Switching out a Motion sensor light with a dusk to dawn light

| April 5, 2010 | 6 Comments
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Whenever I go to my sister’s house, there is a quid pro quo. She makes choc chip cookies, I fix her house. This trip we removed a TV antenna, fixed the rain gutter, and swapped out a broken motion sensor light.

Eric, electricity, power tools, what will happen next...

Eric, electricity, power tools, what will happen next...

The original motion sensor light

The original motion sensor light

The existing lights had broken in only a short time

The existing lights had broken in only a short time

I like motion sensor lights. I’ve installed many. But I’ve found that the ones I buy at the large home improvement stores tend to stop working after a few months to a year.

My sister had a motion sensor light at her back door, and she was using its dusk to dawn setting. The sensor had broken, and one of the lamp assemblies just fell apart.

I suggested a simpler light assembly with just a dusk to dawn sensor. I made sure the one we bought allowed us to replace just the sensor if need be.

Here's the dusk to dawn lights we installed

Here's the dusk to dawn lights we installed

Removing the old motion sensor light

Removing the old motion sensor light

I switched out the lights. To test the light sensor, you need to turn on the power to the light and wait a few minutes for the sensor to adjust to the sun. Then put some electrical tape over the sensor and wait a few minutes. If the lamp does not go on, something is not working correctly. First to to check is your wiring, many times the wire nuts supplied are not great, I always use better ones from the hardware store.

The black object is the dusk to dawn sensor, easy to replace

The black object is the dusk to dawn sensor, easy to replace

Put electrical tape over the sensor to simulate night time

Put electrical tape over the sensor to simulate night time

We wanted to use compact fluorescent bulbs in the outdoor light, but all the outdoor rated lights, most of them flood lights, were too bright for just lighting up the back door. We didn’t want to light up the whole back yard.

Proof that the light is wired correctly, unusual on a first try for me

Proof that the light is wired correctly, unusual on a first try for me

We bought some lower wattage CFLs that were similar to the floods, but not rated for outdoor. We’re using those for now, and we’ll have to figure out if they can stay outside. The lamp housings protect the bulbs from the elements, but I’m thinking the ballasts may not be rated for cold temperatures.

What has your experience been with motion sensor lights? Do yours break? Let us know in the comments below:

Category: DIY

Comments (6)

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  1. Tim says:

    You might consider LED flood lights.

    http://www.besthomeledlighting.com/led_floodlight

    You will pay more up front, but they will use much less electricity than CFL bulbs and they will also last much, much longer.

    My dad calls theses “booger lights” because they scare away the boogie man.

  2. Tim says:

    theses ?!?!?!? That’s what I get for posting before coffee.

  3. Mitchell says:

    DIY’R: So I have 4 motion detectors outside.
    2 of the three in the front are the same kind. started off with one of the two which are the same kind. is acting a fool and the light doesn’t turn off when the sun is up. Before hand I knoticed which one side of the same two fixtures is going through CFL lightbulbs like crazy. should not be happening at all. Think I replaced 3 within not even 6 months. everything here, I use those now and was fine before. Does the sensor housing det dammaged when washing the side of the house from cob webs?? is this bad on the motion fixtures?? The last two times I cleaned them I did it by hand. So the one fixture which would never turn off except manually by light switch, had eventually just stoped working totally..I can not get no power to the light bulb light bulb is fine light bulb was replaced with a new one, and that did not turn on?? Bad fixture! I want to replace it with this cool set of two I have…Super bright :) I personally have never seen motion sensor lights go bad whatsoever or even heard of such a thing thought that just the light bulbs burn out… I want to see if there is a way to clean the motion sensor lens???? I think but I’m not sure.

  4. Mitchell says:

    hahaa actually joke is on me. I actually had two dead CFL lightbulbs. I tested like three and two didn’t work. so I just replace them…this pair of motion sensing light I like to replace the bulbs in pairs at a time so I know if they are working propperly… Well guess I will save my brand new pair for another dark night..

  5. Madeline says:

    Trying to find outdoor motion detector light that doesn’t stay on unless there’s motion. I don’t want it to stay on at night. Many of them say dusk to dawn and dual light brightness. Ideas?

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