Motion Activated Exterior Lights

Motion Activated Exterior Lighting Provides Safety, Security and Convenience

By Mark J. Donovan

Recently I replaced my home’s exterior lights with new motion activated exterior lighting.  Motion activated exterior lights look exactly like traditional exterior lights, except they come with motion sensors and control switches to program their sensitivity and use.

Motion activated exterior lights are available in a plethora of styles and finishes so there is virtually no limitation in choices.

Motion activated exterior lights are installed the same way as traditional exterior lights.

They have three wires that are designed to tie into your existing home’s wiring. The wires include a black wire (hot), a white wire (neutral), and a green or bare copper wire (ground).

Installing Motion Activated Exterior Lights

To install a motion activated exterior light first turn power off to the existing exterior light at the main circuit breaker panel.

Next remove the old exterior light. Usually there are 1 or 2 small decorative nuts that need to be unscrewed on the light fixture faceplate to remove the light.

Motion Activated Exterior Light Sensor Controls Motion Activated Exterior Lights


After removing the decorative nuts, slowly pull the light fixture away from the house siding to reveal the electrical wires. Unscrew the wire nuts that hold the black and white wires together and disconnect the green or bare copper ground wire from the light bracket. With all of the wires disconnected you should be able to remove the old light fixture from the house.

Now replace the old bracket assembly that is attached to the electrical box with the new one that came with your motion activated exterior light.

Sometimes when installing a new bracket you might need to be a little creative. For example, you may need to use longer screws with the bracket assembly depending upon how deep the electrical box sits back into the wall.

Other times you may need to adjust the screws that are associated with supporting the light fixture itself.

Next use the wire nuts to marry up the house electrical wires with the new light fixture wires. Make sure to first twist the black wires together using a wire nut. Then, repeat the process for the white wires.

Finally twist the ground wires together using a wire nut (greeny) or a copper crimp, before attaching one of the copper wire ends to the metal bracket. Normally there is a small green screw on the bracket for attaching the ground wire to.

After wiring up the motion activated exterior light you can then fasten it onto the mounting bracket. Usually there is a single threaded tube or two screws on the mounting bracket that you have to mount the light fixture onto.

Once the light fixture is properly positioned onto the threaded tube or screws, attach the decorative nuts to hold the light fixture in place.

With the motion activated light fixture installed, turn power back on to the light fixture at the main circuit breaker panel.

After restoring power to the light fixture you can then test and adjust the functionality of the motion activated exterior light. Typically there are three switches that you need to adjust.

The first switch is associated with the sensitivity level of the motion sensor. For example, you can adjust this switch so that the light does not turn on with the movement of a small animal, unless of course you want it to.

The second switch is associated with the length of time the light stays on after it has been activated. Depending upon the particular motion activated exterior light model, the length of time the light is lit can vary from 1-20 minutes.

The last switch is the security mode switch. With this switch you can either set the light to always be on from dusk to dawn, or so that it is only activated when it senses motion.

Usually it takes a few evenings of trial and error to adjust the switches to your preferred settings, however once set, the light should be hands free operational.

So if your exterior lights are looking old and shabby and you are contemplating replacing them, consider motion activated exterior lights. They provide a level of safety and security, as well as convenience that is unmatched with older exterior lights.

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New Home Construction Bid Sheet

Related Information on Motion Activated Exterior Lights

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