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How To Install A Motion Sensor Light

How To Install A Motion Sensor Light

Installing a motion sensor light is a straightforward do-it-yourself home improvement project that can enhance home security and convenience. With some basic tools and materials, we can set up an automated light that will illuminate when it detects movement and turn off after a set duration. In this post, we’ll go through the step-by-step process to properly install and adjust a motion sensor light fixture.

Selecting the Right Location

The first step is choosing the optimal location to mount the motion sensor light. We want an area that will effectively detect motion where illumination is needed. Ideal placements are above garage doors, front and back entrances, pathways, and driveways.

Consider the light’s motion detection range, which can be up to 70 feet for most models. The light should be positioned where the sensor can cover the desired area. Avoid aiming the light at areas where tree branches or bushes may sway and trigger the sensor.

Also, note the fixture’s minimum mounting height, usually 8 to 15 feet. If the light is too low, the motion detector may be triggered by small animals.

Make sure the location has an electrical box to connect the light fixture. If there isn’t one present, we may need to install an outdoor electrical box with a junction box.

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Choosing the Proper Light Fixture

There are many motion sensor light options to consider before purchasing:

  • Detection Range: The maximum area the motion sensor will detect movement and activate the light. Longer ranges of 70 feet will cover more ground.
  • Light Intensity: Measured in lumens, greater light output will illuminate larger areas. 2,000+ lumens is ideal for large spaces.
  • LED Bulbs: LEDs last longer and are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. LEDs also turn on instantly.
  • DualBrite Technology: Dims to a lower light level after the initial high-intensity illumination period. Helps avoid blinding eyes that have adjusted to the dark.
  • Adjustable Sensors: Pivoting motion sensors let you refine the detection zone after installation.
  • Weather Resistance: Important for any outdoor light, look for weatherproof housings and wet location ratings.

After evaluating our needs, we can choose the right motion sensor fixture for the installation location that fits our budget.

Preparing the Installation Area

With the light fixture selected, we now prepare the installation area:

  • Use a dry rag to wipe away dirt and debris around the electrical box. This allows the light to sit flush against the mounting surface.
  • For lights without a built-in photocell, position the external solar panel where it will receive optimal sunlight throughout the day to charge the battery.
  • Many motion sensor lights have two-piece designs, with a mounting plate that attaches to the wall and a separate light module. We’ll need access to the sides of the electrical box so we can secure the mounting plate.
  • Make sure the power is turned off at the circuit breaker before doing any electrical work.

Now we’re ready to mount the backplate and connect the wiring.

Installing the Mounting Plate

Motion sensor light mounting plates are designed for standard single-gang electrical boxes. The steps to attach the plate are:

  • Hold the mounting bracket up to the electrical box. Make sure the holes are aligned.
  • Insert the mounting screws through the bracket holes and electrical box holes. Use a screwdriver to tighten the screws securely.
  • Some plates have a foam gasket on the back to create a weatherproof seal against the wall. Hold this in place while tightening the screws.
  • If there is a photocell on the backplate, orient it where it will receive optimal sunlight.

With the mounting plate firmly attached, we can now connect the wiring.

Connecting the Wiring

Connecting the motion sensor light wiring takes four simple steps:

  1. Strip the ends – Use wire strippers to remove 3/8″ of insulation from each wire end.
  2. Connect the ground wire – There is a green or copper ground wire in the electrical box. Connect it to the ground wire from the light, typically green or green/yellow. Twist the bare copper ends together securely and cover with a supplied wire nut.
  3. Connect the white wires – The white power supply wire connects to the white fixture wire. Twist these ends together and secure with a wire nut.
  4. Connect the black wires – The black power supply wire connects to the black fixture wire. Join the ends and cap with a wire nut.

Ensure no bare wire is exposed and the connections are tight. With the wires connected, we can now mount the light module.

Mounting the Light Module

The motion sensor light module securely attaches onto the mounting plate:

  • Align the electrical pins on the rear of the light module with the pin holes on the mounting plate.
  • Push the light straight onto the mounting plate. It will click when fully inserted.
  • If there is a set screw, tighten it firmly to secure the light module in place.
  • For lights with photocells, make sure the photocell window aligns with the photocell on the mounting plate.

With the light fixture now fully mounted, we’re ready to turn on the power and test the operation.

Testing and Adjusting the Motion Sensor

Restore power at the circuit breaker. The light will illuminate for a minute as it powers on.

Wave your hand in front of the motion sensor. The light will instantly turn on at full brightness when motion is detected.

Check that the light provides sufficient coverage for the area. If the detection zone needs adjustment, pivoting sensor models can be aimed as needed.

The light will stay on for the duration preset at the factory, usually 1 to 5 minutes. This is controlled by the timer dial or switches inside the unit.

Rotate the timer dial or adjust the switches to set the desired ON time once motion is detected. Typical durations range from 30 seconds to 15 minutes.

Set it to a shorter time if you want the light to illuminate briefly when triggered by occasional motions like a car passing by. Use a longer duration for areas where you’ll be moving actively around for a few minutes.

The light may flash as a reminder a few minutes before turning off. This indicates the timer is about to expire.

Now we can confirm that our new motion sensor light works as intended! The light will automatically activate when it senses movement in the detection zone.

With the right mounting location, light brightness, and sensitivity settings, our DIY-installed motion sensor fixture will provide added security and convenience. No longer do we need to manually turn on lights when returning home at night. The automated light will illuminate when motion is detected and make sure you don’t come home to a dark house.

Troubleshooting Issues

In case of problems with the newly installed motion sensor light, here are some troubleshooting tips:

  • Light won’t turn on – Check circuit breaker and wiring connections. Verify the photocell (if present) isn’t obstructed.
  • Stays on – Timer may be set to “TEST” mode. Set timer to 1, 5, or 15 minutes.
  • Light comes on for no reason – Adjust sensor zone to avoid triggering from tree/bush movement. Mount at proper height.
  • Light comes on intermittently – Clean the motion sensor window. Check for wildlife triggering the sensor.
  • Flickering light – Loose wiring connection. Check wire nuts are tight.
  • Fixtures turns off too quickly – Increase timer setting to keep light on for longer.
  • Low light output – Replace old bulbs. Use higher lumen bulbs.

With the motion detector light working properly, we can now enjoy hands-free illumination for improved home security and safety at night. No wiring or complex electrical work is required, just basic handy skills. Installing your own motion sensor light can be completed conveniently in less than an hour.

If you’re looking to revamp your home security systems around North and Central Georgia, contact Callaway Security today!

author avatar
Robert Callaway Owner/ Security Expert
Callaway Security is your premier partner in home security and alarm systems. Based in Alpharetta, we proudly serve Atlanta and beyond. Our range of services includes expert installation, vigilant monitoring, and reliable maintenance of home security systems, fire alarms, and home automation. At Callaway Security, we prioritize your safety and peace of mind. Additionally, we specialize in providing cutting-edge home theater systems for an enhanced entertainment experience.
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