What Does A Red Porch Light Mean? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

In many parts of the country, a new trend is starting to take form. Many homeowners are starting to use their porch lights to convey different messages. The most common porch light to allude to this is a red light. In the past, everyone understood what a red porch light meant and it’s not exactly family-friendly. However, the meaning of it has changed dramatically. Curious as to what the red light could mean…?

A red porch light is generally seen during the month of February when it has a dual meaning. This is Heart Health Awareness Month, not to mention the same month as Valentine’s Day. As a result, most people use it to raise awareness of heart disease or as a way to be festive during the holidays.

There are a lot of people who might misconstrue red porch lights as something a bit more bawdy. Let’s uncover the reality behind all the myths.

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What Is The Official Meaning Of A Red Porch Light?

Nationwide, the American Heart Association has been using red porch lights as a way to raise awareness of heart disease. Heart disease is a leading killer in the United States, which is why it’s important to raise awareness. With that said, putting on a red light is most commonly done during February, which is Heart Health Awareness Month.

Of course, there are people who also put red lights up during February as a way to add a festive touch to their homes. After all, red is the color of Valentine’s Day and also happens to be linked to love. So while it’s officially more of a health-related issue, it’s important to remember that it could also be a person who loves seasonal decor.

The Many Unofficial Meanings Of A Red Porch Light

Red is one of the many porch light colors that tends to have multiple unofficial meanings. Before you make assumptions, we’re going to break down the most commonly mentioned unofficial meanings along with the truth behind them.

Halloween Decor

Yep, it’s true. You can find all sorts of different porch light colors as a part of Halloween decor. This includes red porch lights, green porch lights, as well as blue-orange. Don’t panic if you see this light color during Halloween. It just means that you have a family that wanted to add a spooky touch to their outdoor decor.

While we are on the subject, it’s important to remember that there are people out there who like to add a quirky flair to their homes regardless of the time of year it is. Sometimes, this means that they may end up using a red porch light to signify where they live. That’s just the way things are, and if they are not in an area with a strict HOA, there’s not much to stop them.

Gun Violence Awareness

After several major school shootings rocked the United States, there was a growing movement throughout many towns affected by the violence to use red porch lights to raise awareness. This turned into a slightly skewed urban legend, where people claimed that they placed red porch lights on their doors as a way of signaling that they had (or didn’t have) a gun in their home.

Though there are some communities that used red as a gun control color, it’s not a national thing. Moreover, a red porch light doesn’t actually tell you whether or not a home has a gun in it. That is purely urban legend and should be totally disregarded. It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be much traction in turning this into an annual practice. So, it might just be a “one and done.”

Fewer Bugs

Did you ever notice how many bugs seem to be attracted to blue lights? Red, yellow, and orange lights do not attract as many bugs because their light wavelengths are shorter. As a result, homeowners who want to be able to enjoy their porches in bug-heavy regions of the country have started to use red lights to dissuade them from flying around their home.

With that said, the light color that is most frequently used for this purpose is not red. It’s actually yellow. If you see a red porch light during the summer months, there’s a small but real possibility that they just got tired of mosquitoes biting them.

Adult Activities

This is the porch light meaning that most people have heard about in the past. During the earlier days of America’s history, houses of ill repute would use a red lantern outside of the building as a way to say that they were “in business” as a bordello. This was most commonly done in the Wild West, but it soon spread to the rest of the country as well as Europe.

This is where we get the term “red light district” from.

The practice became pretty well known, to the point that police would actually start targeting homes with red lights in them. Due to the police activity, the practice died down and became a fairly archaic throwback reference. This is no longer a practice done by groups in the adult industry. So, don’t worry, your neighbors aren’t doing anything X-rated when they put up their lights.

Drug Dealing

This is another common myth about the meaning of red porch lights that we’ve run across while researching this article. During the 1990s and 1980s, a lot of well-meaning parents got scared of neighborhood drug dealers. Teenagers decided to be edgy about the panic and spread rumors that drug dealers would use certain color lights as a way to signal what kind of drugs they were dealing.

Sometimes, this legend was around porch lights of various colors. Other times, it was about Christmas lights hung up during times that were clearly not Christmas. Regardless of the type of light that the rumors involved, we want to emphasize that this is in no way, shape, or form true. In fact, it’s actually quite laughable.

If drug dealers were to try doing this trick, word about it would get out fairly quickly. Even if everyone was mum about it, the sheer number of people entering and leaving the house would attract police attention. This means that using lights to signal what you have would be a practice that would almost immediately result in an arrest.

So, rest easy. The person with the red light in front of their home is not a drug dealer. Your kids are safe.

Are Red Porch Lights Okay With Local Homeowners Associations?

If you have a home in a strict HOA, then chances are you might not be allowed to use a red light. However, there may be exceptions to this rule. The best thing that you can do is to ask them what the current policy is on colored porch lights and abide by it.

Want to go red for heart health? You might be able to convince your HOA to give you a little leeway, simply because it was such a good cause. If you are particularly interested in raising awareness for heart health, mention this to your HOA. It may sway them to give you an exception to the rule.

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Related Questions

What does a green porch light signify?

Green porch lights officially signify veteran awareness, especially during November. In some military bases, it’s also a common way to show that you have Army pride or that you recently lost someone to war. Green can also be a porch light color associated with St. Patrick’s Day festivities as well as a personal preference. In some cases, it also has been known to be a sign of cannabis legalization support.

How long should you leave a red porch light on?

It all depends on your personal preferences, really. The truth is that most people who add a red light to promote heart health awareness do so for an entire month. It would be silly to leave it on for a single day, and most people would also feel a little bit cheated out of using a bulb for only a week.In some cases, people use red porch lights year-round. This is often a sign that they just prefer the color red, and aren’t actually doing it for any particular reason. Unless you live in a strict HOA neighborhood, there won’t be any real limit to how long you should be able to put up that red light.

Are there any porch light colors that you should avoid?

For the most part, there’s no reason to avoid any porch light color. Each one has a positive meaning ranging from heart health to domestic violence awareness. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, all the meanings behind the various porch light colors are actually quite nice. So, no one will really judge you if you decide to partake in this new tradition. It’s all for a good cause, and it’s usually a seasonal thing.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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