The Crime Prevention Website


A quick lighting checklist

Permanently on or activated lights would be beneficial:

  • Anywhere that will be overlooked by you, your neighbours and people passing by in the street, including: 
  • By the entrance door
  • In the side driveway, as long as it’s length is visible from the street
  • Above a gate at the entrance to a driveway or alleyway 
  • A front hard standing or forecourt for your cars
  • A garage

The following places would benefit from lights that you control by a wall switch:

  • Anywhere not overlooked by you or your neighbours including:
  • Garden outbuildings
  • Rear doors
  • Side and rear gardens
  • Around a dwelling located in the countryside where there are no nearby neighbours and perhaps no street lamps. (The use of PIR activated lamps when the dwelling is occupied and timed or dusk to dawn lights to illuminate the entrance and a driveway might be useful in the rural setting)

Places for permanently on or activated lights 

Entrance door

A porch light outside the front door is a practical necessity for safe approaches to the door, operating the door and for answering the door.  Position the light fitting to one side of the door at a height that will illuminate a caller’s face, enabling you to use your door viewer to identify them effectively. (See Door security, Door locks, hardware and fittings, Door chains and limiters,  Answering the door to callers)  If you want to place the light above the door try not to position the light too high as you may put the caller’s face in partial shadow, which won’t help you with identification and you could be wasting light.

Make sure that the light fitting is shaded at the top so that it does not throw the light above the horizontal.  Remember too that from time to time you will need to clean the fitting and change the lamp and this will be much easier to do if it is set lower.

Use a bulkhead fitting or porch light fitted with a low power 600 – 900 lumens (9/11watt) compact fluorescent lamp that includes a ‘dusk to dawn’ switch (photoelectric cell) that will automatically turn it on when it gets dark and off at sunrise.  This sort of light will cost no more that about £6 a year to run and the lamp will only need changing every three or four years.  The beauty of automatic switching is the convenience of arriving home after work to a well lit front door. 

Some people use light fittings that incorporate a passive infrared detector (PIR) that will switch the light on when someone approaches the door.  Should you want one of these make sure that there is plenty of adjustment on the PIR so that only close approaches to the door will trigger the detector, otherwise people walking along the pavement next to the road will be setting it off all night long!  Don’t forget that they can be switched on by the movement of cats and foxes too and if you don’t fancy lots of unnecessary activations then stick to the dusk to dawn switch.

Side driveway

An open driveway running alongside a detached or semi detached house should be lit at night so long as the length of the driveway can be seen from the street.  It is highly likely that there will be windows on the side elevation and if the area is lit the increased likelihood of detection using the combination of light and potential witnesses may prevent a burglary.  That said, if you go to bed and leave a window open in this location a light will make little difference. (See Access opportunity and alleyway gatingCommon access problems that encourage crime Unrestricted side access)  Low power lamps in bulkhead fittings as described above will be sufficient in most cases.

Above a gate

If your side driveway or an alleyway running alongside your house is gated to prevent intruders gaining access it would be a good idea to locate a light above the gate.  The purpose of the light is to illuminate an intruder who is attempting to climb over the gate.  If the gate is constructed from metal bar or metal box then the driveway or alleyway will be visible from the street and the light will be of even greater benefit. (See Access opportunity and alleyway gating, Common access problems that encourage crime).  Low power lamps in bulkhead fittings as described above will be sufficient in most cases.

Hard standing or forecourt

Lighting the area where you park your car(s) might be useful, but if you leave things on view in the car then a potential thief will see them more easily!  Therefore you need to be disciplined and make sure you empty the car of valuables each night.  The type of luminaire you might use to light up the area in front of your house will be determined by a number of factors.  If there is a street light outside the house then you probably won’t need any additional lighting.  If there isn’t one then the size of the hard standing will have to be taken into consideration.  For many of you the porch light outside the front door will be sufficient, but if the hard standing is large enough to take three or four cars an additional low power lamp in a bulkhead fitting, as described above, will probably be enough.  For very large forecourts and for some dwellings in a rural location you may have to consider column mounted luminaires and you should call on the services of an expert lighting engineer.   You may need planning permission.


The garage may need its own low energy lights outside the vehicular access door and the side pedestrian door if neither door is illuminated by the light outside the front door.  If the garage is detached, a corner mounted luminaire using a low energy lamp might be the most efficient method of lighting as the lamp will throw light along two sides of the building.  These lights can operate in the same fashion as porch lights using dusk to dawn sensors or PIRs.

Be careful when locating a light on a garage that uses an up-and-over vehicle door.  If the door sticks out a bit when in the up position you may end up losing some of the light if you’ve installed the light fitting above the door.

Places that would benefit from lights controlled by wall switches

Garden outbuildings

For convenience it will be sensible to install lights to any of the outbuildings in the garden.  Main powered lights in the garden should be supplied via a reinforced cable and Building regulations require that you must use the services of a competent person to carry out this work. (Lighting, Building regulations affecting lighting)  Speak to the electrician about switching from inside the house.  If the outbuilding is towards the end of your rear garden then this additional light will help you investigate any after dark disturbance from the safety of the dwelling.   Use a bulkhead luminaire fitted with a low power 600 – 900 lumens (9/11watt) compact fluorescent lamp.

If you are not able to install mains powered lighting you could experiment with a standalone solar powered lamp that is switched by a PIR.  They are unlikely to have the same performance as a mains powered lamp, but will be useful for that unexpected trip down to the shed at night.  (See Solar powered luminaires in this section)

Rear doors 

It sort of makes sense to have lights outside your rear doors, probably more for safety than anything else.  If there is no prospect of your neighbours seeing intruders standing outside the rear door then a manually operated light is the best option.  Use a bulkhead fitting or porch light fitted with a low power 600 – 900 lumens (9/11watt) compact fluorescent lamp.

Side and rear gardens

Feature lighting around the garden will help you see what’s going on outside when you’re inside, but much of this lighting will normally be switched on and off in the garden.  Although expensive to do you can arrange for all the lights to be switched from inside the house, but this is best done during a major landscaping project. 

To investigate something going on in the garden during the night it is probably best to use a floodlight that is manually controlled from within the house.  Locate the light high up on a rear (or side) wall of the house with the luminaire angled so that none or only a little of the light escapes your garden.  Switch it on from an upper floor room that gives you the best view of the garden.  If there is an intruder in the garden and the light is close to the window from where you are looking out you will be able to observe the garden from behind the glare of the light source.  This will place you at an advantage because it will be very difficult to see you from the garden against the glare of the lamp.  It is unlikely that you will need a lamp higher than 150 watts.   The key message here is to use manually operated floodlights, not floodlights triggered by passive infrared detectors, which are problematic and can cause light pollution.  (See Tungsten halogen floodlights in this section) 

Obviously, if you see an intruder you’ll need to call the police using the 999 system as there is a potential crime in progress.

Lighting for blocks of flats

External lighting for blocks of flats is generally the responsibility of the landlord or managing agent.  The following lighting guide for flats provides you with what I and the police crime prevention people regard as a minimum requirement.  If your lighting does not meet these minimum standards then I would advise you to get together with your neighbours and speak with the landlord or managing agent

  • Internal communal areas of the building including the entrance hall, staircases, landings, corridors, lobbies and underground car parks are all ‘external’ to the dwellings and should be provided with lighting.  Depending on the daylighting of these parts some of the lights may have to operate for 24 hours a day
  • The lamps used will obviously be low energy, but to save costs some of the lights can be triggered by PIRs.  With this type of lighting the stage one lower light level should still be bright enough to allow the residents to use their door viewers to check the corridor before opening the door.  (See Passive infrared detector (PIR sensor) in this section)
  • Press button time lag switches are not the ideal method for operating communal lights, unless they operate additional lights in a two stage lighting system
  • All of the entry and exit points from a block of flats should be lit
  • External car parks are best lit using shielded and well directed column mounted luminaires  Floodlighting car parks from a building may cause glare, which will make it more difficult to see in the dark.  Bollard lighting is generally not regarded as sufficient for car parks as the light is too low and unshaded ones cause glare
  • Main entrance paths should be lit at night.  Top shaded bollard lights can be used for way marking along paths.  Unshaded bollard luminaires are not recommended as they throw light up into the face, which causes the eye’s pupils to close, making it more difficult to see in the dark

Updated July 2017