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How to Install a Photocell in an Existing Outside Light

Updated February 21, 2017

A photocell is a device that causes a light or other electrical product to power on or off when it senses a change in lighting. Photocells are useful for homeowners who wish to illuminate an outdoor area when the sun sets or turn on a light at dark when away from home. Photocells are relatively simple to install and can be operational within 30 minutes or less.

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  1. Go to the main circuit panel in your home. Open or turn off the circuit breaker associated with the outside light. Attempt to turn the light on to ensure power has been secured.

  2. Remove the lamp cover. Unscrew the light from the exterior of the house.

  3. Expose the wiring. There will be three wires present, a red positive wire, a black negative wire and a white or green ground wire. Pull these wires gently from the recess, using wire strippers. Cut the wires and strip the ends of each with wire strippers.

  4. Twist the black wire on the light with the black wire from the photocell. Screw a wire nut on the connection. Secure the red wires together in the same manner, followed by the white or green. Allow the light to dangle.

  5. Close or turn on the circuit breaker at the main power panel. Return to the light and cover the photocell with a rubber glove to test. The light should turn on.

  6. Open or turn off the circuit at the main panel again. Unscrew the wire nuts and apply electrical tape to the braided ends. Replace the wire nuts and refasten the light to the house exterior. Replace the lamp cover and turn the circuit breaker back on.

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Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire nuts
  • Rubber glove
  • Electrical tape

About the Author

Owen Richason grew up working in his family's small contracting business. He later became an outplacement consultant, then a retail business consultant. Richason is a former personal finance and business writer for "Tampa Bay Business and Financier." He now writes for various publications, websites and blogs.

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