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How to buy outdoor security lights for your garden

Sharon Amos / 07 January 2015

Find out which outdoor security lights to buy and what you need to take into consideration when installing them with our helpful guide.

Outdoor security light on the side of a house
Floodlights can provide added garden security but do consider your neighbours

There doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that security lighting in the garden deters thieves, but if it makes you feel safer then it’s worth installing. Putting a CCTV camera alongside a light may be the best deterrent if an intruder sees that they are being both floodlit and filmed.

For more ways to deter intruders read our guide to improving garden security

Where should I put outdoor security lights?

Security lights are designed to alert you to the presence of an intruder, so use lighting to illuminate areas of the garden you can see from the house. There’s no point in lighting up the bottom of the garden if you can’t see it from the kitchen window, for example.

What sort of outdoor security lights are available?

  • Floodlights are wall-mounted on a bracket that can be angled to direct the light and illuminate a wide area of garden. Fix the lights at least 3m above the ground and always angle them downwards, well below the horizontal. They can be very powerful depending on the wattage of the bulb. High levels of lighting produce glare, which, oddly enough, can make it harder to see at night.
  • Bulkhead lights are simple wall-mounted lights in a polycarbonate or glass cover, suitable for a porch light or beside the back door, or for outbuildings.
  • Low-pressure sodium lights cast a much less obtrusive light and although the light levels are lower, there is no glare, so visibility is good.

How do I control the outdoor security lights?

  • If you want the lights to be activated when someone walks past, look for a lighting system with a passive infra-red (PIR) detector. This monitors the infra-red radiation given off by objects around it – a change in the background radiation triggers the light switch.

  • If you want the lights to come on as soon as it gets dark and stay on until it gets light, look for a dusk-to-dawn system controlled by a photocell.

  • For maximum flexibility choose lights that feature both dusk to dawn and PIR controls.

  • Solar-powered versions of PIR and dusk-to-dawn lights can be surprisingly efficient, even in winter with limited daylight.

  • All security lighting must be installed by a qualified electrician to comply with UK building regulations.

Outdoor security light considerations

Upsetting the neighbours

  • PIR detectors are incredibly sensitive and their ‘field of vision’ is wide: if your security light is triggered every time your neighbour opens their door or walks down their path, it’s going to get annoying. PIRs become even more sensitive in cold weather and can even be triggered by a bird or a hedgehog, let alone a cat.

  • Place floodlights sensitively – although you want to blind a burglar you don’t want to dazzle your neighbours.

  • Local authorities get plenty of complaints about security lighting and the Environmental Protection Act legislates against nuisance lighting – for example, if your security light shines into a neighbour’s bedroom.

  • Floodlights that illuminate the roadway as well as your garden can cause accidents.

Counter-productive effects of outdoor lighting

  • Extremely bright lights also create very dark shadows for intruders to hide in.

  • If a security light goes on but no one is at home to respond to it, it could end up helpfully lighting the area for potential intruders.

  • If you become desensitised to a security light coming on – because it’s triggered by next-door’s cat, for example – and you no longer regard it as an intruder alert, then it’s not doing its job.

Other outdoor security light considerations

  • Look into running costs, which can add up, unless you go for solar-powered.

  • Lights that stay on permanently have a measurable effect on wildlife: they can disorientate bats and night-flying birds such as owls, and cause day-flying birds to sing in the middle of the night.

As well as providing insurance for your home and its contents, we can also offer extra protection for your shed and gardening equipment. Get a Saga Home Insurance quote now.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.