Exterior lighting can significantly improve the security of a home, but it’s difficult to know where to begin. There is a fine line between underlighting and overlighting, and it’s all too easy to emphasize the wrong areas of your yard with accent fixtures. When planning an exterior lighting system for your home, keep a few simple guidelines in mind.
Take a Walk Through Your Yard
The best way to decide on the location of outdoor lighting is to walk through the yard and around the house at night with a flashlight. Look for vulnerable areas, or any dark corners that could potentially conceal a prowler, including shrubbery, sheds and kids' play equipment. Don’t forget about the back yard; the rear of the house is the most vulnerable to intruders because it is a low traffic area, but good lighting will deter loitering.
Light Up Your Windows and Doors
If you are going to install exterior security lighting in only one area of the home, make it near entryways: front, back, and garage doors, and any windows that are susceptible to forced entry. A well-lit doorway not only helps you find the keyhole at night, but it also enables you to see who’s standing outside if you get a late night visitor.
Let Your Address Be Known
Adding a fixture above the address placard or a spotlight which illuminates it from below can help police, firefighters, or EMTs find your home quicker in the event of an emergency.
Be Selective With Your Fixtures
Complete outdoor lighting sets are available and take some of the guesswork out of planning an entire system. But buying fixtures and components individually allows more flexibility in customizing a system to the needs of your home. There is a plethora of options when it comes to fixture styles, with something to fit every architectural aesthetic and budget; generally, individual fixtures range anywhere from a few bucks to $100 and up.
When it comes to wattage, the general rule of thumb is that less is more. It takes very little wattage to light a yard sufficiently. Consider going with a greater number of low-wattage, strategically placed fixtures rather than a few high powered ones. It is easy to add supplemental fixtures later, if necessary.
Some light fixtures come equipped with convenient features. Photocell technology automatically turns lights on at dusk. Other light systems are programmable or include timers or motion sensors. Be sure to take advantage of the vast variety of fixture designs and profiles. Strip lights work great along walkways or under stairs. Lanterns can hang from walls on sconces, or from ground-mounted hooks. Whatever your style preferences, always choose lighting that is UL rated for outdoor use and designed to withstand precipitation.