Quick Instructions for Installing an Outdoor Motion Sensing Light

November 2, 2011 | by Ethan (email) |

I’ve mentioned my friend Bj before. He’s the same guy that shared his experience with the Stōk Quattro grill, and about a week ago he told me that he discovered some lurker in his backyard with a ladder! Initially BJ was stunned by the stranger who obviously intending on climbing up to the second story balcony. After recovering, BJ phoned the police as the intruder ran off with the ladder. BJ later found footprints on his balcony. How scary is that?! It turns out the local police have had lots of call about this guy as he attempts the same thing at other houses in the neighborhood.

BJ asked me to help install a new motion sensor light in his backyard, and I was glad to help out. I’ll walk you through a short recap of the installation, but first I wanted to poll you readers for additional backyard safety tips. What do you guys do to keep creepy-ladder-guys away from your house? Have you ever done a home security assessment? What further home safety advice can you offer?

Installing a Motion Sensor Flood Light

Motion sensor lights are a great crime deterrent because no one wants to do their burgling where people can see them.

Installing the new flood light was relatively easy because we replaced an existing fixture which means we didn’t need to run new electric or add a new electrical box. Keep in mind that you should flip the appropriate breaker before beginning any electrical work.

This is what the old light looked like.

Removing a couple screws revealed the mounting bracket and wiring.

We put up the new mounting bracket, a foam gasket for protection from the elements, and wired everything together.

Take care not to barehand the halogen light bulbs as the oils from your hand can cause them to burn out prematurely.

The only oddity to this project was the outdoor light was controlled by two different switches located about 5 feet apart. They were 3-way switches with 14/3 wire between them. As a work around, I removed one switch, hard-wired everything, and installed a 1 gang wall plate. For the other switch, I replaced the 3-way switch with a typical 15 amp switch. I left the spare wire between the two switches unconnected and capped with wire nuts.

10 Responses
  1. paintergal says:

    Whoa- that is creepy. We live in a small rural town. It’s pretty safe. But coming from larger community, we still are cautious.
    I thought it was interesting how you explained the wiring of the light fixture. I actually (partially) understood it! My husband wired a 3-way switch incorrectly and his father (an electrician) fixed it for him.
    Hey, why is it called a 3-way switch when there are only two light switches? That’s one I don’t get. 🙂

    • Joe says:

      Its a three way switch because you hook three wires up to it. A 4 way switch goes between two three way switches, and takes 4 wires… you can have any number of 4 way switches you want in between the two end three way switches.

  2. If I was BJ, I’d be getting a huge dog or alarm system. That’s freaky. Pretty bold of a person to carry a ladder around at night. It would look super suspicious to anyone who saw him on the street.

    One thing I’d like to add is if someone is looking to get a motion activated light, make sure it is rated to use CFLs if you want to use those. Some are not rated for them and will burn out the sensor/timing circuit. In your case, with halogens, that’s not a concern.

  3. Icarus says:

    Wow that is bold. My low tech security system is leaving a radio on when I leave for the night on weekends.

  4. Joe says:

    That is creepy. At this point I just make sure the doors are locked.

    Thankfully I actually talk with my neighbors, so hopefully they would notice something going on.

  5. MissFixIt says:

    a ladder ? was it one of those small retracting ones that collapse into itself? They’re expensive but very portable and less obvious to others. Look I just gave a crook an idea. haha Maybe you guys could install some wireless night vision cameras. Expensive but maybe you could do a review on them.

  6. paintergal says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Joe.

  7. BJ Buracker says:

    Creepy, indeed. I was flabbergasted when it happened. And no, it wasn’t a small ladder. It was an extension ladder, and I’m guessing about 10 ft when retracted. Very odd experience.

    However, Ethan’s great job of installing this light has made us feel quite protected. The light really illuminates our entire backyard. We haven’t taken the time to fully align everything yet, and we’re already very pleased.

    Thanks, again, E!

    • MissFixIt says:

      Thats great glad you guys feel more safe. Its funny how crooks are afraid of light are they vampires too? Hope that guy gets caught for others peoples safety in your neighborhood.

  8. JustME says:

    Yikes! When we lived in Omaha we once had a robber that the police were after hide in my car in our driveway. A neighbor had heard the news of police hunt through the cemetery that surrounded two sides of our neighborhood and called me to tell me he was headed to our door. Praise the Lord because I would have opened the door to him. The cops soon came to our door and found him via his footprints in the snow.
    We now live in the country and have a raised back deck with two full glass french doors leading into our home and a sleeping porch off the master suite with a full glass door. I about freaked when I realized my hubby had left our extension ladder laying against the back of our home. We may live in the country now, but there’s a very busy highway not far from our home. The ladder is now in the locked garage. We do have a motion light though.
    Personally I don’t think one can do better to deter crooks than a barking dog. Maybe there should be a motion detector that sets off the sound of a barking dog from speakers inside the home.

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