Close your eyes and picture this: it’s late at night and you pull up to your house. You know your property like the back of your hand, but you still find something to trip on as you make your way from the car to the door. You’ve got a surprise cake for a family member inside, but because you tripped, the cake falls out of your hand and the surprise is ruined!
An outdoor motion sensor light could have saved the day (night?) by detecting your movement and turning itself on, you would be able to see your child’s bicycle blocking the way, preventing you from dropping the cake.
How about another scenario. You and your family are comfortably tucked into bed, dreaming wonderful dreams and snoring away. Some nefarious intruder creeps up to your house under the veil of night.
They’re bold and they test the security of your garage door. They’re able to break in and they silently ransack your home. You wake up to a mess and some of your valuable electronics are missing.
An outdoor motion sensor light could have sensed the intruder the moment he came into the unit’s range, turned on and scare the intruder away. The light would have blown the intruder’s cover and made it a lot easier for neighbors, passersby, or even you to see them breaking in!
The moral of both of these stories is that motion detector lights are crucial for the safety and security of you and your family.
As you read through this article, we’re going to provide you with everything you could have ever wanted (or needed) to know about outdoor motion sensor lights. Our goal is to shed some light (no pun intended) on them and help you understand how and why they are an important feature every home should have.
Let’s start with the basics: what is an outdoor motion sensor light? These fixtures are your like your basic light fixture, except they have a sensor on it that will detect movement, thus causing the light to turn on.
There are two types of motion sensors:
Active motion sensors depend on transmission and feedback to indicate any changes within the sensor’s detection range. These sensors emits constant stimuli into the area. They then measure and compare those changes (if any) to previous recordings.
With this constant collecting and gathering information, these motion sensors require much more energy than a passive sensor.
There are three common formats that are classified as “active motion sensors”:
When you have a microwave sensor, it sends out pulses of microwaves. The microwaves reflect and bounce off of moving objects, which the sensor then notes and compares the data to previous recordings. This type of sensor is often found in a radar gun used by law enforcement and they are useful when tracking movement outdoors.
An ultrasonic sensor emits a sound that is at a higher frequency than anyone’s ear can hear. The sound is bounced back when it comes in contact with a moving object, the sensor takes note and it will compare the data much like a microwave sensor.
This type of sensor is often found in a Dopple Radar. This isn’t a very reliable sensor if you want to use it for security reasons because any outside noise that falls into a frequency or range that’s similar to the sensors frequency could cause a false alarm.
A tomographic sensor uses mesh networks to monitor radio waves and it’s quite accurate. The radio waves come from several locations and the waves bounce around to any sensors that may be within range.
Since these waves can confirm the exact location of any type of movement from a few different points, these sensors help to remove instances of false positives and false readings. These types of sensors can also be used to determine the movement of a small mouse and that of an intruder.
A passive motion sensor is at the other end of the motion detector spectrum. These units use an infrared sensor also known as a PIR (passive infrared), and it’s the only type of passive sensors available as of right now.
These motion detectors are different because they don’t send out any stimuli into the detection range—instead it simply waits for body heat from a living creature. It is this body heat that the infrared picks up and will signal the light (or anything else that is connected to the infrared sensor) to turn on.
Since these sensors are passive and they aren’t constantly scanning the area for movement or collecting and comparing date, these devices are much more energy efficient. With that said, they have been known to be highly sensitive and can have the tendency to be triggered by a passing deer or a hungry rabbit.
Motion sensors have been used in conjunction with an alarm system since the 1970s. In the beginning, the sensors used ultrasonic technology. As we mentioned when we went over ultrasonic sensors, the unit produces a high-frequency soundwave that is reflected to detect the change.
The problem with these sensors was that anything could set them off, like a phone ringing, an alarm clock, or someone honking the horn. As you could image, this was problematic and it showed engineers that there needed to be a better solution.
Infrared technology (which is the most common method used today) first appeared in the marketplace in the 80s.
At the time, the technology was pretty expensive, but when more manufacturers increased production and found other uses for the tech, products became much more affordable. The most popular application of the tech is in the form of outdoor lighting for garages.
We know that the infrared motion detectors pick up on body heat, but in order to do that, you may have to adjust the sensor’s sensitivity to around 93 degrees F, which is about the temperature of a person’s skin.
Our skin also emits infrared energy at a wavelength between 9 or 10 micrometers, so the sensitivity of the sensor will usually range between 8 to 12 micrometers.
Some people who aren’t familiar with a motion sensor will be perplexed when they notice that their light will detect movement but not if someone is standing in one place. The reason why the motion sensor light doesn’t pick up on this is because it looks for a rapid change in the infrared energy within its “sight”.
The infrared sensors will typically have a wide field of view because there’s a lens that covers the sensor. Much like any other form of light, you can focus and bend infrared energy with a plastic lens and the fixture usually will have one or two sensors inside of it to detect any change in the infrared energy.
The reason why you’ll find exterior garage lights equipped with an infrared detector and you won’t find them used inside on a burglar alarm is because the PIR sensor isn’t going to pick up the body heat through the window. Light will pass through the glass, making it opaque to infrared energy and making it impossible for the sensor to detect the IR energy.
When you’re trying to figure out where to place and LED motion sensor light, the best and most common place for them is over the garage door. Outdoor garage lights can also be used in other areas of your yard such as:
There are plenty of benefits for installing motion sensor lights above the garage door or any other location around your home.
Although criminals will stay away from a home when the lights are on, that doesn’t mean you need to leave the lights on all night. Instead, many homes will have outdoor garage light fixtures with motion sensors on them so the lights will turn on the second it picks up any kind of living creature moving within its range.
Not only will these lights save you money in electrical bills, but you won’t have to worry about replacing the bulbs if you use an LED motion sensor light. With these lights, a single LED bulb can last up to 50,000 hours of use!
Burglars are looking for an easy target—they don’t want to risk the chances of getting caught breaking into your home (or doing any kind of vandalism!). Since they prefer to do their dirty work in the shadows and under the cover of darkness, they are going to run the second a light comes on—much like when cockroaches scurry when a light is turned on.
Whether you’re coming home with a cake in your hands or if you’re carrying your child, walking from the car to the door at night can be a little nerve wracking, especially if your children like to leave their toys outside. The motion sensor light can be a lifesaver (or a cake-saver!) because it’ll turn on when you get out of your car and it’ll illuminate the pathway.
The lights can also prove to be quite beneficial if you have to take out the garbage and you forgot to turn on the main outside light, or even if you have to take the dog out to go to the bathroom before bed. You’ll be able to see where you’re going, thus avoiding tripping over garbage cans or stepping in dog mess in your favorite slippers!
Motion detection lighting can give you that peace of mind that will help you and your family sleep a little better at night.
When it’s placed over the garage and other areas around the exterior of your home, you’ll never have to worry about walking in the dark, you won’t have to stress over little noise in the yard at night, and the chances of your home being broken into decreases significantly.
Installing outdoor garage lights isn’t nearly as difficult as some would lead you to believe—nor is it very expensive. In most cases, everything you need for the installation process is included with the light except for the tools.
To install the lighting, all you’ll need to do is:
It’s really that simple! To maintain your light is equally as simple.
Sometimes simply just having some motion lights above a garage door isn’t enough. We have a few tips that will help you maximize your outdoor lighting situation to improve its effectiveness.
1. You may be under the impression that a few very bright lights are going to be more effective than many dim lights, but that isn’t always the case, as the range of light can leave some blind spots. Cunning burglars know how to take advantage of those blind spots and find a way in. So make sure that you have plenty of lighting, but also make sure they are in good repair.
2. To expand on the previous tip, we want to elaborate how important it is to have proper lighting in the main areas of your property. This includes your garage, the front and back door, the entrance to your driveway, and any other points of entry or storage spaces.
3. While it is important to have ample lighting around the home at key areas, you also want to consider where the lights are placed. Ideally, you’ll want to have the light about 10 to 13 feet off the ground, pointing downward.
This will allow the light to cover more ground and illuminate a larger area. Although the light will be softer, it isn’t going to allow for blind spots because it’ll be easier to let the light overlap.
4. We recommend that you keep the lights fairly high off the ground because it makes it more difficult for anyone to damage the lights.
A determined thief will stop at nothing to break into a home, and that includes disabling a few security lights by breaking the bulb or cutting wires. If you want to eliminate that as a possibility, you may want to consider solar power LED motion sensor lights.
5. Maintain your lights! We cannot stress this enough. There’s no point in installing these lights around your property if you’re not going to keep them in proper working order. Not only will proper maintenance help keep your home protected, but the light fixtures aren’t the cheapest thing around, so you’re going to want to make sure they last a while.
6. The type of light is as important as the intensity and the placement of the light. During the holidays you may want to switch out the bulbs to give your home that festive look, but in all honesty, those colored lights are not going to protect your home very well.
By using white or clear bulbs, you are going to have a cleaner, more clear light coming from your security lights. This type of lighting will help you see what’s going on in your yard better, but also take note of identifying features should someone be brave enough to cause trouble—even with the motion lights in place.
7. When you’re looking to install motion detector lights, make sure you are choosing the right kind. There are some lights that are designed specifically for decoration, while others are designed for security purposes.
While it’s understandable that you don’t want to affix an ugly light fixture to the outside of your home (at least not in the front), a flood light or a light designed specifically for security will be much more effective for keeping intruders at bay.
8. There are all types of intruders—some are just random neighborhood kids who are looking to impress the wrong crowd. The ones you have to worry about are the seasoned criminals who break into homes as if it were their jobs. These burglars are going to canvas their target and take note of the homeowners’ routine.
They’re not going to randomly come by and try to break in—they are going to wait for the best time to strike and that means checking to see when the outdoor lights come on if you have them on a timer.
When you utilize the timers, you can give off the appearance that you’re turning the lights on and off manually, making the intruder believe someone is home even if you aren’t.
As a home owner who has a family to care for, you’re going to want to do everything in your power to keep them safe from people who would try to break into your home.
Though you may have a security system, sometimes the best defense is having motion detector lights at key points of your home like at your entry ways, driveway, walkways, and the garage.
If you are looking to increase the security around your home by installing a motion detector light (or replacing existing lights to motion sensor lighting), you might not know which type of lights are best suited for securing the perimeter of your home.
We have created a buying guide that will help you choose the best motion sensor light that you may want to check out.
Leave us a comment below if you have any questions, or if you have some useful tips and suggestions about securing your home against burglars!