How to Install Motion Sensor Light

An outdoor motion sensor light is an effective tool for making the area around your home a safer place.

Having a light that comes on after detecting motion helps when you come home late at night, want to surprise potential burglars with a blast of light or need to safely navigate an icy driveway.

The following guide will show you how to install a motion sensor light. Once you understand the basics of installation, be sure to use our guide for choosing among the best motion sensor lights. At PropertyGuardMaster, we're dedicated to bringing you only the best in motion detection lighting technology.

How Does an Outdoor or Indoor Motion Sensor Light Work?

These devices come with an electronic “eye” that has the capability to pick up on infrared waves. Infrared waves radiate as heat waves from any moving object. They are specifically designed to detect warm objects that cross its path, including:

  • People
  • Vehicles
  • Animals

The light is automatically turned on after detecting the motion. You have control over how long the light stays on. A typical motion sensor light allows you to set the timer for anywhere from one to 20 minutes or so. The unit automatically shuts the light off until motion activates it again.

Keep in mind that most motion sensor light models provide the convenience of a normal on/off switch. This means you can flip the light on at the switch when you want to override the motion sensor and provide light for a certain period of time. Once you flip the switch back into the sensor position, the light returns to its normal motion-sensor functionality.

Where to Place an Indoor Motion Sensor Light

  • Cosets
  • Laundry room
  • Where you enter your home (front door entry or from an attached garage)
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Guest bathroom (helps ensure guests don’t leave your lights on too long)

Basically, you want to use an indoor motion sensor light in places where it’s convenient to turn on lights without needing to fumble for a light switch or have a flashlight with you.

Where to Place an Outdoor Motion Sensor Light

One of the most effective places to position your motion sensor lights is near your driveway. Place them along walkways from your home out to the garage or sidewalk, too. This ensures you’re never without light when coming and going at night.

Other places that make great fits for outdoor lighting are:

  • Patio
  • Deck
  • Pool area
  • Shed
  • Backyard area
  • Stairway
  • Sides of the house
  • Fence gate
  • Dark areas and near trees or bushes (for extra security against anyone trying to gain entry to your property)

Installing a Motion Sensor Light: Turn Off Electricity

Make certain the power is turned off to any fixtures at the main electrical panel. Pick up a voltage tester at a hardware store and use it to test whether the power is actually off. Go back and find the correct main panel circuit if the tester lights up to tell you electricity is still running.

Read the instructions on the motion detector purchased because each brand has slightly different details. Generally speaking, motion detector lights are simple to install.

Most of the time, all you’re really doing is replacing an old fixture with the new motion detector fixture.

On the other hand, some jobs might require running a new electrical line out to where you want the light installed. Then, you’ll need to install a new switch.

It’s important that your outdoor electrical lines are protected by weatherproof electrical boxes and the proper conduits. Call an electrician if the job begins to go beyond your level of electrical skills.

Additional Tips for Installation

  • Make sure any new outside electrical boxes are waterproof. Place it properly against a rough surface and use caulking.
  • Keep the detector and light bulb far apart from one another. The bulb’s heat can sometimes confuse the detector.
  • Don’t allow water into the unit. Moisture will cause the light socket and detector to malfunction. Place fixtures in protected areas such as underneath eaves. You can also purchase units that come with bulb seals. Angle the bulbs down so water can’t enter the socket area.
  • Test the angle of your motion detector to prevent nuisance trips from pools of water, street traffic, animals, wind-blown shrubs or trees, heating vents or air conditioners.
  • Be careful when working with a ladder. It's a good idea to have someone hold the ladder as you work. Don't allow your body or the ladder to touch any power lines.
  • Don't try to work with aluminum wiring. This type of wiring requires special handling. Bring in a licensed electrician to do the work for you.

Avoiding Nuisance Trips of Your Outside Motion Sensor Light

We briefly mentioned nuisance trips above. This is an important part of the process, however, and requires additional tips. A nuisance trip is when your motion sensor is activated by the wrong types of motion. This might include normal traffic on the street or even leaves blowing around the yard.

This can become annoying for not only you but your neighbors. This is one reason some homeowners decide not to use motion sensor lighting. There are solutions, though.

One solution is to adjust the sensor’s distance-range settings. Then, aim it in such a way as to limit its view of the area. You can even apply tape to the sensor, if needed, to limit its view.

Make it a point to buy a light that comes with adjustable distance-range settings and an amiable detector so you don’t become frustrated by nuisance trips.

You now know how to install your motion sensor light. Your next step is purchasing the model that best fits your needs

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