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ttiiggy
Premium
join:2001-03-27
Bozeman, MT

Motion sensor lights. Do they all suck?

I have had a number of outdoor motion sensor lights over the years. Some of them seem to be flaky right out of the box. Most don't seem to work well for more than a year or so.

- Won't stay consistent with the length of time that the light stays on: Sometimes 3 or 5 or 10 minutes. That is what the adjuster is for. Sometimes out of the blue, it only stays on for only ~10 seconds and then goes back off. Repeatedly. Turn it off completely for a couple of hours usually seems to reset it.
- Won't stay consistent with the sensitivity of when it does come on: Sometimes I have to dance and wave hands and arms to get it to come on at all. Sometimes it comes on with bugs flying past.

I have heard it said that sensing some heat change is what triggers the light to come on. I can see that having the temperature outside being colder or warmer may have some impact on how well it works. I just wish it was consistent. Sometimes letting the dog out turns on the light and most of the time it doesn't.

I know some (most?) have the trick that you can do with double flipping the switch to make them stay on. I don't regularly use that so I haven't gotten very comfortable with how well that works.

How do I find a BETTER light sensor? Pay for the more expensive one? Doesn't seem to work. Get a metal one instead of plastic? Doesn't seem to work. Get one from a real electrical supply house instead of at LowesDepot? Doesn't seem to work.



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

I have 0 issues with mine. They stay on for as long as they are supposed to, they don't trigger when they don't have to. The dog consistently triggers them, but he's a 85lbs dog...
As you already know they have IR sensors. The amount of IR radiation emitted by your body depends on the amount of clothing you have on. Wear a thick coat and gloves and it won't trigger.
And then there is the mounting angle and height. Some may have adjustable lens for different heights, for others you just tilt the sensor more or less. The manual should describe how to mount them.
For even better consistency there are some with 2 sensors, they also detect movement directly underneath. Cheap $20 units from HD/Lowes...



alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to ttiiggy

I made a thread almost identically titled in the past.

What I ended up doing is wiring it to my porch lights, so when I turn on my porch lights, it turns on the driveway flood lights.
I put some 60W equivalent CFLs in them. Since it's always on at night, the CFLs don't have the warm up issue (it's already warm).

Even when the motion sensor worked, it didn't turn on in time when I arrived in the driveway with my car. By the time it turned on, I was pretty much parked. Then it would turn off if I took too long to get out of the car. It was pretty much annoying, also adding the fact that people walking in front of my house would trigger it on (moving the sensor down would just make it worse for the parking situation).

So now they're always on at night, but with weaker lights, so they're part of the house's exterior lighting. You can see outside, without blinding anyone or annoying the neighbors (constant ON/OFF is more annoying than just ON).

I'm thinking of adding a LIGHT sensor so that they automatically turn ON/OFF at dusk/dawn, or maybe a timer. So far I'm okay with the switch.



shdesigns
Powered By Infinite Improbabilty Drive
Premium
join:2000-12-01
Stone Mountain, GA
Reviews:
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My post lamp is on a sensor. it failed within a year (always on) Has 13w bulb so no big deal.

My porch light is on a timer. It is an Intermetic that is rated for CFL's. Works well except the batts need to be replaced once a year.

Outside the garage and on the back door I have 27-watt, quad-tube CFLs with built in light sensors. Not decorative but they output a lot of light. Search HomerD for 100200112. Cheap Lights of China but works. May use the 42 watt version.
--
Scott Henion

Embedded Systems Consultant,
SHDesigns home - DIY Welder


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to ttiiggy

i wound up using CFL-compatible photocells on my lights and ditched the motion sensors.


averagedude

join:2002-01-30
San Diego, CA
Reviews:
·Cox HSI
reply to ttiiggy

Re: Motion sensor lights. Do they all suck?

For me...yea they pretty much all suck.

I lived in Phoenix for 6+ years, it is hot there.
The "heat" motion sensor didn't work for 10 months out of the year because it could not tell body heat from every thing else that was 90+ deg F at night.

I ended up going with a wall switch electronic timer.



nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
reply to ttiiggy

Motion sensor lights. Do they all suck? - Yes.



pike
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-01
Washington, DC
kudos:3
reply to ttiiggy

said by ttiiggy:

Sometimes out of the blue, it only stays on for only ~10 seconds and then goes back off. Repeatedly. Turn it off completely for a couple of hours usually seems to reset it.

This is a feature, not a bug. Some models have three modes: normal, test, and always on. This is test mode.

Normal: obeys sensitivity and duration settings as selected
Test: useful when tweaking range and sensitivity settings - light only stays on a few seconds so there's no need to wait for the entire cycle when trying new settings
Always on: no explanation necessary

Typically the mode is selected by simply toggling the wall switch the light is connected to. Default is normal. Turn the switch off, then back on to set test mode. Repeat to set always-on. Repeat again (or leave off for about 60 secs) to return to normal.

I don't gamble but a smart bet would be someone in the household is accidentally toggling the wall switch for the motion-sensor light, setting it to test mode.


dandelion
Premium,MVM
join:2003-04-29
Germantown, TN
kudos:5
reply to ttiiggy

I was told by a knowledgeable electrician he had never seen one that worked well.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

said by dandelion:

I was told by a knowledgeable electrician he had never seen one that worked well.

Knowledgeable electrician nunya already posted that they all suck.


Grumpy
Premium
join:2001-07-28
NW CT
Reviews:
·Comcast
·AT&T Yahoo
·Callcentric

4 edits
reply to ttiiggy

I have a half dozen RAB stealth sensors going on 15 years of service with no problems. They ain't cheap, (around $80 or $100 each?) but they've survived New England 4 seasons worth of weather and 21 below zero. Sensitivity to motion, amount of dark required to activate, & duration of light cycle are all adjustable. They also have a long distance unit if so desired.

»www.rabweb.com/productLines.php?···roup=STL

The cheap giant box store $20 sensors - I maybe got a year or two out of them.

I installed them for the convenience of automatic outdoor lighting, but realized later they must surely offer some level of home security as well. You can't walk or drive up to our house without lighting up the yard.

Postscript - It's a fact that at least one of the giant hardware stores has the buying power to demand manufacturers to cheapen specs on certain items. Home Depot & Weber grills is or was one example. HD's Webers have lower quality angle iron atop the burner, which is a spec exclusive to Home Depot Webers. They're $20 cheaper than anywhere else, but cost more when one has to replace the iron earlier than the better spec iron. Another HD glitch - around here HD absolutely does not sell the Shop Vac brand in any manner - no bags, no parts, nothing. I have a pretty good guess why, and that guess leans toward Shop Vac won't play the HD game. Snapper lawnmowers refuses to sell to HD as well. I read an article about this a few years ago. The CEO of Snapper wouldn't bow to their demands to lower price via reduced quality. I'm not painting the entire HD line of goods with one brush, for I have no knowledge of that. I do know that they do sell cheapened specs on certain items though. I believe Makita is in the cheaper spec boat with HD as well. Not sure though.

My point being - if you do decide to go with RAB, perhaps an electrical supply house would be the place to buy it as opposed to HD.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
reply to ttiiggy

Mine work fine. The deer set them off all the time.



OldCableGuy

@planetcr.net

Mine work great, going on 3 years of installation in Iowa. Summer, Winter, doesn't matter... car hits the driveway light is on. Person walks by in the street, light stays off. Person steps in the yard, light comes on. This is the cheapest one that Menards carried on sale for $9.99 one year. Not sure the brand. Never understood why people have so many problems with them... I have never had one die, installed 3 in my life at different homes.

The key is that they're NOT waterproof, so you gotta keep them dry. Mount them directly under the soffit and you're good to go.



alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to Grumpy

said by Grumpy:

It's a fact that at least one of the giant hardware stores has the buying power to demand manufacturers to cheapen specs on certain items.

My problem is that ALL the hardware stores in the area (Home Depot, Reno Depot, Rona, Canadian Tire) only sell Heath Zenith motion sensors, which are all crap.

Then there is this thing at costco



But I don't want that installed over my garage door. It looks like Roberto from Futurama



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

said by alkizmo:

Then there is this thing at costco
[att=1]

But I don't want that installed over my garage door. It looks like Roberto from Futurama
[att=2]

Neither would I. That thing is gross. I bet the designer moonlights as a video game designer.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

Motion sensor lights. Do they all suck? - Yes.

I have 3 units, they all work fine. They turn on as soon as I get within their range (even my dog or deer trigger them), they turn off when there is no movement for 5 minutes. I've had them for 3 years.


nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12

3 years isn't exactly a test of longevity.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey

One of my Heath-Zenith (I think) lights is working fine after 7 years.


Spensergig
Past my Prime
Premium,MVM
join:2000-03-26
Bradenton, FL
reply to shdesigns

said by shdesigns:

My post lamp is on a sensor. it failed within a year (always on) Has 13w bulb so no big deal.

My porch light is on a timer. It is an Intermetic that is rated for CFL's. Works well except the batts need to be replaced once a year.

Outside the garage and on the back door I have 27-watt, quad-tube CFLs with built in light sensors. Not decorative but they output a lot of light. Search HomerD for 100200112. Cheap Lights of China but works. May use the 42 watt version.

A bit off-topic, but...
I have the same timer, I think, set to operate 4 CFLs for nighttime lighting. (Total is about 50 watts.)
On at dusk, off at 11:00 pm, on at 5:00 am, off at dawn.
I installed the timer 11/29/2008, and just replaced the battery yesterday.
Had a hard time finding the replacement battery I had on hand - The original was dated for 2006 when I bought the timer, so I called Intermatic back then and bitched until they sent me a fresh one. I wonder what the shelf life of the replacement is.


nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
Reviews:
·Charter
·voip.ms
·surpasshosting
reply to Bob4

I had 2 Heath Zenith at my own house die after 1 day and 3 months, respectively. But spouting personal experience really doesn't change the fact that, yes, pretty much all of the motion detector lights these days are Chinese pieces of shit that suck butt.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online

Maybe you wired them wrong.


Badonkadonk
Premium
join:2000-12-17
Naperville, IL
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Dish Network

He said Heath Zenith, not Apple.

We've had good luck with the Heath Zenith stuff. At our prior house it was still going strong after 5 years. We have one in our present house that is going on 11 years and was here before we got here.

I'd get another one, which we probably will soon since we're remodeling and want something newer and nicer. The problem we have is that they don't come in more designs than they do.
--
Awesome. More handouts, food stamps, welfare and entitlements to come. I'm so proud.

Expand your moderator at work


shdesigns
Powered By Infinite Improbabilty Drive
Premium
join:2000-12-01
Stone Mountain, GA
Reviews:
·EarthLink
·Comcast
·Atlantic Nexus
reply to Spensergig

Re: Motion sensor lights. Do they all suck?

said by Spensergig:

A bit off-topic, but...
I have the same timer, I think, set to operate 4 CFLs for nighttime lighting. (Total is about 50 watts.)
On at dusk, off at 11:00 pm, on at 5:00 am, off at dawn.
I installed the timer 11/29/2008, and just replaced the battery yesterday.
Had a hard time finding the replacement battery I had on hand - The original was dated for 2006 when I bought the timer, so I called Intermatic back then and bitched until they sent me a fresh one. I wonder what the shelf life of the replacement is.

Mine uses an AAA battery. Just checked the manual and it said it lasts 1.5 years.
--
Scott Henion

Embedded Systems Consultant,
SHDesigns home - DIY Welder


rosco35
Premium
join:2003-11-10
USA
kudos:1
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

Then there is this thing at costco
[att=1]

But I don't want that installed over my garage door. It looks like Roberto from Futurama
[att=2]

haha looks just like him!

Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to Badonkadonk

said by Badonkadonk:

The problem we have is that they don't come in more designs than they do.

Heath Zenith has wireless motion sensors that can be used with a matching wireless receiver switch to control any incandescent lamp you want.

Badonkadonk
Premium
join:2000-12-17
Naperville, IL
kudos:5

Yeah, I've seen those. They don't look quite as nice as I like. They seem to add bulk.
--
Awesome. More handouts, food stamps, welfare and entitlements to come. I'm so proud.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey

I'm talking about this - »www.amazon.com/Heath-Zenith-SL-6···0QSL92Y/


Badonkadonk
Premium
join:2000-12-17
Naperville, IL
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Dish Network

Thanks. Looks a little hit or miss in terms of quality.

Still, I like the brand. The law firm I used to work for represented the company in a lawsuit against a patent infringer. We won and so the firm members got to take home free lights that were used during the trial. Since then I've generally been a fan.
--
Awesome. More handouts, food stamps, welfare and entitlements to come. I'm so proud.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
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reply to Bob4

If you want your motion sensor light controls to function a long time do not point them into direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will fry the infrared sensor and photocell. This also holds true for stand alone photocells. I learned that fact from personal experience. Most commercial outdoor lighting installers point photocells north where possible. If you need to point a motion sensor east or west mount them as high as possible then point the sensor down toward the area to be covered. I you can, place some kind of a sun shield above the sensor. When you select a sensor look at the specification on the plastic housing. If it says incandescent only it cannot be used with florescent lights. Look for a sensor that has a florescent or tungsten rating. They use a relay to control the associated light.