Security, Safety at Home with Exterior Lighting


Suddenly, it’s October, and . . .

Getting darker much earlier.

Have you noticed?

Solar lights

Controls for motion-activated light

Our streetlights give the minimum legal light as part of our city’s attempt to lessen urban light pollution. That’s fine – but when I come home at night, I want to see the porch steps!  And, I don’t want to imagine someone standing outside looking in.  So we have installed several different night lights.

Hard-wired lights

One big light on the porch stays on all night long (hardwired energy-saver bulb). It’s bright enough that anyone coming up on the porch can see to navigate the steps safely.

In the carport, at the back door, we have a hard-wired motion-activated light. It goes on when we pull in or when anyone walks by.

I like this light!  The bulbs are big and bright (although not energy efficient) and we can adjust and have adjusted everything – direction of the sensor, aim of the lights, etc. In fact, the light is so powerful that we had to restrict its “sensitivity” because it was picking up people walking their dogs on the other side of the street. (It reaches out to 70 feet.)

Battery-operated motion-activated lights

It’s not easy to drill holes and run hard wire everywhere where we want it, so we’ve also tried a variety of small, battery-operated motion-activated lights for other areas around the outside of the house. (Most of these lights have been about the size of a TV remote.)

Some of these worked well, and they were pretty inexpensive ($10-$15). Most, unfortunately, seem to need constant attention, which is a nuisance since we have to get out a ladder to adjust them or replace the batteries. I don’t feel I can recommend any of these.

Solar-powered motion-activated light

So here’s the third option – a rechargeable battery-operated light that gets its power from the sun!

There are three pieces to this light.

First, there’s the solar panel.  It’s a thin-film panel and generates electricity best in bright sunlight, but also even when light is dim or it’s cloudy. Just be sure to mount the panel, which is about 7 ½ in. wide by 6 ½ in. tall, where it won’t be shaded. (Eaves and leaves are tricky this way, and change with the seasons! Check carefully before you decide where to put the panel.) The panel is weather resistant.

Second, the panel comes with 15 ft. of connecting wire.

Third, the light itself. It is made up of the light panel at the top, with 80 LED bulbs, the battery compartment in the middle, and the sensor at the bottom. (There’s another version with 60 LEDs.) The LEDs are powered by the rechargeable battery that has been charged by the solar panel.  (The battery will have to be replaced at some point, hard to say exactly when.  Depends on how often the unit is used.)

The sensor isn’t as powerful as the one on our hard-wired light (adjusts to 30 feet) but works fine for where we want the light.

The light actually has several adjustable components: the bracket that attaches to the wall, the sensor, and on the bottom of the sensor, three control buttons.  (Shown in my photo.)

The first button sets how dark it has to be before the light will go on. The second control sets how long the light will stay on each time it is set off.  The third control adjusts the range of motion detection.  (You may want to start by setting the lighting to a dusk condition at first, so you can set the rest of the controls while you can still see!  Then, readjust to full dark.)

The light was easy for Joe to put up. (I helped by pointing out potential shade!)  We followed the instructions to fully charge the battery before using it for the first time. And so far, it’s worked just as expected.

I consider light a safety feature (for us and for guests). Having some lights that stay on and others that go on also makes the house look “busier” than it might otherwise, which can act as a deterrent to unwanted visitors.

If you could use extra lighting, here are direct links to Amazon for the two lights I’m recommending.  Note that they come in different colors, different wattage, and sometimes have bulbs included and sometimes not. But if you click on a link you’ll get to the right place.

Hard-wired motion activated: Heath-Zenith 180 Degree Motion Activated Security Light with 2-120 Watt Bulbs

Solar-powered motion activated: Sunforce 82080 80-LED Solar Motion Light

And if you have tried some of the small motion-activated lights, and found them satisfactory, please let us know by leaving a comment!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



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  1. Russ