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How to Install a Motion Sensor Light

By Edited Oct 14, 2015 1 0
How to Install a Motion Sensor Light
Credit: Opensource

Having outdoor motion detector lights can offer a sense of security by providing instant light in darker areas around your home, or when you drive up late at night. They can act as a deterrent to potential burglars much in the same way as dogs because someone that has intentions on robbing a home looks for the easiest option with the least amount of attention around it, including how it is lit up at night.

They also operate as a normal light allowing you to flip a switch on the unit to use the flood light as a normal exterior light.

Motion detector lighting is relatively cheap and really easy to install, especially if your home is already prewired and you are replacing an existing lighting fixture. They work by having sensors that detect heat waves that come from moving objects. When the sensor detects an object moving across its coverage area, it automatically turns on the lights for a set period of time that is configurable by you.

Best of all, the sensor is deactivated during the daytime hours so it never turns on when movement is detected in sunlight.

The motion sensing field of view can vary but the best versions can see in an arc of 240 degrees up to a distant of 70 feet or more. Most are so sensitive that any blowing leaves or cars going down the street can cause a false activation and for that reason many do not like to install them especially if they do not have much of a front yard before the street, or have a lot of trees around the house.

However, the sensitivity of the motion detector can be set to eliminate a lot of the false alarms or you can set it to stay on for only one minute.

To work effectively, and limit nuisance trips of the light, you need to position them in the right

Install Motion Detector Lighting
place to provide the most benefit for your needs. If you have dark areas around your house, you might want to place a flood light at the corner of your home with a flood light pointing in each direction down the side of the house. If anything approaches from that general area of the house, it will light the sides of front and side, or back and side of your home.

Focus on covering every angle of approach to your home if you want to provide more security. Used in combination with fences around your backyard, they can be a part of an excellent system of deterring undesirable activity.

You also want to make sure you cover the front of your home, and any sidewalks leading to the front door if you do not use a garage. Most home owners like to install a motion activated flood light above their garage that lights as they enter the driveway after dark. At that height, they can be positioned to cover multiple zones and are secure from being disabled by a potential intruder.

Some types of motion detecting light come with a separate motion detecting unit that you can place 15 feet or more away from the light. Thus, you could strategically place it at ground level near walkways or stairs leading to your front or back door which would catch any activity approaching your entries. You can purchase either type of motion sensor lights in either traditional bulbs, or LED lighting which are more energy efficient.

Finally, if you are concerned about electricity usage or do not have the prewiring available around your home, you can opt for solar powered versions which attach to a small solar panel that can be mounted on the side of your home or roof and pointed in the direction of the most direct sunlight each day. These are the easiest to install because you are simply mounting the light and solar panel with screws on the house. No wiring necessary.

Sunforce 82156 60 LED Solar Motion Light
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If wiring is an easy, solar powered lights can be installed anywhere with direct access to sunlight.

Benefits of Outdoor Lighting

  • Energy efficient solution to security concerns
  • Automatically turn on without the need of a switch
  • Security deterrent
  • Flexibility to install anywhere around your home
  • Solar powered options available

Installing an Exterior Motion Sensor Light

How to Install a Motion Sensor Light
Credit: mjpyro

Before you begin, you need to make sure you have some supplies to install the light. Typically you will need some wire nuts, a ladder, electrician’s tape a screwdriver, a power drill with screw bit and of course a light.

If you are replacing a light, it will already have a mounting brace either on the inside of the exterior wall, or a steel box on the outside. If you are putting a light in a new location, you will need to buy another steel exterior box to mount it to the home. The electrical wiring is simply

Outdoor Lighting
fed through a hole in the circular mounting fixture.

To begin the process, first shut off the power to the light at the breaker box. Next remove the old light if necessary. Install a offset crossbar so you can level the fixture after installation.

Feed the wires through the rubber gasket and splice them together with the wires on the unit using wire nuts. Wrap the nuts with electrical tape to create a secure connection.

When mounting the light to the fixture, make sure the gasket is positioned correctly to prevent water from entering.

Tighten all of the connections and make sure the fixture is mounted tight to the side of your home. Screw in the light bulbs.

Assuming you have the dual floodlight version, each side will have lock nuts just under the bulbs so that you can adjust their positions. Once you set the angles of the lights, tighten the lock nuts once again by hand. You will need to adjust this later once you test it when it is dark.

Now set the sensitivity and timer on the light. Typically each sensor how buttons on the bottom of the assembly that you can adjust by hand. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

For most devices, you will do some combination of  the following procedures: Turn off the associated light switch, wait a few seconds, then turn it back on. Then choose how long you want the lights to stay on. There may be an option to control the brightness of the light. Next, set the range by selecting the sensitivity, usually low, medium, or high.

Final Thoughts

How to Install a Motion Sensor Light
Credit: mjpyro

Over the next few nights, you will probably have to make some adjustments to the angles, range and sensitivity of your motion detector.

I installed a motion activated light over my garage seven years ago and it has worked flawlessly since. I have not even had to change the light bulbs yet. I have it set to one minute which I recommend, and it lights up at every time I enter my driveway at night allowing me enough time to get in the garage and close the door behind me.

On windy nights, it does come on sometimes, mostly due to blowing leaves, but this is a minor issue for me as it only stays on for a minute at a time.

Overall, it is a simple project and can easily be done in under an hour, especially if you install a solar version. In fact, the hardest part of the project may be finding someone that has a ladder long enough to reach above your garage area, as was the case with me.



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