How to Install Exterior Motion Sensor Lights

A modern house sits on a hill in twilight.
  • 2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 65
What You'll Need
A new motion sensor light
Voltage tester
Wire strippers
Needlenose pliers
Electrical tape
Wire nuts
Clear silicone caulk

Exterior motion sensor lights are a benefit for any homeowner. They provide security and peace of mind, as well as acting as a safety feature. When the automatic sensor picks up movement, the light is triggered, illuminating dark spaces to show potential dangers, like ice or other obstacles. These lights are a great investment for people coming and going at night, or even just to ease your worry when you hear a strange sound outside. You don't have to be an experienced handyman to install them yourself, either. With some basic tools and a bit of time, you can add some strategically placed motion sensor lights to your home.

Choose the Type of Light

Floodlights are common for exterior use on garages, homes and other buildings. These lights provide ample illumination and are usually able to adjust to the desired position.

Decorative motion sensor lights come in a wide variety of styles and finishes, so you can match them to your existing décor.

Prep for the New Light

Turn off the power to the circuit at the circuit breaker in the fuse box. This is the single most important step you will take during this project, so don’t ignore it.

Remove the old light if necessary, and ensure the junction box that contains the wiring is secured to the house.

Use the voltage tester to make sure the power is still off.

Wire the Fixture

Run motion sensor light wires through the cover plate gasket.

Connect wires from the new light fixtures to the existing house wires, per manufacturer’s instructions.

Use wire nuts to connect neutral, hot and ground wires. Neutral wires are white; hot wires are black, and ground wires are green or bare copper. Use the electrical tape as necessary for added security on the wire connectors.

Mount the Fixture

Once wires are secure, attach the fixture to the junction box using a screwdriver and the screws provided.

If necessary, apply clear silicone caulking around the top of the junction box. Don’t apply it around the bottom, so if water does get in, it can escape.

Position the Sensor

Adjust the sensor to the desired field of view.

Set the Controls

Locate the controls under the sensor box.

Use the controls to preset the distance range for the sensor and timer and automatic shut-off for the light.

Test the New Light

Turn the circuit back on at the fuse box to supply power to the new light.

Test the new light by activating the sensor.

Adjust the sensor or controls as necessary.