacent areas: See our Porch Landscape Lighting Installation for more great lighting ideas.
Want to learn more about your porch's electrical systems? We have all the info you'll need. See our Porch Electrical Systems Guide.
Need to make electrical modifications to your porch? We'll walk you through it in out Porch Electrical Modifications Guide.
Looking for Outdoor Fixtures?
Take a look at our outdoor porch lightings.
Enjoy our related topics:
Tips for Installing Landscape Lighting
LED Lighting - timers, bulbs, placement