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Overhaul Your Home’s Security with Motion Detector Lights

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In most places, there is a belief that lighting up your home both inside and outside is a deterrent for burglars. While it is evident that most burglars are simply opportunists, there isn’t much hard evidence to support the idea that light is a significant deterrent. 

Motion detector lights do, however, play a role in improving your home’s security when used in conjunction with security cameras and alarms.

Learn all about motion detector lights, including best motion detector lights and how they work.

Are Motion Detector Lights Worth It?

The real benefit of outdoor security lighting is how they work in conjunction with other security fixtures. Motion detector lights indoor and outdoors help to increase visibility in and around the home, so that your security camera will never miss a beat. Not to mention, a motion sensor security light serves as a reliable visual warning sign of an invasion, since the lights won’t be on all the time.

Simply put, if your interest in motion detector lights outdoors is based on the notion that they can deter burglars by suggesting somebody is home, there are far more reliable means of deterrence, like the presence of dogs on the property, overt placement of security cameras in inaccessible places, and alarms.

Modern geothermal home with multiple outdoor light fixtures.

The more important use for a motion sensor light is its ability to light up large areas, thereby massively improving the efficacy of your security cameras. With motion detection, flood lights won’t be a constant irritating presence, only coming on when they are needed.

How Do Motion Detector Lights Work?

There are two types of motion sensor, active and passive.

Active motion sensors are typically used in stores. They detect a change in the environment by producing a light, sound, or microwave. For instance, once a customer obstructs a light beam at the entrance of a store, the sensor detects their presence.

Rather than sending out a wave, passive motion sensors detect infrared energy, hence their colloquial name PIR (passive infrared). Light and security systems therefore typically use passive motion sensing, since it can detect changes in the environment based on the temperatures that humans radiate. As they move, the amount of infrared it detects changes rapidly. This information is then sent to a light or an alarm, depending on the purpose of the product.

It’s a great way to keep lights off when no one is around but be wary of the fact that some materials (namely glass) aren’t transparent to infrared; if an intruder crossed your property by skirting around or entering a greenhouse, for instance, motion detector lights outdoors might miss this.

House at night with a bright porch light on.

Types of Motion Detector Light

Though all motion detector lights on the market will likely function via PIR technology, brands will market their lighting differently depending on their specific features.

LED Motion Sensor Light

Light-emitting diodes are used in most modern motion sensor lights. Low power consumption and a longer lifespan make them a great source of light indoors and out. Most options available nowadays will use LED, and we’d recommend looking for an LED option regardless of how you’re going to be using it. Check out some below.

LEONLIGHT LED Security LightYoutob Motion Sensor LED Ceiling LightUME 19w LED Flood Light
Best for outdoorsBest for indoorsBest for outdoors
HardwiredIP65 waterproof180° sensing angle and 70ft long sensing rangeHardwiredCeiling fixtureDay and Night modes90°-120° sensing angleHardwiredIP65 waterproof3 light time modes50ft sensing range
From $55.99From $23.99From $34.99

Solar Motion Sensor Light

Outdoor security lighting is most useful when it can be powered by the sun. Many outdoor lights will feature small solar charging panels so that you can maximize energy efficiency and avoid the nuisance of constant battery replacement. If your motion detector lights are going to be outside, consider some of the solar options below.

HMCITY Solar LightsAlotSun Motion Sensor Solar Landscape SpotlightsMSG Solar Street Lights
Best for external wallsBest for gardenBest for yard/driveway
120 LED bulbsIP65 waterproof270° wide lighting angle, illuminates up 30m23 lighting modesLED bulbsIP68 waterproofFork shaped to be fit into the ground3 lighting modesLED bulbsWorks in -30℃-50℃ temperaturesStreet lamp shape for easy mounting or pole fixing
From $21.99From $26.99From $179

Wireless Motion Sensor Light

‘Wireless’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘wire-free’, so expect the need to recharge many of the indoor options marketed as ‘wireless’ with USB cables if they don’t feature batteries or solar panels. Much like LED motion sensor lights, many options available will be ‘wireless’, insofar as they won’t need to be hardwired. This makes them much more convenient for installation. Here’s some of our picks.

SOLLA Outdoor Motion Sensor LightPRIORARE Motion Sensor Closet LightYoutob Battery powered LED Ceiling Light
Best for customizationBest for indoorsBest for wet indoor and semi-open spaces
LED bulbsIP65 waterproofLong battery life (3x D-cell batteries)Customizable brightness, lighting time, and sensitivity rangeLED bulbsRechargeable battery using USB cableDiscreet and chicMagnetic strip for easy mounting on metal surfacesLED bulbsIP54 waterproofCordless battery powered (3x D-cell batteries)Ceiling fixture that can be mounted in wet spaces, like walk-in showers and bathrooms
From $39.99From $39.99From $19.99

Where To Use Motion Detector Lights

Motion Detector Lights Indoor

Installing motion detector lights indoors isn’t nearly as common as it is outdoors. After all, it would be pretty annoying to have a light come on and off when heading to the kitchen for a midnight snack. 

Smart lighting for the home is based more around the premise of voice control, so you can have lights come on and off without a physical switch (that way you won’t end up in pitch black darkness when you’re chilling on the sofa). 

A more common solution for inside the home is a night light, which uses a sensor to come on when it is dark. These are far more subtle, weaker lights, so won’t be a source of irritation.

Credit: Smart Home Solver

However, motion sensor lights can be useful for particular places within the house. Namely, buildings not connected to the main part of the home, like garages, sheds, greenhouses, and basements, can benefit from having motion-activated light sources. 

If your security camera uses motion detection, it will also be triggered by the sudden shift in light should an intruder enter one of these spaces, so only necessary actions will be recorded. AlfredCamera, which is motion detection enabled, will greatly benefit from having additional light shone on the space it’s observing.

Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Night Vision Cameras

Motion Detector Lights Outdoor

Far more common is introducing motion detector lights outdoors as porch lights, entryway lights, and around the garden. This can be really useful—at night-time, you’ll know instantly should someone approach your home. 

A flood light can be useful if you have a particularly large driveway, or a gated section, since it will greatly maximize visibility for large areas.

Porch lights should be your priority when it comes to installing motion detector lights, since doors and entry points are the most vulnerable parts of the home. Combined with a porch camera or video doorbell, there’ll be no question as to who is attempting to gain access to your home. 

Credit: Peter Homer

For large driveways, motion-activated lights make it easier to safely park vehicles. Lighting up the exterior of your home may have some impact on deterring burglars, but you will be safer by considering exterior lighting an ‘additional’ part of your home security rather than a necessity.

Trying to figure out all things auto security? Check out our articles on dealing with blocked driveways and security cameras for cars.

FAQ

Do motion lights deter burglars?

Opinion on how effective they are at deterring burglaries is mixed, as is the evidence behind it. There is a widely held belief that a well-lit home implies people are occupying the home. According to ADT, they can, but only for a ‘small portion of potential burglaries’. 

Where do you put motion sensor lights?

Outdoors locations, like porches, driveways, and on the side of the home, are the most beneficial places. Inside the home can be a nuisance, but they can be useful in lighting up spaces that aren’t regularly occupied, like walk-in closets, garages, greenhouses, and basements.

Do motion sensors use a lot of electricity?

Most motion sensor lights available on the market make use of LED bulbs, which are widely considered more energy-efficient than regular bulbs. This helps to reduce the amount of electricity sensors use. The cost/consumption is offset by the amount of money saved by having the lights off most of the time. Putting them in a place where you can expect regular, constant traffic is therefore not advisable. 

How long do motion lights stay on?

This is entirely dependent on the product itself. Many will feature customizable settings or different lighting options, so that you can adjust how long you want them to stay on for once they detect motion.

Does a motion light need a switch?

No. Motion lights are ‘switched on’ by motion, which is generally detected through shifting infrared.

Conclusion

Prioritizing other aspects of your home’s security is more important than installing motion detector lights, because it’s not entirely clear how significant exterior lighting is in deterring burglaries. However, it is still an important part of creating effective home security, especially when it comes to using security cameras.

Recommended reading: Home Security Camera Placement: Where Should You Install Yours?