Types of Night Lights

night light image by Wayne Abraham from Fotolia.com

Since the beginning of time, people have feared the dark because of what could be lurking unseen. The best way to combat this fear was to create a way to shed a little bit of light in the room at night.

While night lights seem standard, there are actually quite a few different types of these little guardians in the night.

Candles and Glass

The first night lights were simply candles that burnt in metal trays resembling teacups. The fireproof container allowed the light to burn until the candle extinguished. In the mid-1800s, a British inventor patented the "fairy light," a candle on a base covered with glass for safety. As popularity grew, these lights became intricate decorative items. These first night lights (or at least their metal trays) can be found in some antique stores or online. They should be used only for decoration.

Electric Night Light

Electric night lights consisted of a small, dim bulb screwed into a night-light stand, resembling the metal trays of older night lights. Manufacturers later added a sturdy plastic cover to the basic model to protect against burning. These lights, which usually had a dim orange bulb, plugged into the wall. They allowed people to see pathways--and that there were no monsters in wait.

LED Nightlight

Because electric night lights can get extremely hot, worrying the parents of toddlers, LED (light-emitting diode) night lights have become popular. LED lights work more as indicator lights, meaning they are bright but don't necessarily have the power to actually illuminate an area. Projecting a soft, bluish-white light, they are strong enough to make children feel safe in the dark.

Portable Nightlights

Night lights come in many forms and that includes portability. LED battery-powered lights can be used in emergency situations, in cars or while camping. These lights are safer than standard light bulbs because the cover is plastic and LEDs will not catch fire. The LED lights last a lot longer than regular bulbs because they do not use as much energy.

Character Night Lights

While the standard night lights have not changed much from the basic style (candle/bulb in metal holder), some night lights now entertain children as well as comforting them. Plastic covers can feature popular cartoon characters. Other models spin to display light shows, such as a constellation of stars and the moon, glowing on the ceiling of a child's bedroom. They are often called "egg" night lights because they are rounded like an egg in order to spin smoothly.


Night lights equipped with movement sensors turn on when someone is within a certain distance, allowing that person to see a walkway, hall or bathroom clearly. Others have an on/off switch on the base. Plug-in models can be on all the time.