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Lights, Camera, Motion: A Beginner’s Guide to Motion Lights

Motion lights are a useful feature for any homeowner or owner of a property, whether modest or sprawling. It’s not just for aesthetic appeal — though this is a great perk of having motion lights. Motion lights also allow you a modicum of peace of mind as they serve a great security purpose as well.

But how do they work? And how can you use a motion light to keep your home safer? How do you mount these lights outdoors and are they extensible with other motion sensors?

Read more to find out all about motion lights and how you can harness this smart product to keep your home brights — and safer!

The Role of Motion Lights For Your Home

Besides alarming the raccoons or stray cats that probably scour your property, motion lights respond to movement within a certain distance from the device.

Essentially, a motion light is a type of motion sensor and, as such, it has a dual focus: to brighten up the perimeter of your property in the dark as well s to protect your home from intruders.

Motion lights are especially useful in these situations:

    • You’ve been at an evening party and you arrive home late. As you approach the driveway towards your home’s stairs, motion lights sense your movement and switch on, lighting a safe path so you don’t risk slipping
    • Motion lights installed within the home can help light the path to the bathroom or the kitchen for a late night drink, without hitting anything in the dark. Children can feel safer as well, as they go to the bathroom without disturbing you.
    • If there is an intruder, a motion light can turn on immediately and, if you have cameras installed around the exterior of the house, these lights can give you a better sense of the intruder’s face, making it easier for police to play bak the recording and catch the offenders
    • If your young teenager is breaking curfew, either to slip in or out, a motion light hooked up to an alarm can be triggered at the opening of a door or window.
    • Use a motion light to save on energy: install these in areas you don’t normally go to, such as a storage closet in the basement or the garage. This way, these areas will only light up at your movement and presence, without you having to fumble in the dark to find a switch
    • They can be used to alert you to young children entering areas in the house such as basements or medicine cabinets.

Types of Motion Lights

There are various brands of motion lights and sensors on the market today. But they all fall, roughly, under three main types.

Based on what your home or personal space needs, pick the right one:

Passive Infrared

This type of sensor detects movement or someone’s presence based on body heat. It is the most common type but not always the most sensitive because of the proximity of body heat. However, it works by creating a perimeter or “mapping grid” which it then scans for signs of heat signatures. If the percentage of zones in the “map” are high, this trips the sensor.


Not all individuals like this option but it’s still viable. This sort of light is what it sounds like. It comes on when the motion sensor measures a reflection off a moving object. The benefit is that microwaves can travel farther than a “mapping grid” function of PIRs but they’re also more prone to electrical interference because of this.

Dual Motion Sensors

For the home that has been experiencing a ton of false alarms, a dual technology motion light can really help. Here, a PIR is combined with another form of sensor such as a microwave sensor or an ultrasonic sensor. The idea is that the combination of two sensors act as fail safes for each other — both must be tripped in order for an alarm to be triggered.

Where Do You Mount Motion Lights?

While a professional installer will help you actually mount and install lights, you can get a sense of the vulnerable spots in and around your home by starting off with a walkabout. Keep in mind that most sensors and lights work up to about 50 to 80 feet.

Points where people enter in and out are called “choke-points” and these are most vulnerable to attempted entry. Motion lights should definitely be placed here. You can also place them in hallways.

If you’re using PIR sensors, these rely on heat. So make sure to keep the sensors that trip the light and alarm about 10-15 feet away from heating vents, large windows and floor radiators.

What Else Can You Use Motion Sensors For?

Motion lights and sensors, when used in conjunction with each other, help maximize the utility of each room in your house — as well as its exterior.

But what about some other uses?

    • use lights when entering a bathroom to turn on and off the fan function and a sensor to turn off faucets as a fail safe
    • automatically open and close garage doors as wells light the way to access this area
  • in public spaces such as parking in dark areas, motion lights can make it easier to pay

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