If You See a Red Porch Light, This Is What It Means

What does a red porch light mean? You often see them in February, but it's not for Valentine's Day.

Red lights are used in all kinds of different ways. In a streetlight, the red lights mean “stop.” On your car, they indicate the brake lights. But what does a red porch light mean?

This is why your neighbors have a green porch light in November.

What Does a Red Porch Light Mean?

It could mean anything the resident wants it to mean, of course. But in many cases, it has a special significance—especially in February.

February is American Heart Month, when people are encouraged to focus on their cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association uses red as the color to raise awareness for their work, encouraging people to wear that color in support. And the first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day, drawing even more attention to heart health. So going red with your porch light is a noticeable way for your house to wear red, too.

Anyone can have heart issues of course, but there’s a special focus on women, and the Go Red for Women initiative seeks to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

Landmarks, including the Seattle Great Wheel and iconic Niagara Falls, have been spotlighted in red to mark the month. So changing a bulb in your porch light is just another way to show how much this issue matters to you. (You can also peruse our list of heart-healthy snacks, and heart-healthy dinners.)

What Do People Think Red Porch Lights Mean?

Back in 2016, a satirical website claimed that red lights on porches meant the home was gun-free. That’s a hoax, urban-legends site Snopes points out. Currently, the same website that made that claim features a headline announcing that Los Angeles sewer rats have become sentient, so don’t rely on them for your news.

And if you listened to music in the ’70s and ’80s, you’re probably humming the 1978 hit song “Roxanne” by The Police. Lead singer Sting wails that Roxanne doesn’t need to “put on the red light.” That’s because “red-light district” has long referred to a not-so-family-friendly occupation, but this is an unproven urban legend.

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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, has been a journalist for 30 years. She is the co-author of two pop-culture encyclopedias, "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She lives in a 90+-year-old house in Seattle in which she does home improvement projects with her husband and daughter. Gael loves the quirkiness of old homes.