Why Do Security Cameras Have Red Lights – The Answer & FAQ

When people often purchase a security camera or mount one, they are surprised to see a red light when recording and wonder if this is an issue.

In General, security cameras have red lights to imply they are on, to deter crime. Different red lights, including flashing ones, can mean different things depending on the manufacturer.

Another type of red light is the red infrared (IR) light used for night vision. They emit a red light that is invisible to the human eye but can be seen by the camera’s image sensor. This allows the camera to capture clear images and video in low-light or no-light conditions. These are harder to notice and appear dim.

Below we will cover all the different indicators, why they occur, the benefits of having the red light, and why you should not turn it off. We also cover some methods of hiding it if you don’t want the red light present.

security camera red lights

Reasons To Not Turn the Red Light On A Security Camera Off

Visibility Deters Burglars

They don’t call them “scare lights” for nothing! Red lights make a camera more prevalent and act as a psychological deterrent to robbers and help prevent some burglaries.

A study in the UK provides insight into how effective this strategy is at deterring burglars compared to other techniques. The results showed that every 1% increase in the use of red lights among the sample size deterred roughly 0.5% more burglaries per month. This may seem small, but it’s important to note that it can be applied widely and without much investment if other strategies fail or are not affordable.

Helpful To Diagnose Malfunctions

For larger sites such as manufacturing businesses and large offices, diagnosing power issues or cameras off can be as simple as walking the site and checking for red lights. Also, in a multi-camera setup, you may not always know which exact Camera is having the issue unless you go onsite and check if any indicators are, blinking.

security camera in a warehouse

It Could Be An IR Nightvision Light

If it’s just a red always-on light, it’s most likely a power-on light; however, if it’s a thin light near the Camera [it will not glow red, but it will look red] it could be a night vision light (Usually an 850nm wavelength IR light). An easy way to tell the difference is by shining a cellphone camera on it. If it lights up like the image attached below, it is light to help with night vision. Think of cats. Their eyes can see differently and process night vision much better than humans, but when you see them or a raccoon with your car’s headlights, you immediately see the eyes, similar to its lights. (1)

Ir night vision lights are a type of night vision equipment that uses infrared light to help the user see in dark conditions. They emit light through one or more infrared LEDs while limiting the amount of visible light they emit.

The most common night vision lights are infrared, red, and green. Infrared lights are made up of invisible infrared waves that help illuminate objects in the dark without using much energy. Red light is also invisible but gives off a low-energy wavelength that does not bother people or animals. 

IR Nightvision Light

– These are examples of night vision lights. They don’t glow red because they are red

How To Hide The Red Light On A Security Camera With Black Electrical Tape

Still want to hide red light security cameras? You could want to bring less attention to your devices because of personal preference, or the red lights could bother you at night while you sleep. Whatever your reason, we have some solutions.

If you suspect the red light is the IR night vision light, refer to our last section, you certainly would not want to disable your night vision, but if it’s just power on and off the light, you can disable it in a few ways.

  1. (Rare off switch) Some manufacturers allow you to disable it within the software (red light camera program) or through an off switch by holding the reset and another combination of buttons – consult your manual.

2. Electric tape. This is the most common method to dim the red light, yes, it’s not overly ingenious, but it works. Cut a piece of electrical tape in the form of the light and put it over the camera lens.

Security Camera With Black Electrical Tape

LED status reference guide (Note this guide is extremely dependent on models, consult your camera manual)

The solid green light on the security camera This usually means that there is both a local and an Internet connection streaming to your Camera. It can also be solely for one or the other, and typically, for cellular security cameras, it can be solid if everything is fine with the network.
Flashing green light on a security cameraUsually, this would mean that there is only a local network connection, and the Internet connection is not on. If this light blinks, you should diagnose how the cameras are connected and if the modem or router is functioning correctly.
A Solid red light on the security cameraThis usually means that the Camera is turned on and recording. However, consider that on some models of cameras, this could mean that there is no Internet connection, so be sure to double-check your manual.

– Turned on and recording
– Battery Low
Flashing/ Blinking red lights on a security cameraRed flashing lights could mean different things for different cameras; however, commonly, it could mean that there is no Internet connection or your cameras booting.

– Battery Low
– Internal problem
LED setup reference guide (Particular to Only A Few Models)
Flashing blue light on a security cameraThis can mean that you are ready to enter into the Camera’s setup for some particular models.
Flashing white lights on security camerasFor some particular models can mean that you are ready to set up the Camera’s Wi-Fi.
Flashing/ blinking red lights and green lights on a security cameraFor some particular models, this can mean that you are about to reset the Camera’s factory settings.


Do all Security Cameras have Red Lights?

No, all cameras do not have red lights. Security cameras come in different shapes and sizes. Some have a blinking red light at the top of the Camera, while others don’t have it at all.

You might also find that some security cameras do not have running red lights and instead use infrared or green lights.

security cameras red light

Should I turn off the LED On my Security Camera?

The LED is the light-emitting diode, a type of semiconductor diode. It is a device that emits light when activated by an electric current, it is not dangerous in any way, and there is no risk of having it on.

The LED may provide night vision for your security camera without any interruptions when you are asleep. However, the LED may also disrupt your sleep cycle if it’s near you while you sleep; this is why some people prefer the led turned off.

How can I tell if my Red Light is Broken on my Camera?

Camera manufacturers usually provide a reference manual with details on the red light. You can identify the red light on your Camera by looking for a lens that protrudes and is shiny or a dot in the middle of the lens. Some cameras will beep when they detect an error; other models will shut down completely when an error occurs.

Red Light in a Camera

Most of the time, you can tell if the red light is broken by removing the Camera and using a voltage checker to see if current can flow to the led. (2)

Why do security cameras have red lights that say if they are on or off? Isn’t the whole point that criminals think they are always on?

As we previously mentioned, these red-light cameras can help deter crime because they are visible. The level of deterrence is not huge, but it is significant compared to not having them.

(1) wavelength – https://www.britannica.com/science/wavelength
(2) voltage checker – https://home.howstuffworks.com/voltage-tester.htm

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