Motion Detector Exterior Lighting

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, if you have a motion-detecting light anywhere outside your home, you know it’s a great deterrent to both people and critters you might not want skulking around outside your house.

    TOM: And if you don’t have them, well, why not? They’re very easy to install, they’re very affordable and they add a sense of security and peace of mind. Here to tell us about motion-detector lights is This Old House master electrician Scott Caron.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hello, hello. Good to be here.

    TOM: So, what’s your opinion on these things? I imagine you put a lot of them in.

    SCOTT: I love them. I think this light has changed the way that we live outside. Basically, Tom, you walk outside in front of this sensor, that light turns on. It is the coolest thing. I have them all over my house.

    TOM: Now is it a do-it-yourself project to install one?

    SCOTT: Certainly. I mean if you have a fixture, maybe a floodlight that gets turned on by a light switch or a sconce by your backdoor, yeah. Shut the power off, check it – even though you think it’s off, you’ve got to check it – and put it in. It’s just a nice project. They usually come prewired altogether. You have a white wire, a black wire and a green wire, which is the ground.

    LESLIE: Yeah. What are some of the settings on motion-sensor lights, Scott? They won’t just stay on indefinitely, right?

    SCOTT: They have a time setting anywhere from 1 minute to 20 minutes. They also have an override feature on the good ones. You can shut the switch off and on real quick. It’ll keep it on indefinitely.

    TOM: That’s helpful if you’re having, say, a gathering or a party outside and you actually do want the light on.

    SCOTT: Yeah. Or if you’re outside snow-blowing or raking leaves and you don’t want to have to worry about walking too far away from the sensor. Because they also have a sensitivity level. You can pick up anything from a small animal, like a cat. I’ve picked up skunks with mine, I’ve picked up raccoons. And then you can set that a little higher if you’re near a street or you don’t want to pick up those small animals, you can bring the sensitivity up.

    TOM: Now, can you actually adjust these in terms of sort of the field of view so you’re only covering, say, strategic parts of your yard like, say, your driveway so that when you drive it at night, the lights come on?

    SCOTT: Yes. So, it’s more of aiming it and bringing the sensitivity in. Some of them have a 360-degree field of view. Other ones have 180. But it’s basically where you point it and how far and sensitive that sensor is cranked up, more or less.

    TOM: Now, is this, like most electrical products, a situation where quality does count? You can see – you can find really inexpensive ones and you can find really good ones. I guess, maybe, a key difference is durability.

    SCOTT: Yes. We only install one type of sensor. And it’s sold at the electrical supply houses. And the reason why is because it’s proven. If you look at nine electrical supply houses, they pretty much all sell the same one. It’s proven, it’s safe and it works well. I’ve had one in my house now for 20 years. It …

    TOM: Really? One 20 years and it’s still working, huh?

    SCOTT: Yes.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. So, well, it pays to do it once, do it right and you won’t have to do it again. Scott Caron, the master electrician on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    SCOTT: Yep. You’ve got it.

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