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The Motion Sensor Light Guide – Top Rated Motion Lights and Bulbs
A Guide to Motion Sensor Lights
When it comes to motion detector lights, there is a myriad of options from which one can choose. Not only are motion motion-activated lights a convenience, but they can help you save money and even discourage thieves.
In this guide to motion lights, we will outline some of the benefits of the motion light, how to tell if your lights are motion sensored, how to add a motion sensor to existing outdoor lights, and rate some of the best indoor and outdoor motion lights.
The Motion Sensor Light
Is a motion light right for you?
Most homeowners understand that not only lighting functional, but the right light fixtures can create a look and ambiance that is a reflection of you. You’ve spent hours selecting the proper lighting and fixtures to enhance your property and create just the right “look”.
Can motion sensor lights really fit into your carefully curated lighting plan?
What are the benefits of motion sensor lighting?
Will motion sensor lights work in your situation? Well…you be the judge.
This motion sensor lighting guide will show you your options. We’ll look at how to add a motion sensor to existing lighting- using motion sensor light bulbs, and motion sensor lighting attachments.
In addition, we’ll cover dedicated motion sensor indoor lights as well as motion lights for exterior use.
Pressed for time? Our quick jump table of contents to the left will take you to the sections that spark your interest.
What are Motion Sensor Lights?
As the name implies, a motion sensor light is one that is activated by a motion detector.
Essentially, when a human, or other large body, enters the area within the coverage area of the motion detector, the motion detector is triggered and activates the lighting switch to turn on the light.
How do Motion Lights Work?
Motion Activated Lights detect movement within the coverage range of whatever type of motion sensor that is being used.
The motion sensor can be built into the light bulb, attached to the fixture, or even mounted separately from the fixture.
Regardless of the physical placement of the sensor, a motion detector actually sense the heat signature and mass as it moves across the coverage zone.
Consequently, it only “sees” living objects that radiate heat, of a minimal size, moving within a particular area.
Types of Motion Sensors
The most commonly used motion detectors are Passive Infrared (PIR), but there are a number of different types, including:
- Passive Infrared (PIR)
- Active Infrared
- Dual Technology
Regardless of the type of sensor employed, the function is the same, to turn on the motion sensor light when it is triggered.
Some motion lights may have mechanisms to turn the light on/off manually as well. This may involve a series of toggling the switch on and off…and then on again.
You will need to consult the manufacturer’s user manual to determine how to control your motion detector light manually.
The Benefits of a Motion Sensor Light
If you have ever fumbled with your keys trying to locate the right one to unluck the door, tripped over an item left on an entryway, or groped around searching for a light switch in a dark room or closet…you’ll appreciate the convenience a motion light will provide.
Few of us can claim we haven’t experienced the frustration of any or all of these experiences. A motion light will illuminate the room or area as soon as we come within range.
A far more convenient way to make an entrance!
Not only are obstacles inconvenient, but they can pose safety concerns.
The skateboard left in the walkway could lead to a serious fall.
And it doesn’t take a careless act to result in possible injury. Have you ever “missed” the last step coming down the stairway before you reach the light switch?
Of course one could opt to leave the lights on all the time in potential areas of risk…but, that can get expensive.
With motion-activated lighting, you don’t have to leave lights on – the motion detector will sense your presence and light the way when you need it.
Thus conserving energy and saving you money.
Extends Life of Bulbs
Because you don’t have to leave the bulbs on…it will extend the life of the bulb.
Not only is this more economical, but it is good for the environment.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people invest in indoor or outdoor motion sensor lights is to deter potential thieves.
Motion lights eliminate the cloak of darkness in which intruders typically operate.
Motion lights located in areas of potential entry are an effective way of deterring burglars.
How to Add a Motion Sensor to Existing Lighting Fixtures
While you could replace your existing light fixtures with a dedicated motion sensor light, you can preserve the carefully curated aesthetic of your existing fixtures by adding a motion detector.
This can be achieved by”
- Wiring a separate motion detector into the light switch
- Screwing a motion detection module
- Using a motion light bulb
Before you make any changes, you may want to check and see if your existing light fixture already has motion-activated lighting capability.
How to determine if your existing light fixture is motion sensored
Check the owner’s manual.
Visibly inspect for built-in motion detector.
Check the light bulb for inscription.
If there is no indication that your existing light fixture is motion sensored, then you’ll be amazed at how simple it is to add a motion sensor to existing indoor or outdoor lighting fixtures.
The Motion Sensor Light Bulb
Perhaps the simplest solution to adding motion sensor lighting to your home, whether it be an indoor motion sensor light or outdoor motion sensor lights, is the motion sensor light bulb.
This requires little effort or expertise, just screw motion light bulbs into existing fixtures, and voila…you have motion detector lights!
How does a Motion Sensor Light Bulb Work?
A motion light bulb contains an internal passive infrared sensor. Typically, you will notice a small extrusion at the end of the bulb.
The sensor will detect a heat signature within a specific range and activate the light for a specified time period.
Many motion sensor light bulbs can also be set to either a “dusk to dawn” or “always-on” mode by toggling the light on and off in a pre-set series. This will enable you to manually keep the light on for however long you wish.
The light normally will return to the default motion sensor mode when turned off.
Popular Motion Sensor Light Bulbs
Indoor/Outdoor Motion Sensor Light Bulb
Angled Motion Detector Light
Outdoor Motion Activated Flood Light
Screw-In Motion Sensor Light Switch
Looking to add motion detection, but want to keep your existing fixtures and the light bulb?
Well, there is a solution for that as well.
And again, it doesn’t require an electrician, wiring, or expertise.
A screw-in motion sensor adapter will add motion-sensing capabilities to almost any lighting situation!
What to Look For in a Motion Sensor Light
Ok…so you are not interested in just converting existing lighting to motion-activated lighting and are starting from scratch. What are some of the things you look for in a motion detector light?
The area that you are looking to illuminate will determine how bright your light needs to be. While traditional Watts are a factor, the most useful measurement of light output is Lumens.
It is easily comparable and is helpful in determining what lights will best serve your needs.
If you are looking to light up a closet, small room, or front entry… 50 to a couple of hundred lumens may be adequate.
However, if you want to light up a driveway or the back yard…you may need a couple thousand lumens or more.
The range of the motion detection capability can vary quite a bit. Again, the range will depend on the application.
To light up the front entry, 20-30 feet should do.
To light up a long driveway or the backyard, you may require a motion sensor light with a range of 60 feet or more.
Of course, this should also tie in with the light output as well.
Options for powering motion lights include:
- Hard Wired
- Battery Powered
- Solar Powered
While each has its pros and cons…
Hard wired often requires an electrician to install.
Battery-powered are easy to install as a DIY project but will require that you periodically charge or replace the batteries.
And solar power is a great use of renewable resources…but, the solar collector must be placed in an area that gets consistent sunlight.
Below are features that are available on some motion-activated lights that might be helpful.
- PhotoSensitive – Some outdoor lighting may offer “Dusk to Dawn” settings that will light the way all night. It will also usually prevent motion sensors from activating the bulbs during daytime hours.
- Adjustable Motion/Lighting Angles – Enable you to pinpoint where motion is detected and lights will illuminate.
- Always On – Some motion lights will let you temporarily disengage the motion so that you can manually keep them on for a longer duration
Regardless of what your needs might be, there is likely a motion sensor light that will fit your situation!
Below are some of the most popular choices.
Popular Indoor Motion Sensor Lights
Indoor motion lights can be either hardwired or run on regular or rechargeable batteries.
Because battery-operated indoor motion sensor lights can be placed anywhere, they work great in pantries, stairways, and closets.
They can also serve to enhance aesthetics by providing lighting under counters and even display cabinets.
Battery Powered Indoor Motion Sensor Lights
Rechargeable Indoor Motion Light Bar
Stylish Indoor Motion Activated Light
Top Rated Outdoor Motion Sensor Lights
Outdoor motion lights can be either hardwired, solar-powered or even battery operated.
Higher output outdoor motion lights, such as floodlights, are often hardwired, but lower output lighting to illuminate walkways is often solar-powered.
Designer wall-mounted outdoor motion lights are available where aesthetics are the primary consideration.
Top Rated Outdoor Motion Sensor Light
Outdoor Motion Sensor Flood Light
Stylish Set of Outdoor Motion Lights
Common Motion Lights Q&As
Where to Place Motion Lights
Where to Place Motion Lights
For improved convenience, it’s best to position outdoor motion sensor lights to cover the walks leading to the front door, the back door, or the driveway. As you approach these areas the motions will detect your presence and light the walkways and front steps leading to your front door for you and your visitors.
Other popular locations are decks, patios, and other spaces like around a swimming pool or stairways.
If your priority is to improve the security of your house, place motion-activated lighting so that it covers all entries to the house, like patio doors and fence gates. the objective is to direct the motion sensor lights into darker spaces of your yard, where intruders may lurk and try to find cover.
Indoor motion sensors can be best used just inside entryways, closets, stairways, and laundry rooms.
Multi-mode indoor motion lights can be used under counters and in display cabinets for aesthetic purposes. This is where a manual mode comes in handy.
How Long do Motion Lights Last?
LED motion lights can last up to 50,000 hours, or longer.
Incandescent bulbs are typically more like 1000 hours.
Because motion lights aren’t on all the time, they will last longer than lights that are kept on for longer durations.
Do I need an electrician to install motion activate light?
While an electrician is certainly recommended for hard-wired installations, solar or battery-powered motion lighting can easily be installed by anyone.
Can I still use a switch to keep my motion sensor light on?
Many motion sensor lights and motion sensor light bulbs have an “always-on” mode where the motion detector switch is manually overridden.
This may be a setting on the actual fixture or may be done by toggling the switch on and off a couple of times.
Check with the manufacturer.
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Is Purchasing Motion Sensor Lights Enough?
While getting motion lights is a worthwhile investment- you might not want to stop there. When it comes to protecting your home and family, investing a few dollars in a monitored home security system may be the next logical step to protecting the things that are most important to you.
A monitored alarm system can help protect your home and family against many threats. Among them are break-ins, home invasions, and environmental threats such as fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, floods, frozen pipes, and more.
And it might be much more affordable than you think.
Today’s home security systems are typically wireless and can be either professionally installed by companies like ADT, or self-installed. DIY systems like Frontpoint, make it even more affordable…and don’t require a long-term contract.
Looking for all the bells and whistles? Companies like Vivint can also serve as the hub for a smart home automation system that includes cameras, doorbell cameras, energy management systems, lighting, and smart locks.
Including your new Blink doorbell camera in a fully integrated security system can take it to the next level, and afford you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your valuables, home, and family are fully protected.
Want Total Peace of Mind?
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Your Guide to Motion Sensor Lighting – Summary and Final Thoughts
Motion sensor lights are a great investment. They are an economical way to make your life more convenient, increase safety, lower energy use, enhance aesthetics, and even deter criminals.
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Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by The Home Security Advisor