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Troubleshooting Motion Detector Lighting

One of the most affordable and effective components of any home security system is motion detecting outdoor lighting. Installed by a professional electrician, these lights can give you years of reliable service and peace of mind.

But like any part of your household electrical system, problems can arise from time to time. If your outdoor security lights are staying on all the time, not coming on at all or otherwise performing poorly, you can try these simple DIY fixes before calling an electrician.

Take Aim

Most motion detecting light fixtures allow the motion detector to be aimed at a specific area. If your lights are coming on too often, it could be that the sensor is aimed at a nearby street or an area where wildlife roam around at night. If the lights aren't coming on at all, the sensor might be aimed directly at the ground or into the side of the house. Experiment with different sensor positions after dark and walk around in the areas you want to secure to fine-tune your aim.

Don’t Be So Sensitive

Motion detectors also typically come equipped with sensitivity settings. Too sensitive, and something as small as a fly could set it off. Not sensitive enough, and a prowler could come within a few feet of the fixture before it lights up. Locate this setting and fine-tune it to your liking.

Not Too Long, Not Too Short

Another common setting for motion detector lights is a light duration time. This can be as long as 30 minutes, and if your lights are unwittingly set this way, it could give the impression that they stay on all night. A good duration for most security light applications is one to two minutes.

Clean Up Your Act

A dirty sensor can’t detect movement properly. If dirt and dust have accumulated on your motion detector, use a wet rag to wipe it clean, then re-test your lights.

Don’t Interrupt

Security lights can get off-kilter if there are interruptions in the electrical supply, such as power outages, power surges and accidentally flipping light switches or breakers. Sometimes this can result in lights that stay on or off all the time. To reset most motion detecting lights, shut off the power supply at the switch for at least 30 seconds, making sure there’s no motion in front of the sensor during this time. Then turn the light back on and test it to ensure proper function. If there was motion in front of the sensor while the power was off, this may need to be repeated.

Not all motion detector problems can be fixed this easily. If you have persistent problems, storm damage or faulty installation, it’s important to call in your local licensed electricians for a professional evaluation and repair.

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