How to add an outdoor light sensor to a light

Written by sam smith
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How to add an outdoor light sensor to a light
Outdoor light sensors turn exterior lights on and off automatically (lampione image by Naty2000 from Fotolia.com)

Outdoor light sensors automatically cut a constant supply of electricity to existing light fixtures around dawn and restore the power at dusk--when homeowners need the lighting most.

Sensors are available from most home repair and hardware stores for just a few dollars, and they range in functionality from basic on-off to adjustable sensitivity with timers.

Be sure to select the functions you need before proceeding.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Outdoor light sensor
  • Pre-installed outdoor light
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers

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Instructions

    Cut Power to Existing Light Fixture

  1. 1

    Locate and open your home's circuit breaker array or fuse panel, usually in the basement or utility room.

  2. 2

    Determine the circuit that supplies power to the fixture you will be working with. This is generally listed by name of room on the inside of the panel door.

    Outdoor fixtures usually are wired to the same circuit that powers the interior room with which the fixture shares a common wall. If you are uncertain about the circuit, stop and contact a qualified electrician.

  3. 3

    Press breaker switch toward "off" or "O" position to cut power to the circuit. You should hear a click, and a red background may appear in the breaker's indicator panel.

    If your home relies on fuses, remove the fuse that supplies power. Note that removing fuses exposes dangerous contact points with high current electrical wiring. Exercise caution to touch no metal during this step.

    Install Light Sensor

  1. 1

    Unpack light sensor, read installation instructions, and ensure all parts are included.

    How to add an outdoor light sensor to a light
    Example of a coachlight with a built-in light and motion sensor (light image by Gina Smith from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Locate screws that hold the fixture bonnet or housing in place. These usually are located at the corners of a fixture's cap or in the cap's centre.

    Pinch firmly between thumb and index finger and loosen by turning counterclockwise. Pliers or a screwdriver may be needed if the screws cannot be turned by hand.

  3. 3

    Lift bonnet or cap off the fixture and place gently on the ground nearby, then reach in and unscrew light bulb by turning counterclockwise. Place it aside gently, also.

  4. 4

    Screw light sensor into fixture socket (where light bulb originally was) by turning clockwise. Then screw bulb into sensor socket, also by turning clockwise.

  5. 5

    Reposition fixture bonnet or housing atop light fixture, and replace screw or screws. Tighten screws by hand by turning clockwise. There is no need to over tighten.

    Restore Power

  1. 1

    Return to circuit breaker array or fuse panel.

  2. 2

    Press breaker switch toward the "On" or "I" position until you hear a click and the red background in the indicator window turns black, or green in some cases.

  3. 3

    Grab fuse, if applicable, around the edge near the window and reinsert in fuse panel socket. Turn clockwise to restore power.

    Note again that this is a dangerous step and carries a risk of electric shock or electrocution. Exercise caution to avoid making contact with any metal during this step.

  4. 4

    Close breaker or fuse door.

Tips and warnings

  • Test whether the power has been cut to the outdoor fixture by flipping the light switch on and off before removing the bulb.
  • If the light worked before but remains off now, than you should be good to go. Note that the only sure test is to use a voltmeter, which probes electrical wiring for potential energy -- and potential shock.
  • Any work with household electricity is inherently dangerous and carries a risk of shock or electrocution.
  • Any bare wire or exposed circuitry can inflict discomfort or death if handled improperly. Exercise extreme caution when working around electrical current and household wiring.

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