What Does Leaving The Porch Light On Mean?

When it comes to personal safety and property protection at night, porch lights are essential.  Some of us do it out of custom or common sense, but do we really know what it means? Let’s quickly dive into what we've discovered about porch lights! 

Leaving the porch light on signals to others that people are home at night. Experts agree that doing this deters burglars who typically look for unoccupied homes. Porch lights also act as safety devices that illuminate the front door. This allows you to see who is at the door and provides illumination while trying to get into your home. 

Further in this topic, we will discuss in detail the ins and outs of porch lights. This will cover the colors, bulb types, electricity costs, and more. This is going to be very informative, hold tight!

A porch with gorgeous trellis and ceiling lights left turned on, What Does Leaving The Porch Light On Mean?

What does a porch light symbolize?

You'll notice that porch lights aren't all the same color, and nowadays, some people are opting for colorful lights over white lights. Its symbolism depends on what color it illuminates. 

It's also a good idea to become familiar with them so you'll know which color to use and what to do when you encounter one. Here’s what they mean:

  • Blue: Autism awareness and showing support to Police Officers
  • Green: Celebrating Veterans and a Symbol of Lyme Disease
  • Red: Supporting the American Heart Association
  • Purple: Domestic Violence Awareness
  • Orange: Halloween and Light Up Delphi Movement
  • Pink: Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Yellow: Driving away insects

To get more in-depth details about the meaning of porch light colors, read "What Does The Color Of A Porch Light Mean?"

Does leaving a light on at night deter burglars?

Burglars are deterred by the light because they think the house is occupied. Therefore, they are less likely to target your home. 

According to a study conducted by the New York Scientific Research Crime Lab team in 2018, homes with outdoor lighting were 7% less likely to be the victims of a crime than homes without outdoor lighting, and outdoor lighting also contributed to a 39% reduction in crime rates.

A white house with white painted trims with the porch lights left turned on

But simply turning on the porch light does not guarantee safety. 

Thieves might scout your house several times before attempting to rob you. They'll be looking for patterns and behaviors that indicate when there's a chance to break into the house, and one of them could be paying attention to how and when the porch lights are turned on.

So, porch lights are most effective when used at the correct time and in conjunction with other security measures, like a motion sensor light. This signals that something unusual is happening and attracts more attention causing panic for the burglar. If you employ this strategy, you'll feel safer and more secure at home and while away at work or on vacation.

Should I leave my porch light on at night?

You probably turn on the porch light to keep your family and home secure. But many people have developed bad habits, turning them on when they shouldn't and leaving them on for far too long. 

It is fine to leave your porch light on throughout the evening if you are at home and the indoor lights are on. Leaving a light on when you go out for the evening, when you expect visitors or deliveries at night, or when a family member is coming back home late is also generally a good idea. It helps to see in the dark, making it easier to navigate and unlock the door.

However, when you are on a trip and leave the porch light on, this is not a particularly good idea because it will shine all day, proclaiming that there was no one at home to turn it off at daybreak.

How long is it safe to leave lights on?

Luxurious modern entertainment space with the lights left turned on

It's impossible to say how long a porch light should be left on before it becomes unsafe. This is dependent on several factors, like the type of bulb used, its quality, the ambient temperature, and of course the signals you want to send from your porch light habits.

Bulb Types for Porch Lighting

LED (Light-emitting diode)

These bulbs produce less heat and are 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Although they are among the most expensive, they last far longer and use much less energy. 


They are less energy-efficient than LED bulbs but they burn brighter, making them suitable for floodlights and security lighting.


This is the cheapest option but the most inefficient because the money you save from buying it will quickly be wasted due to energy usage.

HID (high-intensity discharge) 

Bulbs that are very bright and can cover a bigger area than LED or incandescent bulbs.

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp)

They are long-lasting and energy-efficient, but their unusual design makes them unsuitable for installations with visible bulbs. These bulbs take around a minute to achieve full brightness after the switch is turned on. They also contain mercury, which is potentially dangerous if the bulb breaks.

Conventional types of bulbs produce more heat, such as incandescent bulbs that emit 90% heat and only 10% light. That's a lot of heat, and the longer you leave the bulbs on, the hotter they get. This could result in overheating and possibly fire because their internal components are likely to be damaged or melted.

If the bulbs are in enclosed fixtures, the risk is increased because it does not allow proper airflow, or a higher watt bulb is used in a lower watt light fixture. As a result, conventional bulbs should not be left on permanently or for long periods.

How much does it cost to keep a porch light on all night?

A porch with the lights left on

According to the U.S. EIA (Energy Information Administration), the average national electricity cost in the year 2022 is about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. To figure out how much you're spending on lighting the porch light, multiply the average cost of electricity by the wattage of your light bulb and the number of hours you leave it on.

A porch light typically runs at about 0.72 kWh of energy for the night. Assuming you have a 60-watt bulb turned on for 12 hours, (60x12/1000) multiplied by the cost of $0.11/kWh, you will end up with a nightly cost of $0.0792 or $2.38 a month. 

Final thoughts

A porch with gorgeous trellis and ceiling lights left turned on

What does leaving the porch light on mean? Understanding this topic is important in today's society. It’s our due diligence to keep ourselves and our families safe as much as feasibly possible. It’s best to reduce danger than to invite it. Leaving the porch light on is accepted as the most commonly used method to deter burglars. Stay safe and healthy always.

For more great tips, check out: "How Far From A Door Should A Porch Light Be?"

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