Dear James: We need more security that just the three floodlights we now have. I thought about getting some motion-sensing ones. How difficult is it to install these new lights myself? -- Elaine H.
Dear Elaine: Adding motion-sensing lights is an excellent security option for every home. Many kits are also reasonably priced as compared to installing a fully monitored security system. When a motion-sensing light comes on, a would-be thief has no idea whether he was seen and you switched on a light or it was a motion-sensing light. It should scare him away.
Since you already have floodlights, installing a motion-sensing light kit should be very easy do-it-yourself project for any level of home improvement expertise. You will just remove the floodlight fixture and replace it with the motion-sensing light fixture.
If you would like to install additional motion-sensing fixtures where none now exist, you have two options. You can run an electric line to those locations or install solar-powered fixtures. Running electric lines can be a bit tricky if you have not done it before. Installing a solar-powered fixture requires no wiring and takes only about 15 minutes.
Before you start installing an electric motion-sensing light, make sure to switch off the electric power to that outlet at the circuit breaker box. Don't just turn off the light switch to the light. You or one of your children may accidentally bump it and switch it on. Keep in mind, a 120-volt shock can kill a person. Even if it does not kill you, it will surely make you fall from the ladder.
To make sure you switch off the correct circuit breaker, first switch the floodlight on. When you switch off the correct circuit breaker, the light will go off. As a safeguard, buy an inexpensive voltage tester at your hardware store. Check the wires at the light fixture again with it.
The old floodlight, if it was installed to code, will be mounted to a conduit box. The wires from the light will be attached to the house power by wire nuts. Once you unscrew the old fixture from the conduit box, the wire nuts will be exposed. Unscrew them counterclockwise to remove them and then untwist the wire ends to release the old fixture.
Make sure to carefully read the manufacturer's installation instructions first. Generally, you wrap the wire ends on the new motion-sensing light fixture to the house power wires and secure them with the wire nuts. You should attach black to black and white to white. The ground wire will be either green or have no insulation. Since conduit boxes come in only standard sizes, the mounting screws holes should line up with its holes.
If you have trouble finding motion-sensing light kits to purchase, contact these companies: Heath Zenith, www.heath-zenith.com; Sunforce, www.sunforceproducts.com; Lamson, www.lamson-home.com; and RAB, www.rabweb.com.
Once you have the motion-sensing light installed, all you have to do is adjust the sensitivity. If you are just concerned about the security near your house, lower the sensitivity level so cars driving by or animals running by do not trigger the light to come on. The sensitivity is usually adjusted with a small knob under the sensor.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.