For many years, plenty of homeowners subscribed to the conventional wisdom that it was a good idea to keep their porch light on at night. The logic behind this was manifold. For one thing, homeowners thought that leaving their porch light on might dissuade would-be burglars from targeting their homes. They also believed that it would improve their home’s safety, just in case a family member came home later than expected. However, leaving an outdoor light on when not needed is a tremendous waste of energy. So, is it really worth it? Let’s examine the facts and figure out whether it’s a good idea to leave your home’s porch light on at night. And if it isn’t, we’ll go over some alternatives that might be a better idea.

A Porch Light’s Average Energy Usage

To start out, we’ll need to know approximately how much energy the average porch light uses each night. For that, we’ll begin with the assumption that your porch light draws 60 watts of electricity while it’s on. That’s the wattage of the majority of porch lights, according to most residential lighting experts.

Then, we’ll need to know how long you’d typically leave the light on each night. For that, we’ll assume that you turn your porch light on at about 10 p.m. and then off again at around 7 p.m. That would mean you’d have the light on for 9 hours every night. The bulb’s wattage and number of hours used, though, are only part of the equation.

The final piece of the puzzle is your electricity cost. Here in the Raleigh area, homeowners pay an average electricity rate of 10.43 cents per kilowatt hour. So, this tells us that it will cost the average homeowner around $20.57 every year to keep their porch light on all night, every night.

It will also contribute the same amount of CO2 to our environment as driving a gasoline-powered car for 219 miles. When you look at it that way, leaving your porch light on every night isn’t as innocuous as you may have thought. However, for that price and environmental impact, the purported benefits of leaving that light on might still seem worth it. But are you really getting the benefits you think you are?

What the Experts Say

One of the primary benefits that homeowners point out when it comes to leaving their porch lights on at night is that it could scare potential burglars away. The idea is that a home with a light on lets the would-be burglar know somebody’s home and that they should move on to a vacant home instead.

However, law enforcement agencies repeatedly insist that the truth is more complicated than that. In reality, most burglars don’t look at a home’s lights a single time to decide if they’re going to break in. They observe neighborhoods for days to look for appealing targets. So, if your porch light turns on and off at the same time every night, they’re just as likely to assume that you’ve got it on a timer as they are to think you are home. So, leaving your porch light on doesn’t help much unless you’re careful to avoid turning it on and off at similar times each day.

Plus, if a burglar observes that your porch light only stays on when your driveway’s empty, they may take it as a sign that nobody’s home. Or, they may think that somebody vulnerable is at home and using the light as a defensive measure. Either way, it won’t keep them away from your door.

Law enforcement professionals also note that leaving your porch light on may actually make a burglar’s job easier. It means they’ll have enough light to see what they’re doing as they work to get your door open. Unless your home is in a high-traffic area, this all but guarantees that leaving your porch light on is a bad idea. Doing so won’t increase the odds of anyone seeing a break-in happening and may instead help the criminal work faster.

And as for the safety of family members that come home late, leaving your porch light on is only worth it if it’s a regular occurrence. Then, you could count on the late arrival to shut the light off once they’re inside, so you don’t waste any more electricity than necessary. Or, you can try the following energy-efficient alternatives instead.

Energy Efficient Porch Light Alternatives

If you want to keep your porch light on at night, even though it doesn’t provide the benefits you thought it did, you can do it more efficiently. For example, you could switch out your existing incandescent porch light with an equivalent CFL or LED bulb.

If you choose an outdoor CFL replacement bulb, you’d get the same lighting from a 15-watt bulb instead. That would slash your overnight energy usage, resulting in just $5.14 in electricity costs per year. However, you can get your costs down even further than that.

You could instead opt for an LED bulb as your replacement, which would save even more electricity. That’s because you could get the same lighting you got from your 60-watt outdoor bulb from an 8-watt outdoor LED bulb. That would drop your yearly electricity cost by 2.74%! Plus, LED bulbs last far longer than either CFL or incandescent bulbs. So, you wouldn’t have your porch light burn out as often, saving you additional time and money.

If a plain LED bulb isn’t efficient enough for you, there are even more advanced alternatives you can try. One would be an outdoor LED bulb with a built-in motion sensor. That would mean your light would stay off until someone approached your door, limiting your energy use even further. Or, you could replace your porch light with a Wi-Fi-enabled LED smart light. Then, you and your family could turn your porch light on and off from a smartphone app. You’d never need to worry about the safety of an unexpected late arrival, and you’d save more electricity in the process.

Your Energy Efficiency Experts

Since 2000, Thermo Direct has served the residents and businesses of Raleigh and the surrounding area with pride. We offer comprehensive electrical services, ranging from electrical repairs and installations to generators and whole-home surge protection. Our trained and certified electricians have experience working in a variety of residential and commercial settings and can handle any job you require. Plus, we offer complete HVAC and plumbing services, as well as indoor air quality, ductwork, insulation, and more! That makes us your one-stop solution for all of your home or business’s infrastructure needs. We even offer 24/7 emergency services for problems that can’t wait. So, if you’d like more information about efficient porch lights, or any other electrical, plumbing, or HVAC problem in Raleigh, contact the team at Thermo Direct today!

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