Motion-Sensing Lights

Motion sensors, either built into a light fixture or retrofitted as an add-on to a bulb socket, are usually associated with outdoor applications. And they work well for that purpose. Before motion-sensing lights were invented, homeowners wishing for greater security outside their homes were forced into leaving on outdoor lights all night to illuminate garages, barns, and back doors. That burned up a lot of electricity. Now motion detectors can provide you with illumination when you need it and allow for energy-saving darkness when you don't.

Outdoor lights that come on suddenly due to an activation of the motion sensor can also surprise and thus deter thieves. When someone is caught in the beam of a suddenly illuminated landscape, he or she doesn't know whether the light came on because of a motion sensor or because someone has flicked on a floodlight switch.

Motion-sensing lights can also alert a homeowner that an intruder is passing through a yard. It might only be a neighbor's cat, but sometimes the backyard light suddenly coming on can reveal unexpected occurrences. Virtually any exterior lighting fixture can be upgraded to motion-sensor light status with a simple adapter.

Another benefit to installing motion-sensing lights outside your home is the safety they can provide in lighting your way as you walk to and from your garage. The lights allow you to become aware of any potentially dangerous circumstances and also to illuminate walkways and sidewalks so you can avoid obstructions.

Motion-sensing lights are increasingly making their way inside the home as well. They're handy for places like the landing area at a back door, where you might often enter with your hands full. Closets and pantries are also good candidates for motion-sensor light adapters. You're usually bringing something into or removing something from those areas, so trying to switch on or switch off an overhead light can be challenging. And since the light is only on when you're in those specific areas, the bulb doesn't burn for any longer than necessary -- and that saves electricity.

Zolton Cohen.  "How to Conserve Energy at Home".  May 16, 2006  http://home.howstuffworks.comhow-to-conserve-energy-at-home6.htm  (October 18, 2007)


Low-Voltage Exterior Lighting

If you'd like your outdoor landscape to be illuminated at night for safety or for aesthetic reasons, there are ways to do it that don't require much electrical power. One product that is popular for such applications is low-voltage lighting.

While low-voltage lights won't illuminate the entire side of a house or reach to the deepest stretches of a lot like a line-voltage system (120 volts) can, they can guide the way up front steps or along a walkway, or they can accent a landscape feature without making the electric meter spin too rapidly. Another benefit is that, because they are dimmer than line-voltage systems, they don't contribute to light pollution, and neighbors are unlikely to complain that the downward-facing lights keep them awake at night.

Many low-voltage outdoor lighting systems operate at 12 volts, which makes the installation safe for use when children or pets are around. There is no shock hazard should a wire get cut accidentally. Because the lights can be easily moved around the yard, you can change the display to suit the season, adding or subtracting lights as needed. For even better energy performance, putting the system on a timer turns off the lights when they aren't likely to be needed and on when they are.

Solar-powered landscape lights, which cost nothing to operate, are also available. Installation involves pushing the support stake into the ground. Each light is equipped with a small solar panel on top and a rechargeable battery and bulb inside. The panel charges the battery during the day, and the light stays on all night. Some solar landscape lighting is equipped with bright and high-efficiency LED (light emitting diode) lights for lower energy consumption, durability, and longer-lasting performance.

Zolton Cohen.  "How to Conserve Energy at Home".  May 16, 2006  http://home.howstuffworks.comhow-to-conserve-energy-at-home6.htm  (October 18, 2007)