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Installing Motion-sensor Lights

My family would feel more comfortable with some outdoor security lights. Are low-cost, motion-sensing lights a viable alternative for security as compared to traditional floodlights?—Bill F.

Motion-sensing lights are an excellent choice for security in any home. The newer models are reasonably priced and have sensitive, controllable motion sensors and timers. By using motion-sensing security lighting, as compared to using three 150-watt floodlights all night, you will save money on your electric bill.

Nothing scares would-be thieves away faster than having a bright light come on and shine in their eyes. Not only are they instantly blinded, but they think the homeowner has detected them and switched on an outdoor light. With the bright light shining outward, the small motion sensor lens on the light fixture is impossible to see so it looks like an ordinary security light coming on.

There are many styles and types of motion-sensing light fixtures to choose from. The most common and reasonably priced style is the standard two-floodlight design. These look identical to a regular floodlight fixture except there is a motion sensor mounted between the two bulbs.

This style gives you the flexibility of pointing each of the two floodlights in any direction, independent of the motion sensor direction. You may want to point the motion sensor toward a spot where you think intruders may try to sneak through, while lighting a different, larger area when motion is detected.

For even more security, some models include a tiny built-in camera between the two floodlights. The camera lens is mounted on the light fixture immediately below the motion sensor. The camera can be connected to a television or VCR to capture a video image of who or what triggered the motion sensor light.

Many of the lanterns are made of strong, lightweight cast aluminum and painted in one of several standard colors. More decorative ones are made of higher quality polished solid brass with true beveled glass.

Motion-sensing modules are available that use X-10 technology to turn on other lights and appliances inside your house. Plug an X-10 module into a wall outlet, plug the light or appliance into the module, and set its code to the same as the motion-sensing light. It uses your house wiring to carry the signal. When the outside light comes on, followed by an indoor light and a radio or television, for example, a thief will be sure he was seen.

If you would like some low-level accent lighting for when legitimate guests visit your home, but still want security, choose a dual-output model. When you switch on the outdoor light, it comes on at 20-50 percent intensity, depending on the model, of its full brightness. When motion is detected, the light switches on to full brightness for one to 20 minutes depending on how you set the timer.

The angle of motion-sensing coverage and its range vary considerably among the different models. When selecting a light, determine the area of your yard you want to protect. Select a model with the appropriate motion-sensing angle (100-240 degrees) and range (30-100 feet) to cover the area. Most of the better-quality models will have adjustable distance sensitivity so that cars and pedestrians on the street will not trigger the light.

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