Use Sensor Lights to keep your home secure and your family safe
Keep stubbing your toe on that little step near the rubbish bin? Can't find your keys to unlock the front door in the dark? Hear a bump outside in the night? Apprehensive when you walk the dark path between the Garage and Clothes Line at night?
Easily fixed. Install some sensor lights. You will genuinely wonder where they have been all your life. For general ideas on how to improve your outdoor lighting, read "Must have Lighting Tips for Outdoors".
Outdoor Sensor Lights
So 'what exactly are they?' I hear you saying. They are basically a light, like an outdoor
floodlight, designed to light up a backyard or outdoor area, combined with a motion sensor like those used in an alarm system. Using infra-red, the sensor picks up a moving mass and turns on the light. Whether it's you trying to get to the garbage bin, or your teenager coming home late at night, as soon as you walk into the space the light will come on and you will see the path. Keep in mind though, they need to be turned on at the switch for the sensor to turn them on and off.
There are a number of ways they can be used:
- Security. Be aware of anyone sneaking around the house by having the lights come on. Anyone creeping around who shouldn't be there will be suddenly exposed under a spotlight and most likely run away.
- Safety. Protect your big toe from that stubbing and keep your family and friends safe whenever they are traversing a dark space in your outdoor area.
- Convenience. You've procrastinated long enough and you begrudgingly give in to the fact that you have to take the rubbish out to the bin. You get half way outside in the dark and remember you should have turned on the light switch way back there in the Family room. First world problems. So the first world solution is to install sensor lights.
Sensor lights come in a variety of styles, lamp and sensor built in one unit is the most common. Also you can get the spotlights separate from the sensor in case they need to go in different areas, and you can have a lighting control system where they will also be separate but highly programmable.
So to effectively use a sensor light you aim the sensor at the area where the main traffic will start, such as just outside the rear door, or just inside the gate. Then you position the light(s) to light the centre of the path. Sometimes it makes more sense to have a sensor near the door, but the lights further down so they cover the whole of the dark area. This is more effective but will cost a bit more for the electrician to install and wire for.
Most commonly sensor lights are used for patios, sheds, garages, backyards, utility areas, and house perimeters like driveways and side paths. You can't have too many.
Sensor Light Settings
Most common off-the-shelf units will have a few adjustments you'll need to make. The first will be Lux. This is essentially how dark you want it to be before it kicks in and starts turning on the lights. On the highest setting it will likely turn on the light during broad daylight, and on the lowest, it would take a moonless night before it turns on. Obviously we want to set it somewhere in between so that the lights start to turn on around dusk when daylight is almost gone. Getting this setting right may take a few days or weeks of subtle tweaking.
The other setting is simply how long you want the light to stay on. Most types will give you between 5 seconds and 15 minutes. Obviously just set it to your preference. This works on a timer, therefore if motion turns the light on, a timer countdown will start and turn the light off when it has reached 0. If the sensor picks up more motion, it will retrigger the timer to start again. Therefore the light could stay on for half an hour while you are moving around in the area, and only turn off a few minutes after you have left the area and the sensor no longer picks up movement.
Some will also have a sensitivity adjustment. Set it low and it will take an elephant to turn it on, set it too high, and it will go off all the time with insects or even rustling leaves on a tree.
One last feature is the override. This allows you to turn on the light and disable the sensor. If you are entertaining for example, you'll want the light to stay on, not constantly turning off then on again. Although some models vary, this is usually done by turning off the switch, and then turning it straight back on. Once you turn a sensor light off, if you turn it back on within 1 - 2 minutes, it will be in override mode. To reset to sensor mode, just turn it off, wait 2 minutes, then turn it back on again.
Where can I get one I hear you ask? Just about anywhere. All lighting stores and hardware stores will carry a range of sensor lights from $30 to $200.
Smart Lighting / Smart Outdoor Floodlights
Of course if you have a lighting control system like C-Bus or Dynalite, you won't need to worry about waiting 2 minutes, it will be programmed to override from the switch and resume sensor function as soon as you turn the switch off. It can also be programmed to do slightly different things at different times through the night!
There's also an emerging category of 'Smart' flood light. Models like the Sengled Snap connect to your wifi and have a built-in CCTV camera. You can log in on your smartphone to view the camera whether you are home or not, and for a small monthly fee, you can have the camera recording to the cloud so you can review past recordings. Lear more here by reading "A light bulb doesn't have to be just a light bulb". You can buy them here.
If you wanted to get more creative and architecturally appealing, you might consider just getting sensors and having them wired in to general circuits instead of built in to flood lights. Therefore your patio or external downlights from moodLED could be incorporated into the sensor plan. Even 12/24 Volt garden lights could be switched with a sensor.
So there's no rocket science here, just a great and inexpensive way to keep your family safe, secure, and add a little first world convenience to your home.