Lights, Camera, Action

By on October 10, 2012

Last week, I posted 10 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Safer.  Number 1 was lights, with the tag line “Make sure it’s easier to see around your house than in your house at night.”  Today, I thought I’d explain that a little.

Let’s start by talking about lighting and how that works at night.  Most people have their lighting for security backwards.  We light up our homes on the inside and then leave lights outside off to conserve energy.  If I was overseas again, setting up a guard post, it would have all the lights facing out and/or on areas where people would have to move through to get to whatever I’m guarding.  I would have no lights on me.  The idea at night is that I can see the bad guys but they can’t see me.  Overseas, I also used motion lights and trip wires/booby traps to let me know when someone was there.  Motion lights are my favorite night security tools here at home, but most people use them wrong.  So let’s talk about two different ways to set up lights on your home for security.

First, we can use a lot of lights.  Think about lighting a guard area.  The guard would want to see everything around him.  So you would want lights everywhere on the outside of your house to push back the darkness and light up every shadow.  This gets expensive and hard to maintain and makes your house look like a federal building in the middle of your street.  Most criminals won’t want to work in those conditions and will leave your house alone.  If you did do this, and then kept the lights on inside to a minimum, you could always look out and see anyone there.  You would also have to be looking to get the full advantage of this system.  Unless you are or have a security force that does nothing but watch for bad guys, I wouldn’t suggest it.

The other style is still to keep the inside lights to a minimum and/or keep the shades pulled, and use a lot of motion lights and on/off lights.  First, let’s talk about the lights you turn on and off.  You should put these lights on places people will be coming or approaching your home.  Most of us have porch lights and lights outside the garage.  I turn these on and off at different times.  If someone shows up unexpectedly or you hear something outside, it would be nice to walk over and turn on a light to see (do remember to turn off the light you are standing under first).  You don’t have to put these lights everywhere.  If I were designing my perfect system, I would want a couple different light switches that could light up a couple different areas.  The lights would be based on where I would stand to look out.  And there would be lights on every entry point to the house (doors and windows).

That is expensive and hard, but motion lights are cheap and easy.  The lights that are out today are amazing.  Really, really bright, come on right away, and don’t take a lot of electricity.  We like to put lights up high so they illuminate areas.  In the front of the house, that is okay, so that anyone walking by can see someone around my house.  In the back or secluded areas, I want to use them like trip flares.  Everyone sets up their motion sensors wrong.  If someone walks by on the sidewalk, do I really need my light to come on?  In the back yard, do I really want the light to come on every time my neighbor takes out the trash?  Point the motion sensor down so it limits when the lights come on (you can also use duct tape to cut down the angle of the sensor).  In the front you might want a light on the driveway so when you come home at night, you can see.  But you want other lights only to come on when someone is a threat to your home.  If the lights come on and off all the time, people, and you, will ignore them.  Set up lights to only come on when someone is there.

On your security lights you want to angle them so when they come on you can see them.  Think like the “Bat Signal” in all the cartoons and movies.  You want to be able to see that the light is on.  You might have a light pointed in a direction you can see.  One of the best ways to do that is pointing the light at the fence that you can see from your easy chair or on a window that will reflect a lot of light so you can see it.  Think about the lights your neighbors have that you hate at night (that is how you want your bat signal).  That is how you want to set up your motion lights.  Then you will know if someone is there or not.  From my living room, we see out our sliding glass window, and the living room is where we hang out when we are at home.  So I would put a motion light that activates when someone walks inside my fence on the side of my house.  I would have the light waist or head level mounted at where the fence starts pointing at the back fence.  This way, if the light activates, I’ll see the light on the fence and it will make a person into a puppet show, so I’ll know if someone is there really easily.

The easiest way to set up a quick trip light system like that is put lights at the corners of the house pointing along the wall with the motion sensor pointing the same way.  Make sure someone would have to walk past the light into the sensor area to get into your house.

The last thing to think about when you are setting up lights is to think about how you will be clearing the house.  Now none of us want to try and find something that goes bump in the night by yourself, but the truth is, you probably will go investigate something sooner or later.  So think about how you would come out of your house to see if something is there.  You don’t want to set off your own booby trap and let someone else no you are there before you have to.  Walking around your own house without setting off your own sensors is the rub, so an on and off switch to the lights might be useful.

Stay Safe,


P.S. This went really long, so tomorrow I’ll talk about cameras.

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  1. Beau
    November 19, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    This light and camera topic has been super helpful. Brilliant on using the lights to come on behind the intruder to light him up. Also loved using the cameras facing each side so you cover your whole house.

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