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How to Install Motion Lights

If you are interested in installing outdoor motion lighting on your home, the first thing to consider is what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to keep away burglars? Keep nocturnal animals away from your garden or livestock? Make your home more welcoming and energy efficient? Use the navigation menu at the top of the screen to hone your search for the appropriate light. If you don’t already have wiring going to the place you want the light, you should probably either seek more detailed instructions, hire a contractor, or look into wireless motion lights.

Different lighting has different setup procedures, so check the documentation for surprises. Assuming you have gone with a more conventional light that wires into your home to replace an existing light, the next step is to locate the appropriate breaker in your electrical box and turn it off. Then turn off the light switch that controls the light, just to be safe. There is an inexpensive little device I highly recommend for anyone who gets into minor electrical projects around the house; a non-contact voltage checker. It is a little pen shaped device, that when activated will flash and beep when it comes near AC current. This saves you from having to touch the wires to find out of they are still hot.

Unscrew the old fixture, check the wires to make sure they aren’t still active, and then untwist the old wire connectors and you should be able to remove the old light.

Hold up the new light and twist the black wire from the light to the black wire from the house with a twist-on wire connector. Do the same with the white wires, and then look for a ground wire, usually green or bare. There should be a screw, often painted green, on the motion light to screw the ground to. This is a safety feature in case of electrical problems. Once the wires are ready, tuck them in as you put the motion light up flush with the house and screw it in.

Go back and turn the breaker back on, then turn on the light switch. Most motion lights will give you some sort of indication they are getting power; either a light that flashes when it detects motion, or an LED, or just by turning on. Assuming everything is now working as it should, it is time to adjust the light.

Wait until dusk and activate the light (Most security lights won’t trigger during the day). Most security lights have a swivel and shade allowing you to orient the light. The light should be oriented to cover what you need it to cover and no more. It is quite impolite to point them at your neighbors window, so while they are on, adjust them so the shadow falls around the edge of the area you need covered. Next comes the sensitivity adjustments. Some lights have a dial for duration, and one for sensitivity; set these down near their minimum settings. Walk out past their coverage area and wait for the light to shut off, then walk into the area they should be covering and see if they trigger. Keep boosting the sensitivity until it is satisfactory. If it is on the front of your home, make sure it isn’t triggered by passing traffic, either with the sensitivity adjustment, or if the sensor itself can be reoriented, just point it down far enough that its view of the street is blocked. The reason we start at the low end of the setting is that you don’t want it being set off by every gust of wind and moth that happens by. If you are installing this as a nocturnal animal deterrent, you may want to set the sensitivity higher.

Once you get the sensitivity right where you want it, adjust the duration setting to whatever you think you would like. Your light should now be installed and ready to give you many years of dedicated service.