The information in this article comes from The Family Handyman.
I have a dog and live less than a mile from a minimum security prison. Additionally, after the housing bubble burst, there have been a growing number of foreclosures in my neighborhood. Adding motion-sensor lighting outdoors is a security measure I’ve been meaning to tackle. For that reason, I’m documenting the information from The Family Handyman article here for my own (and maybe your) future use.
Automatic night lighting when and where you need it
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine:October 2000
How motion detectors work
Motion detectors are small electronic eyes that detect infrared waves—heat waves that radiate from moving objects. When the detector senses an object moving across its field of view—especially warmer objects such as people, animals and cars—it electronically turns on the lights. The light stays on anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes, depending on how you preset the timer. Then the detector automatically shuts the light off unless it continues to sense movement. A photocell deactivates the light during daylight hours. Most motion detectors have a semicircular field of view of up to 240 degrees and a distance range, adjustable on most detectors, that extends to 70 ft. or more. The detector will react to the movement of your dog, an approaching person, a passing car or sometimes even wind-blown leaves.
Nuisance “trips,” such as blowing leaves or a passing car, can fool the detector and turn the lights on when you don’t want them. These can be annoying to both you and your neighbors, and in fact, some homeowners won’t install motion detector lights for this reason. However, you can solve most unwanted switching-on by adjusting the distance-range setting and by carefully aiming the sensor to limit its field of view. You can also narrow the field of view even more by applying tape to the sensor, as shown in Photo 7. If nuisance trips concern you, be sure to buy a light that has an adjustable distance/range setting, and an aimable detector unit as shown in Fig. A, Nos. 1 and 3.
Motion detectors allow you to operate the light in the conventional, manual way, usually by flipping the switch off for a second, then back on. This allows you to keep the light on at night when you want to, even when there’s no motion. By double flipping a second time, you return to automatic.
Where to put them
For best effectiveness, position motion detector sensors to cover the walks leading to your front and back doors and the driveway (see lead illustration). That way the lights will come on when you come home at night. You can also use them to light up decks, patios and any potentially hazardous locations such as around stairways and swimming pools.
If improved security is a priority, position the lights to cover all the approaches to your house, including fence gates, the patio door, the darker areas of your yard, and around trees and bushes. Good lighting can’t guarantee security, of course, but it’s one of the best low-cost ways to get unwanted intruders to back away.
Ideally, it’s best to mount motion detector lights 6 to 10 ft. above the ground and position them so that most movement will occur across the sensitivity zone rather than directly toward the detector. Obviously you can’t always do that if you use existing light locations. One solution is to buy a remote motion sensor unit that you can mount some distance away from the light itself (Fig. A, #3). The wires connecting them to the light are low-voltage and not dangerous, so you don’t have to enclose them in metal or plastic conduit.
Print The Summary, Step-By-Step Instructions, and Tools/Materials List
Print all of the information above in a nice sheet from The Family Handyman by clicking on the InstallMotionLights PDF file.