When it comes to personal and home security, there’s one very important thing to understand: most criminals are criminals of opportunity. In my podcast with security expert Dave Young, he says that every bad guy adheres to a “bad guy equation”: the lower the effort and the higher the reward, the more likely they are to make you the target of a crime.

Thus, to discourage would-be criminals from choosing you as their next victim, you want to raise their effort, and lower their reward.

When it comes to preventing home invasions, one way to increase the effort part of the equation is by making the outside of your house as well-lit as possible. Would-be home invaders like to hit houses with shadowy exteriors, so they won’t be seen when they make their approach.

Now most homes already have exterior lights to some degree, but if your house is like mine, I had to remember to flip the switch to turn them on every night and then remember to flip the switch to turn them off every morning. Some nights I’d forget to do this, and if I did remember to turn them on at night, I’d forget to turn them off in the morning, needlessly wasting electricity during the day.

I was tired of trying to remember to perform this twice-daily task. Thankfully, I got an idea from my father-in-law on how to permanently cross it off my to-do list: install an automatic timer switch. 

Duh. 

But the specific automatic timer switch he recommended wasn’t just your typical automatic timer switch, which has a weakness: you program it to come on/off for the specific times, on that particular date, at which darkness falls and daylight returns. But then the seasons, and the time the sun rises and sets, changes. In December, it’s dark at 5:30 p.m., but in June, there’s still daylight at that time. You don’t need your light to come on automatically at 5:30 p.m. year-round.

Enter the Honeywell Econoswitch (a product to which I have no connection, and simply use myself). What makes this switch different is that it has a solar timetable: enter your longitude and latitude into the Econoswitch, and it will turn on your exterior lights at dusk and turn them off at sunrise, automatically adjusting these on/off times as the timing of sunrise/sunset changes throughout the year. 

You do need to do a little installment project to get the Econoswitch in place in your home. But it’s not hard to do (it will take you around 15 minutes), and it’s a game changer; you’ll never have to think about turning your exterior lights on and off again. 

Materials and Tools Needed

Honeywell Econoswitch 7-Day Programmable Light Switch Timer (one for every exterior light you want to automate)Rocker Wall PlateFlathead screwdriverWire clippersWire nuts

1. Turn Off Power to Light Switch

Turning off power on circuit board

You don’t want to zap yourself while replacing the switch. Go to your breaker box and turn off the power to the light switch you’re replacing.

2. Pull Old Light Switch Out of Wall