From Spotlight: Homeowner’s Guide to Smart Home Tech

Motion Sensor Lights: Safety and Security Indoors and Out

Motion sensor lighting in and around your house provides an automated, hands-free way to turn lights on and off.

Image: Stephen Barnes/Getty

Motion sensor lights are eager helpers and good little guardians. For example, they illuminate the way to your front door when you pull into your driveway, light hallways when you get up at night, and turn on lamps when you enter a room. Plus, they provide home safety and home security, powering up exterior floodlights if someone tries to trespass after dark.

Just as important, motion sensor lights can save you money on energy bills. They dutifully turn themselves off after you’ve entered your home or left a room. Light-sensing diodes keep them from switching on during daylight.

Plug-and-Play Lighting Solutions

Many motion sensor lights don’t require elaborate setups or wiring. They simply plug into any wall outlet. You can mount battery-operated types onto your walls using adhesives, magnets, or screws. 

Sylvania’s High-Output LED Night Light has a sensor that only activates when its dark, providing energy savings. You can set it to illuminate at 10 Lumens, for ambient light. For more task-oriented lighting, change the setting to 100 Lumens. Cost: $13.

Related: Lighting Isn't Cheap: Here's How to Do It Right

Put a Sensor on Anything

If you want a lamp in your living room to turn on automatically when you walk in, a sensor is the solution. The Westek MLC4BC Indoor Plug-in Motion Activated Light Control plugs into a lamp or other device. It detects motion in a 100-degree radius and within 25 feet. Cost: about $16.

Sun Power

You don't need wiring to install the Defiant 1000 Lumens Solar Motion Light, a dual head LED motion-activated light. That makes it suitable for remote areas or places without power. The light runs on solar energy stored in rechargeable batteries for use at night, when motion activates the light. Because it provides illumination up to 1000 Lumens, it can illuminate a driveway or patio. Cost: $55.

Home Automation Sensors

Home automation systems, like those based on X10 and Z-Wave technology, are great for controlling your thermostat and home entertainment center. They're also useful for home security. Linked to motion sensor lights, your home automation system can send a signal to turn lights on when triggered by a timer or your smartphone.

The X10 MS16A Active Eye Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Motion Sensor is available for $19.

The HomeSeer HSM200 Z-Wave Multi-Sensor senses motion, temperature, and light level. You can program it to display up to seven colors when certain things happen in your home. The unit operates from a power line, not batteries. It works as a repeater for a Z-Wave network. Cost: $47.

Les Shu

Les Shu A writer covering the latest technologies and trends for a variety of national publications, Les Shu is currently automating his home with the newest doodads to make it smarter than he is.