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Night Lights: All About This Helpful Home Addition

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Jan 8, 2021

It's the middle of the night, and you wake up to head to the bathroom. In the complete darkness, you bump into the door frame, painfully step on the toy cars your child left in the hallway, and fumble aimlessly for the bathroom doorknob. When you finally make it to your intended destination, the flash of bright light hurts your eyes and causes you to squint as your pupils readjust to the light. All the while, your bladder is screaming at you to hurry and up and make it to the toilet. If this scenario is an almost nightly occurrence for you, it might be time to install a night light in your home. Below, we take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of night lights to help you find the best option for your home.

Night Light

A recent poll in the United Kingdom found that over half of all parents let their "scared" children sleep with the room's lights on. Though nightmares are real, constant exposure throughout the night to bright lighting can have negative health consequences. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, located between the two hemispheres of our brain. This gland secretes minimal amounts of melatonin during the day. It then increases melatonin in the evening to help you get ready for sleep. Studies have shown that excessive exposure to bright lights in the evening can affect melatonin production and essentially throw off your inner body clock. Bright lights at night might cause even worse effects on children.

Instead of leaving lamps or overhead lights on throughout the night, night lights are an alternative.

Step Lighting The Lighting Outlet
Step Lighting. Photo Credit: The Lighting Outlet

What Is a Night Light?

A night light is a small lamp that is typically attached directly to an electrical outlet. A night light provides a dim light during the night to help you find your way downstairs or hallways or offer a sense of security for infants and children.

Light bulbs of all types measure luminosity (brightness) by Lumens. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb produces around 800 lumens of light. A similar 15-watt CFL bulb or 7-watt LED bulb will emit the same amount of light for a fraction of the energy. For comparison's sake, a standard night light will only produce between 10 and 20 lumens of brightness.

What Types of Night Lights are Available?

Most of us probably associate night lights with those simple, low-wattage bulbs encased in a plastic casing that plug directly into the wall. The plastic cover or case might add a bit of decoration or character to embellish their room for children's rooms. Today, however, many types of night lights are available, including plug-in, projector, tabletop, built-in, and even smart options.

Motion Sensor Plug In Night Light Amazon
Motion Sensor Plug In Night Light. Photo Credit: Amazon

Plug-in Night Lights

These types of night lights continue to be the most common and widely used. A plug-in night light will run off a 120-volt electrical outlet. It usually has a relatively flat or low-profile design to avoid protruding far from the wall. You can find these types of night lights in various shapes, sizes, and patterns, often designed for specific spaces in your home. Plug-in night nights generally create a soft, dim light that only radiates a maximum of a couple of feet from the outlet. Compared to the other options we will detail below, these options are the least expensive night light option.

Starlight Projector Night Light Zoledo
Starlight Projector Night Light. Photo Credit: Zoledo

Projector Night Light

This variety of night light uses a small projection to exhibit different images on a room's walls or ceilings. The dim light projection can create unique patterns or pictures for the walls in your child's room. They are also used to help generate a relaxing visual environment for people who have difficulty getting to sleep. This kid's projector night light, for example, has several different astronomy-focused themes to be projected onto the ceiling. You can place dome-shaped projector night lights on a desk or nightstand next to your bed. Newer models of projector night lights also include timers and alarms so that you can play music.

Tabletop Night Light Amazon
Tabletop Night Light. Photo Credit: Amazon

Tabletop Night Lights

Tabletop nightlights are made to sit on your desk, dresser, or bed stand. These night lights come with hundreds of different designs and functions. They are generally dimmer than a regular bedside lamp. They often have added functions such as music, white noise, and alarms. You can even find tabletop night lights that are controlled remotely via a smartphone app. 

How Much Energy Do Night Lights Use?

It might seem like leaving night lights on throughout the night could add a significant amount to your monthly energy bill. However, night lights (even incandescent options) use very little energy. A typical incandescent night light might use anywhere between 2 and 7 watts of power. LEDs and electroluminescent night lights often use less than a single watt. For a minimal price difference, LED lighting almost always makes economic and environmental sense.

Xodus Innovations Guide Lights Amazon
Xodus Innovations Guide Lights. Photo Credit: Amazon

Are Night Lights The Same as Guide Lights?

Guide lights are technically a type of night light strategically placed in certain areas where extra illumination at night is helpful. For example, guide lights can be placed alongside interior stairs or patio decks to help avoid falls. They can also help guide people down dark hallways, in windowless basements, or other dim areas of the home. Some guide lights are battery powered and can be programmed to turn off or on given the amount of light automatically. Solar-powered guide lights are a type of sustainable outdoor lighting that can be programmed to activate with movement, thus reducing light pollution at night.

How Long Do Night Lights Last?

The durability of night lights will largely depend on the type of bulb that they use. Incandescent night lights not only use more energy but will also burn out much quicker. Night lights that use LED bulbs might be nominally more expensive but will last up to 40 times longer while using much less energy. 

LED bulbs do not emit heat like incandescent bulbs. This feature can reduce the probability of accidental burns, which is notable if you use a night light in a child's room. Keep in mind that the cheap, $1 night light that you pick up at your local discount store will probably only last a year or two before needing to be replaced. Better designed night lights should last for at least ten years due to their more durable design.

Snap Power BuiltIn Guide Light
Built In Guide Light. Photo Credit: Snap Power

What Is A Built In Night Light?

The vast majority of night lights are designed to plug into an electrical outlet. However, you can also find night lights that are "built-in" to the wall or even into electrical outlets. This product looks like a standard electrical outlet or switch cover, but it is much more. Hidden along one edge are three tiny LED bulbs that automatically turn on when the room grows dark, shedding a gentle swath of ambient light. For example, Snap Power guide lights offer a powerful guide light for hallways, bedrooms, or bathrooms. They are built directly into the cover of a typical electrical outlet. This built-in night light leaves your outlets free for use and does not require any additional wiring or batteries.

How To Install a Built-In Night Light

To install these built-in night lights on your outlets, simply cut the power momentarily to the outlet at your breaker box, and remove the cover plate. Next, insert the guide light façade over the outlet (it will look just like the previous outlet cover. Secure the outlet cover with screws, and that's it. These built-in night lights rely on small motion sensors and can be programmed to only turn on with movement if you prefer. You can also find built-in night lights for light switches, so you don't have to struggle to find them when entering a dark room. Many custom home builders and remodelers can also install built-in night lights along baseboards, stairwells, or other parts of your home. This option is significantly more expensive.

Do Smart Night Lights Exist?

The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart home technology are making their way into almost every aspect of our homes. From doorbells to window shades and everything in between. Though there are privacy concerns that should be considered, smart home technology, when properly used, can improve the efficiency, comfort, and livability of our houses. Smart night lights have recently begun to hit the market. These innovative products allow homeowners to control their nightlights via a dedicated smartphone app. You can program your smart night light to emit certain brightness levels, change colors, and turn off and on at certain hours of the day. Some smart night lights incorporate alarms, motion sensors and can even respond to voice commands.

Amazon Echo Glow
Echo Glow Night Light. Photo Credit: Amazon

What Are The Best Brands Of Night Lights?

Many companies produce innovative night light products that offer useful illumination, low-energy use, and smart technology features. Some of the top brands include:

  • Echo Glow: This Amazon device requires an Alexa but is designed for kids. It allows them to create different lighting moods for their nighttime room.
  • Snap Power: Snap Power is one of the best for easy-to-install guide lights installed over outlets and light switches.
  • Vont: If you prefer plug-in-style night lights, Vont offers inexpensive products. They incorporate low-energy LED bulbs and smart dusk-to-dawn light sensors.
  • Casper Glow: Casper Glow offers a unique bedside night light designed to help us wind down naturally for a night of better, deeper sleep. The incorporated smart technology automatically turns to a warm light in the evening. This feature aids in avoiding disruption of your body's melatonin production and then gradually dims so you can doze off without interruptions. It even fills the room with soft light for a peaceful morning wake-up.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-03T02:45:44+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.