Outdoor security lighting is one of the more versatile categories in home security equipment. From inexpensive and low-tech to smartphone-controlled, security lighting is a tried and true crime deterrent. We combed through the top security lights on the market to find energy-efficient, customizable picks that light up the night on your schedule.
The Best Outdoor Security Lights: Summed Up
| || || |
|Motion detection range|
How We Chose the Best Outdoor Security Lights
Anything designed for outdoor use should be able to withstand the elements. To ensure hardy construction, we checked lights’ weatherproof ratings according to either IP code or UL code — both systems classify the level of seal on electrical enclosures. We looked for outdoor security lights rated safe for Wet Locations in UL code or rated IP65 or better in IP code. According to IP code, IP65 is “rated as ‘dust tight’ and protected against water projected from a nozzle.” Outdoor lights with lesser ratings could be damaged during rainstorms.
Security lights that can only turn on and off with a switch aren’t fulfilling their potential. Motion-sensing lighting is both more energy-efficient and more effective. They turn on when you need them, or when a trespasser needs to be reminded they’re on someone else’s turf. Since motion-activated lighting doesn’t perform for empty seats, you’re saving on your energy bill compared with purely manual lights. We looked for lights with three settings: manual, motion sensing, and “dusk to dawn” — a mode that automatically responds to natural light.
While LED bulbs give off a cool, blue lighting that may look severe next to the warm glow of incandescents, every other comparison between the two light bulbs favors LED. To start with, LED lights boast longevity, lasting an average of 20,000 to 50,000 hours with proper operation. And unlike incandescents, LEDs don’t get hot, which means no energy wasted producing heat, and no fire hazard as a result. Energy efficiency and safety, check. LEDs are also more environmentally friendly because they aren’t produced using mercury, lead, or carbon, unlike their old-school equivalents.
The trade-off is cost. LEDs will cost more upfront than incandescent bulbs, but their long-lasting efficiency saves money over time.
Not everyone needs their outdoor lighting to be connected to the internet. But if you are looking for smart outdoor lights to integrate into a larger smart home system, compatibility with a number of networks (like Works with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) is important. Tech journalist Stephen Wolpin warns that smart lights that don’t operate within those ecosystems likely won’t offer “macros, or sequence of linked events.” Macros are made possible by the magic of syncopated scheduling. Set automated rules so that when you get home at 6:45, the security lights will already be on, and so will the thermostat.
The 3 Best Outdoor Security Lights
Maximus Camera Floodlight
- Dimmable, super-bright floodlight Camera and two-way audio Built-in emergency features
Why we chose it
Dimmable, super-bright floodlight
The Maximus Camera Floodlight boasts big capabilities that are perhaps most impressive for the ways in which they can be modulated and controlled. Take the light itself: at 2,400 lumens, the Maximus floodlight is in the upper range for security lighting and well over twice as bright as an average car headlight, but you are able to adjust the intensity — a rare feature in security lights.
Camera and 2-way audio
And then there’s the fact that it’s not just a security light. The Maximus two-in-one security light and surveillance camera accomplishes even more for home security than the popular video doorbell, providing customized illumination while recording relevant movement and allowing you to communicate with visitors via recorded greetings or live conversation. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee to get extended video storage, but two hours’-worth of cloud storage come included.
Built-in emergency features
The surprise factor of an unexpected light is a strong deterrent — there’s an interrogative quality, like having someone shine a flashlight in your face. But the Maximus light allows you to follow through on the threat of interrogation. Sound the loud 110 dB siren from the app (ambulances and fire engines are around 130 dB), which you can also use to call the police.
Points to consider
Price“You get what you pay for” usually refers to cheap purchases — you get a little because you spent a little. For the Maximus Camera Floodlight, you’ll pay more to get more, upwards of $200. You can find solid hardwired security lights for as little as $30 from brands like Hyperikon, Leonlite, and Amico, and if you want a pure and simple security light, we’d point you in their direction. But for a robust security system masquerading as a sleek, well-functioning floodlight, Maximus delivers on your investment.
- Sync Ring lights for whole-home security Ring app control
- Ring Bridge required for smart control
Why we chose it
Sync Ring lights for whole-home securityRing’s security light line-up includes floodlights, spotlights, path lights, and step lights, all of which can be grouped together via Alexa-enabled devices then customized, so a motion sensed by one fixture results in your whole yard lighting up. (You’ll have the best results with Alexa, though other protocols like Works with Google Assistant can also control Ring.)
Ring app control
Ring offers one of the smoothest app experiences for controlling the smart home, and its capabilities when it comes to lighting control are exceptional — think dimming control and motion alerts in the palm of your hand. You can even use the Ring Transformer to adapt existing landscape lights from other brands to function in tandem with your Ring products and Ring app. While controversial, Ring’s Neighbor app also allows you to put your home security to work for the greater good, sharing footage of suspicious activity with neighbors and the police force.
Points to consider
Requires Ring Bridge for smart control
While the Ring Floodlight is intended to seamlessly join your smart home ecosphere, it isn’t exactly plug-and-play. You’ll need to make an additional purchase of the Ring Bridge to get your devices to communicate. The Ring Smart Lighting Bridge is sold separately for $50, but when you bundle it with the Ring Floodlight the price jumps down to $20. And you’ll only have to buy one once: One Bridge connects up to 50 Ring devices.
- Outstanding construction Wide motion detection range
- No smart capabilities
Why we chose it
Because an outdoor security light’s most important quality is that it’s tough enough for the outdoors, we ditched lights that weren’t rated for wet locations (per UL code) or rated IP65 or above (per IP code). Litom’s solar lights were among the few we found that didn’t stop at IP65 (though many didn’t make it there at all). With an IP67 rating, Litom is not just water-resistant, it’s waterproof. IP65 means the enclosure can withstand jets of water. IP67 means it can withstand being submerged in one meter of water. Litom’s confidence in the construction of their product means they offer a two-year warranty, twice as long as the industry standard.
Wide motion-detection range
A well-placed security light should switch on for any motion detected in its vicinity. While many lights have constrained fields of view (around 120-150 degrees, less than half a circle), Litom can see and respond to motion within 270 degrees. This solar light practically has eyes on the back of its head.
Points to consider
No smart capabilities
Solar lights mimic their power source in that they reproduce the light of the sun, but also in that they aren’t as predictable or controllable as their traditionally-powered equivalents. Like most solar security lights, Litom’s light up when they sense movement, and otherwise conserve their sun-derived power. There’s no controls, so it follows that there are no smart controls. It’s the trade-off for a well-priced solar light with zero overhead — you’re on the sun’s schedule.
Guide to Outdoor Security Lights
How to find and install the right outdoor security light for you
Decide on your lighting budget and priorities
You don’t have to yank all existing fixtures off of your home in order to bring your security lighting into the 21st Century. If you’re fine with your existing fixtures and just want to improve their intelligence, consider swapping out switches or bulbs for their smart equivalents.
Consider smart switches or bulbs
According to Stephen Wolpin, “One continuing downside to smart lights are their conflict with physical switch control.” The wall switch has to stay on to power even smart lights, but we instinctively flip them off every time we leave the room. Smart switches resolve this issue. It replaces the physical control with one that can signal the bulb to turn off without preventing future voice or app control.
Smart bulbs are subject to the same physical control conundrum, but they offer a no-wiring alternative. If you’re going with smart bulbs, remember they need to be weatherproof. Smart, outdoor LED bulbs are more expensive than good old incandescents. The trade-off is greater energy efficiency and longer life.
Pick your locations
Because outdoor lighting does double duty — helping you see your way in the dark and deterring burglars who work in shadow — the locations you select around your home to install them need to do double duty, too. Cover major walkways and entry points, as well as detached structures like tool sheds and cabanas.
Be mindful of where your light shines
Every pro has a con. Installing security lights improves your home’s safety, but it also contributes to light pollution — local and global. While strategic placement of light fixtures won’t alleviate light pollution on a grand scale, it can help your lights be less annoying to neighbors. Check in with the surrounding households when installing new lights so as to not aim a beam directly into their trafficked rooms.
Outdoor Security Light FAQ
What’s the difference between watts and lumens?
Watts and lumens both express the power of light, but in different ways. Watts measure the amount of power needed to light up the bulb — what goes into the bulb. Lumens measure the amount of light produced by the bulb — what comes out. Put another way, watts are what you pay for, lumens are what you see. For proof of how much more energy efficient LED bulbs are to their traditional, incandescent equivalents, check out their wattage to lumens ratios.
How do you install an outdoor security camera?
It depends on its power source.
- Battery:A battery powered light probably gives you the most flexibility in terms of placement. Without natural light or wiring to dictate a battery-powered security light’s location, you can screw in the mount and affix the light wherever you’d like.
- Hardwired: You’ll need some rudimentary wiring skills to swap out a hardwired light. Luckily, online tutorials abound, and the steps aren’t difficult to follow. Just be sure to cut off the electricity at the fusebox before you start tinkering.
- Solar: Some solar lights come in two parts: the light itself, plus the solar panel. Our top pick from Litom integrates both into the same fixture. Whatever the design of your chosen solar light, providing it unobstructed sunlight is key. Use a compass to determine its best location (if you’re in North America, your solar lights should probably face south), then get your drill ready.
Can security lighting get you an insurance discount?
A well-lit exterior is a welcome sight for guests, but a red flag to burglars. This is especially helpful when you’re away from home. Steward Wolpin suggests putting “different smart lights on different schedules… to mimic actual human activity” — such as turning off the living rooms at night, then switching bedroom and bathroom lights on.
Because security lighting reduces your likelihood of becoming a victim of property crime (even when you’re on vacation), some homeowners insurance companies offer a discount for installing them. Check with your homeowners insurance provider to see how installing security lights could help you take advantage of home security discounts.