Choosing the Right Exterior Lighting and Motion Sensors/Timers for Your Home
Outdoor Lighting is an Integral Part of Home Security
Exterior lighting is an important aspect of the design of any building. Lighting not only enhances a property’s appearance but also its security. Outdoor lighting is a key element in making the building look welcoming. It also plays a significant role in deterring theft and ensuring safety for your home and family. At Kobalt Systems, our experienced exterior lighting installers are also journeymen electricians specialized in installing:
- Landscape Lighting
- Stair and Pathway Safety Lighting
- Pool and Hot Tub Deck Lighting
- Motion Sensor Lighting
- Garden Shed Lighting
- Outdoor Kitchen & Barbecue Lighting
In this post, we’ll explore the different kinds of exterior lighting options that are available and explain why the right outdoor lighting system can make all the difference.
Active and Passive Outdoor Lighting
Did you know that there are two types of occupancy sensors?
Passive Outdoor Lighting
The most common kind of motion sensor lighting is passive. These passive exterior lights are ones that “see” motion by detecting changes in infrared energy. When a sensor that’s attached to an outdoor lighting fixture senses a change in the environment and its temperature, it triggers the light to turn on. Warmer objects like animals, people, and cars are particularly easy to detect this way. Most of us are familiar with this type of lighting fixture.
Active Outdoor Lighting
Active motion detectors have a transmitter and receiver. They measure motion by detecting the amount of sound or radiation reflected back to the receiver. A transducer within the sensor acts as a sort of meeting point for the signal, and this is where the pulse is sent off and the echo is received back.
Where Should I Put Motion Lights in My Yard?
Where your motion lights are installed will depend on which areas you want to secure and the design of your home. It’s typically best to mount motion sensor lights six to ten feet above the ground, positioned so movement will be picked up across the sensitivity zone instead of directly at the detector.
For instance, you could have the sensitivity zone cover a portion of your front lawn to have intruders detected long before they get to an entry point of the house.
Exterior motion lights are most effective when they are positioned to cover the walkway(s) leading up to your front or back door, and your driveway. You want those lights to come on when you arrive home at night so you’re not going from your vehicle to your house in the dark. It’s also a good idea to light up your decks or patio, and any other potentially unsafe locations, such as an outdoor stairway or a swimming pool.
To be extra secure, we recommend placing a motion light at every approach/entrance to your home, whether it be your fence gates, dark corners of your lawns, or even around bushes and trees. Proper outdoor lighting is one of the best and most inexpensive ways to discourage intruders.
Motion Detectors vs. Timers
There are two options for your exterior lighting: motion detectors and lights on timers set to go on at intervals you choose. Both have their advantages, but here we’ll break it down into a pros and cons list for both.
Pros for motion sensors:
- Highly energy efficient. They only turn on when needed, so there’s no need to go and turn off the lights before you go to bed.
- Easy deterrent against crime. An intrusion is far less likely to occur or continue when all the lights suddenly pop on.
Cons for motion sensors:
- Lack of control.
- If you have pets or there are animals nearby, you may notice your exterior lighting on a lot more than you had planned.
Pros for lighting timers:
- Convenience. By setting your lighting to only be on for a certain amount of time and time of day, you’re wasting a lot less energy (and money!).
- If your hours and schedule are consistent, this can make a big difference for efficiency and hands-free, worry-free lighting.
- Safety. Setting your lighting to be on starting at dusk can give you a bit of peace of mind, and keep your home safer.
Cons for lighting timers:
- Not as energy-efficient. Lights may be on when nothing is happening and no one is outside, so they might not be needed.
Either of these options for security lights are very useful. Of course, LED lights are very energy efficient compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. When in doubt, you can always get the best of both worlds by setting up a variety of both motion-sensing lights and timed lights.
Dusk to Dawn Outdoor Lights
These lights get their name, “dusk to dawn,” because they are placed in your yard or garden and turn on after the sun has set and turn off once it rises again in the morning. Along with the time-controlled and motion-activated lights, there are two other types of fixtures to make note of.
Photocell and solar outdoor lights
Photocell lights are ignited by the changing of natural light, meaning that they automatically change when daylight shifts to night. They also adjust when the nights get longer or shorter with the seasons. Some contain motion sensors, as well, so they sometimes count under that category.
Smart/connected outdoor lights
These are just like the time-controlled lights, as you can set the time you want them to turn on or off. The difference is that with smart lights you can control and schedule your exterior lighting with an app on your smartphone or other devices, like a smart home system. Smart lights can be controlled via Bluetooth or WiFi, so you can have complete control no matter where you are or what device you happen to have with you. All you need is the adjoining downloadable app. (This is also the case for smart light bulbs.)
Exterior Lights Provide Style and Security
By now, you probably have an idea of what kind of exterior lighting you want for your outdoor space. While security is your number one priority, the light fixture you choose can also add some extra style and curb appeal to your house, day or night. Depending on what light levels and light coverage you’d prefer, what power source you’d prefer to use, whether you’d like a built-in timer or smart functions to have complete control of your lights, there are many options for outdoor lighting.
Here at Kobalt Systems, we are experts in home lighting and smart technology. We can help you with the installation of a complete custom outdoor lighting system for your home in and around Victoria, BC. We also offer residential alarm systems with the option for indoor / outdoor security cameras, motion sensors, smart locks and more. No matter the size of the job, our team of highly trained professionals are here to help and we take pride in our integrity and expertise. Check out our reviews page to see what our clients are saying, then contact us today to get started on your innovative new exterior lighting project.