How to Install an Outdoor Security Light

Replacing your existing yard lights with ones that contain motion sensors will not only enhance security but provide needed illumination automatically when you come home at night.

Since this DYI project involves some basic electrical work, it is a good idea to check any bare wires with a voltage tester before handling them.

To replace your existing outdoor security light fixture:

  1. Start by turning on the existing yard light and making sure it is working.
  2. Turn off the circuit breaker to the fixture and check to be sure the light has gone off.
  3. Remove the old light fixture and unscrew the wire nuts holding the wires together in a counterclockwise direction.
  4. Attach a bracket to the box to accommodate the center mounting point of the new fixture.
  5. Pair each wire in the new fixture with the same color wire from the box, and screw on wire nuts in a clockwise direction to hold them in place. Be sure to ground the fixture as well.
  6. Attach the fixture to the box, using the rubber gasket include with it to provide a waterproof seal.
  7. Set the sensitivity and duration of the motion sensor.

Further Reading


  1. Installed 2 motion type Zenith SL-5316 halogen lights 1 yesr ago – nothing but problems, first sensor, then both fixtures needed new lamps variously three time in one year. Not reliable at all. What is the most reliable and best quality manufacturer of outdoor under eve flood lighting? Money is NO OBJECTY -We need top of the line reliability for both the fixture and the lamp itself. Can you help?? Bill

  2. I also installed a motion sensor set of floodlights, not as high quality as yours but I too have had a lot of headaches with it. The most serious is that the pattern of motion detection is bizarre and unpredictable. The best detection pattern I can get is something like the shape of a bow tie; with narrow areas on ether side and a big V-shaped zone in the middle where it doesn’t detect motion at all. You can walk right up to it and not trip the sensor. What a waste of time and money! In any case, I’d also like advice on type and brand of security light. Thanks, David

  3. We saw you endorse a yard/security light on the Weather Channel. What attracted our attention is there’s a light at Home Depot that doesn’t come on every time the wind blows. Can you tell us the name of the light? The clerks at Home Depot don’t have a clue.

  4. Do you know of any brand of movement activated spotlight which does not require hardwiring by an electrician. We used to have one which had a power plug on the end of the lead but can now only find one with a bayonet adaptor. Since the shed we want to put it on has power points but no lighting and is over 10 metres from the house it is impossible to reach a bayonet fitting on the verandah (and anyway it is already in use). We have had a pretty high quote from an electrician to take a line under ground. Grateful for any info. I am in Western Australia.

  5. Check with Hubbell…they make Hubbell Lights, Kim Lights, etc. Intermatic (Malibu) and Home Depot stock are very unreliable. Try calling Walter’s in Costa Mesa, Calfornia for direction.

  6. I was looking for the response to Bill Gillroy’s question from March 9th, 2008 at 8:48 pm. I am having nothing but problems with outdoor motion lights. One of these is 30 up in the air. I really want a high quality light that will work for years.


  7. Motion detectors are a waste of time and money.

    Your best bet is to get a cheap dusk to dawn florescent bulb like a 18 watt bulb that is for sub zero temps rated. It should put out around 100watts of bright white light. They are basically maintenance free. Why have a intruder even come up to your property? They don’t like light and will avoid it all costs and choose a dark house. Good Luck!

  8. Please help me. I have a couple motion detector lights around my house which work some of the time and if the wind blows they are on all night. Can you please suggest a high quality completely dependable light?
    I need to by my garage, one on each side, one by four entries and three more around dark areas of my home.
    Thank you kindly.

  9. I have the same experience as others on this blog. What is the best product recommended for outdoor lighting – I’m ready for dawn to dusk models, since none of the Home Depot/Lowe’s products are reliable. I’m getting tired of going up and down the ladder!!

  10. I recently installed my second motion detector with dual 300 watt lamps. The product is “home Land Security Lighting” and cost $26. I have them mounted at 3 corners of my home. However, the front garage set of lights seem to go quickly. The other two corners work fine, but this is the second time within months that the front garage security lights remain on all evening. The first set of lights I had installed by an electrician who had to run electric in my attic. Another fault is that I did not have him install a manual switch in the garage to shut it off. Now, I have to inactivate the breaker switch which shuts down other critical power needed. Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble too long. Bottom line, why do the lights remain activated by the motion detector. This set of lights only worked nicely for approximately 30+ days…..? HELP!

    • Hi Ronald,
      It’s possible that the senor is defective and will need to be replace, but try adjusting the sensitivity and length of time the light stays on first. Good luck with your project!

  11. We have two rather hi quality motion lights, they detect motion just fine and work well. The issue is very strange, whenever we turn on a light switch for something else, such as the pantry switch the one light comes on in our backyard, the other light is outside our garage, and whenever I turn on that inside light switch that motion light comes on….what gives???

    • Hi Dennis,
      Assuming the other lights you’re turning on don’t control the outside light as well, that is odd. You might try adjusting the sensitivity of the motion lights, or contact the manufacturer to see if they have any suggestions.

  12. I have a question. If I have a flood light connect to a light switch and change it out for a sensor light. Will I have to leave that light switch on all the time for the sensor light to be able to work? Or will it work with out the switch turned off?

    • Hi Anthony,
      If the light is controlled by the switch, you would have to leave the switch on for the light to work. However, you could remove the switch and connect the wires so it’s permanently on. Good luck with your project!

  13. We got a security light installed when we first moved into our home more than five years ago and we’ve been considering replacing it with a new fixture. It is great that the gasket makes a waterproof seal on the light, especially since it rains a lot. We may have a professional install it to make sure everything is done correctly.


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