The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Choosing Outdoor Security Lighting: Motion Sensors Vs. Dimmers

Everybody wants their home to be a safe place, a secure haven free from the threat of crime. But figuring out the best way to light your home for security can be confusing.
Homeowners often ask me about outdoor security lighting that’s triggered by motion sensors — particularly whether it’s the best choice for protecting their property.

“That’ll light up the whole property nicely, right? Intruders won’t stand a chance!” It’s a simple assumption, and one that homeowners have relied on for many years — but there are other options out there.

Here’s a little insight into two outdoor security lighting options to help you choose what’s best for you.

What Is Motion Sensor Lighting?

Outdoor security lighting is beautiful and keeps your property safe


Science break! There are two types of motion sensors: active and passive. One example of active motion detection: a store’s security system, which shoots a beam of light across a room into a sensor — and when someone breaks the beam, the sensor detects the change and sounds an alarm.

Most motion sensor lighting is the passive sort and can “see” motion by detecting shifts in infrared energy. When a sensor attached to an outdoor lighting fixture senses a change in the environment — especially warmer objects such as people, animals and cars — it triggers the light.

When homeowners think about security lighting, they typically think about a big floodlight that roars on when triggered by movement outside the house.

Need Outdoor Security Lighting? Here’s The Problem With Motion Sensors

It’s easy to assume that any potential criminal runs away scared when that bright light turns on, alerting homeowners to a threat outside. Well…not exactly.

Remember when car alarms first came out? Everybody thought as soon as your car alarm started screeching, it would instantly scare off whoever was trying to break in.

But soon, everyone’s cars were equipped with car alarms, and they were suddenly going off all over the place, for no reason. Now, nobody pays attention. They’re just an annoyance.

It’s the same thing with motion sensor lighting — particularly inexpensive, DIY motion sensor lighting. First, the dog walks by and sets it off. Then a strong wind triggers it. And soon, nobody notices.

When To Install Motion Sensor Landscape Lighting

People ask for motion sensor lights all the time. We’re happy to give the customers what they want.

But when we do install them, it’s more likely to be for the homeowner’s convenience than to deter burglars. Maybe there’s a zone in back of the house where they take out the trash. They decide it would be nice to have a light go on while they pass through, and then turn off. They don’t want that light on all the time.

What Is Dimmable Lighting?

Keeping landscape lighting on dimmers 24/7 means your outdoor security lighting is beautiful, tooDimmable lighting is exactly what it sounds like: outdoor lighting with brightness that’s easily controlled by timers. Dimmable landscape lighting creates a wash of illumination, without disturbing neighbors with sudden blasts of bright light.

Here’s a possible scenario for landscape lighting on dimmers: Maybe you have your lights on full power until 10 p.m. or so. Then they dim by 40 percent. At midnight, they dim another 20 percent. And at dawn, the landscape lighting turns off completely to let the sun do its job until night falls again.

Dimmable Lights For Outdoor Security Lighting

A well-lit home won’t be a target for criminals. They want to break in undetected, not lit up in a soft, golden glow. A home that’s beautifully lit all the time — whether it’s 9 p.m. or 2 a.m. — will still be bright enough to deter anyone looking to intrude, be they burglars or just annoying trespassers.

And when you get up at 3 a.m. to get a glass of water, you can look out the window and see your property lit in a soft outline. Security can be beautiful! With good downlighting and moonlighting effects, you can create security and ambiance simultaneously.

Balance Beauty and Safety With Your Outdoor Security Lighting

A well-designed lighting system can work any way you want it to work.

Ready to beautify your home and add a sense of safety and security at the same time? Need help deciding which outdoor security lighting is best for your landscape? Call us at (801) 440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or fill out our simple contact form.

Located in Sandy, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah serves customers throughout Utah’s residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper and Holladay. Our outdoor lighting portfolio includes projects from Salt Lake County and Utah County, to Davis County and Summit County — and beyond.

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