The Workbench Life: Outdoor
By Jason Carpenter for The Workbench Life
Installing outdoor motion lights is one of those win-win-win DIY projects that is particularly important to finish right now before winter’s short, cold days shut down any outdoor tasks till spring. We’ll explain the trifecta of benefits that an outdoor lighting system brings to your home, and help you choose the right products for your situation.
Triple “win” projects are hard to find, but this one fits the bill: it helps you save money, it improves safety for your family and it adds another layer of security to your home. As for installing outdoor motion lights, well, unless you’re an experienced (and licensed!) electrician, this project is probably best left to the professionals.
Motion Lights Basics
Motion detection lighting is not terribly high tech. If you’re lighting up one area of your walkway or yard, a single bulb fixture is enough, but if you want to light up a larger space, purchase a two-bulb fixture with arms that allow you to control the angle between them. It may seem obvious, but be sure to buy weatherproof, outdoor fixtures.
When it comes to bulbs, the most common type is the flood light. This is a high-wattage bulb with the power to throw off a lot of light from above. To save money on energy — and be green in the process — consider using energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs. They cost more upfront, but can last up to a decade or more, saving you a bundle in the long run.
Without getting into the science of motion detection, the system works through a sensor attached to the fixture that turns the light on when it detects motion within its field of view. The clever part of this contraption (in most products) is an embedded photocell that stops the light from turning on in daylight.
You’ll want to install the lighting high enough that a would-be burglar won’t be able to disable the lights or unscrew the bulbs, plus you’ll get a wider field of illumination. Of course, this also means the light is not as bright, so it’s best to install at least two bulbs pointed in the direction you want lit up. This makes the light brighter, but also gives you the added benefit of illumination even if one of the bulbs burns out.
Going Green, Save Some Green
Unless you’ve got herds of wild turkeys or feral hogs trampling through your yard, the lights on a motion sensor will rarely be on, saving you a bundle on your energy costs. And, by utilizing less electricity, you’re putting less pressure on the power grid and being “green” in the process.
Safety in Motion
With motion lights, you won’t have to risk your life carrying groceries in the dark, and no more fumbling for keys in the dark. And with winter setting in, the last thing you want is a slip and fall incident. In this way, motion lighting could literally save your neck.
If any unwanted folks come snooping around your house or yard, they will trip the motion sensor. Motion lighting doesn’t have the effect of a 100-pound territorial Rottweiler, but it serves as a deterrent to would-be ne’er-do-wells.
Jason Carpenter (yes,
that’s his real last name) loves to tackle DIY projects on weekends; his work
has appeared in This Old House, Men’s
Health, Consumer Reports and other publications that appreciate good
tips and tools. Jason is a frequent contributor to The Workbench Life.