A couple of months ago, we had a scare. Upon returning home from a walk with our dog, Lilo, we noticed a strange, moving shadow in our backyard. My husband, Scott, opened our back door and saw the silhouette of a man walk out of our gate and disappear into the night. Even though Scott managed to scare him away, it still left us a bit shaken up.

Soon after, we started getting quotes for a home security system. The home security companies could put in safeguards inside and out, but we also wondered what we could do on our own to complement the system. Motion-activated lights looked to be a great option.

Unlike fixed security lights, these are activated by motion detectors and stay on for a short amount of time. This will save you on electricity costs and also serve as a cue that there is activity outside. Motion lights also are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and do not require a monthly fee. Plus, they have an added advantage of providing safer walk-ways by lighting up dark spaces when you come home at night.



Decide on the best location for installation. Think walkways, stairs, pools and dark corners of the yard. You will want to position the lights so that the motion detector will detect movement across the sensitivity zone and not movement toward it. Keep in mind that the sensors do not necessarily have to go where the lights are. You can often install remote sensors in various areas and then connect them to the lights.

Installation can be relatively simple, and motion light kits will have instructions for how to install. If you have existing lights, you can replace them with motion lights to limit electrical work with installation. When you begin, make sure to turn off the electricity to the areas you are working with. Use a voltage meter to ensure the power is off.

If you are replacing existing lights, this will require matching wires. If you had older lights previously installed, they may not have matching wires. In this case, use the voltage meter to detect positive and negative charges to match. Make sure to follow manufacturer instructions carefully. This may include caulking around the wall plate to create a seal around the box. If you do not have existing lights where you would like to install, if you have an older electrical box, or if you are uncomfortable in any way installing yourself, consult a professional electrician.

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