Install a Motion-Sensing Light
What is a Motion-Sensing Light?
A motion-sensing light is one that is activated by a motion sensor rather than by a conventional light switch. A motion-sensor can either replace conventional light switches or be placed onto an existing lighting fixture. While motion-sensing lights are normally associated with outdoor lighting applications, they are becoming increasingly popular indoors in places such as pantries, hallways, and backdoor rooms.
BENEFITS for the Environment:
Motion-sensing lights are great for lighting areas that you only use briefly, since they only stay on as long as you need. By automatically turning off after a few minutes, they prevent wasted electricity and help conserve energy resources. In fact, the top sources of energy in the US are fossil fuels, which are harmful to workers, pollute air and water, and contribute to global warming. By saving energy, you also save the environment from the detrimental effects of fossil fuels!
BENEFITS for Your Safety:
Motion-sensing lights for your house are great deterrents from burglars, who are startled by the sudden illumination and may believe someone is home. Also, if your front entrance or garage might have obstacles or too little light, a motion-sensor will spare you the trouble of having to fumble around until you find the light switch.
BENEFITS for Your Wallet:
Accidentally leaving lights on overnight contributes to a high electrical bill! You'll be able to light your garage, driveway, closets, pantries, and entryways only for the moments that you need to use them.
The cost of motion detectors range from $10 to $150, depending on the type, features, and style of the light you choose. Installing a motion-sensor on one 500W outdoor flood light can save up to $180 a year which means your investment will pay for itself in less than one year!
Time and effort: Moderate
Installing a motion detector can be a fairly quick task, only taking around 20-30 minutes. However, because you will be working with electrical wiring, it is recommended that care is taken to complete the task in a safe manner.
Installing an indoor motion-sensor switch:
Installing an exterior motion-sensing light:
- Pick the room inside where a motion-sensor switch would be able to replace a light switch. This can be in closets, pantries, foyers, hallways, or anywhere else that you stay only briefly and need the light on only a short amount of time. Keep in mind that you want the motion detector to switch on when someone enters the room, but not merely when someone passes the room.
- Turn off the electric current to the outlet you'll be working with, at the circuit box. If there is anyone else who might accidentally turn it back on, write and tape a warning sign to the circuit box.
- Go back to your light switch. Unscrew and pull out the existing faceplate. Then, pull the switch out of the workbox a few inches.
- Using your circuit tester, test the wires to make sure the power is off. This can be done by touching one probe of the tester to the ground wire and touching the other probe to one of the other wires. If the wires are not live, disconnect the two black wires that connect to the light switch.
- Inspect the wires inside. There should be two black wires and one ground wire, which should either be coated green or just be a bare copper wire. Light switches always connect to hot wires, but if the white wire is connected, it is mislabeled. Put black electrical tape onto it for future reference.
- Check the condition of the ends of the wires. If they are worn or have carbon deposits, clip them back and strip 3/8" of the coating, revealing new wire. If you have aluminum wiring in your house, make sure you have the proper wire connectors, otherwise there could be a fire hazard.
- Use a wire nut (often included with the motion-sensor switch) to connect the wires from the wall to the corresponding pigtails, short wires coming out the back of your motion-sensor switch.
- Push all of the wiring back into the workbox in the wall. Secure the switch on top and install the faceplate. Use the instructions included in the motion-sensor switch to set the timer, the amount of time until your light automatically turns off.
- Turn the power back on and test the switch.
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Most homes have a light fixture outside near the front door or outside the garage, or both. Determine which area that would work best by motion-sensing, keeping in mind the angle and range of each position.
Turn off the electric current to the outlet you'll be working with, at the circuit box. If there is anyone else who might accidentally turn it back on, write out a warning sign and tape it to the circuit box.
Go back outside and remove the light bulb on the original light. Unscrew the existing light fixture on the house and gently pull it away from the house a few inches.
- Using your circuit tester, test the wires to make sure the power is off. This can be done by touching one probe of the tester to the ground wire and touching the other probe to one of the other wires. As long as none of the wires are live, disconnect the wires and remove the original light fixture.
- In case the previous light fixture was mounted with a crossbar, remove it. Also, if your new motion-sensing light includes a mounting crossbar, install it.
Inspect the wires inside. Determine whether you have a two-wire with ground or three-wire with ground. If there are three cables overall, two black and/or white and one green coated or bare copper, you have a two-wire with ground. If there are four cables overall, one black, another black or white, one red, and one green coated or bare copper, you have a three-wire with ground. The ground is the one that is green coated or bare copper. The black and red are "hot" wires, and the white is neutral.
Check the condition of the ends of the wires. If the ends are worn or have carbon deposits, clip them back and strip 3/8" of the coating, revealing new wire. If you have aluminum wiring in your house, make sure you have the right wire connectors, otherwise there could be a fire hazard.
Use a wire nut (often included with the motion-sensor switch) to connect the wires from the wall to the corresponding pigtails, short wires coming out the back of your motion-sensor switch. Connect the black wire with black wire, white wire with white wire, and ground wire with ground wire. Also, secure the ground wires to the crossbar (often the motion-sensor includes a screw for this).
Carefully push all of the wiring back into the outlet box. Then attach the fixture to the crossbar screwing it in place through the holes in the wall plate.
Install the light bulb by screwing it in as normal. If there are any covers or ornamental parts, attach these afterwards.
Turn the power back on and make sure the light turns on. Aim the detector so it turns on when you walk through the intended area, but doesn't react when you walk beyond it. To adjust the lamps, don't hold it by the bulbs, but rather, the lampholders, since the bulb is fragile. Aim the bulbs away from the sensor, otherwise when the light automatically turns off, that might activate the sensor again. Also, if necessary, adjust the sensitivity of the sensor.
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