Outdoor illumination keeps the home visible at night and helps deter crime, but leaving the lights on all night is a costly waste of energy. Motion sensor lights are a great solution, only turning on when they detect movement.
For those considering installing outdoor motion sensor lights, the best options for you depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, your security needs, and your day-to-day lifestyle. Ahead, this article will shine a light on the features to look for and showcase some of the best outdoor motion sensor light options available.
- BEST OVERALL: URPOWER Solar Lights Outdoor, Motion Sensor Lights
- BEST BUDGET: Mr. Beams Wireless Battery-Operated Motion Sensor LED Spotlight
- BEST SMART: Ring Smart Lighting Outdoor Motion-Sensor Light
- BEST FLUSH-MOUNT: Lineway Ceiling Light Motion Sensor LED
- BEST DECORATIVE: TOBUSA Motion Sensor Outdoor Wall Lantern
- BEST FLOODLIGHTS: LEONLITE LED Motion Sensor Flood Lights
- BEST LIGHT BULBS: Sengled Motion Sensor Flood Lights Light Bulbs
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Motion Sensor Light
When looking for a motion detector light, factor in your individual needs, such as how far away you want the light to detect movement, how bright you want it to be, and the energy source you’ll use.
Motion detection systems can have a variety of power sources including plug-in electric, battery-powered, solar-powered, and hardwired.
- Plug-in electric motion sensor lights can either get power through a standard power cord that is plugged into a nearby outlet, or bulb-style motion sensor lights can screw into a regular light fixture to get power.
- Battery-powered motion sensor lights rely on disposable or rechargeable batteries for energy. Lights that run on disposable batteries aren’t common, with most manufacturers seeing the benefit in rechargeable batteries. Just plug them in for a short period of time and the motion sensor light can run for days or even weeks without charging.
- Solar-powered motion sensor lights collect solar energy from direct and indirect sunlight, storing the energy until the light needs to be used at night. These lights are effective and the user doesn’t need to worry about connecting them to a power source or recharging the batteries, though they may not be able to produce the same intensity of light as the other types of motion sensor lighting.
- Hardwired motion sensor lights are connected directly to the home’s electrical system. These lights are difficult to install and may require a professional electrician, but the lights are not limited by battery power or stored energy. However, if the power goes out to the home, this will also affect the motion sensor lights.
Brightness and Color Temperature
Brightness is measured in lumens (lm) and generally ranges from just 200 lumens to over 2,000 lumens for a motion sensor light. To better understand this, 200 lumens is about the brightness produced by a standard flashlight, while 2,000 lumens is enough to illuminate a small room. Light color temperature refers to the color the light produces and is measured on a Kelvin (K) scale. It ranges between 3,000K (warm white) and 6,500K (daylight).
The light produced by an outdoor motion sensor lighting system differs depending on the product. Both the brightness and the color temperature can be different between products, and some motion sensor lights have multiple brightness and color temperature levels, allowing the user to choose the ideal setting.
Range of Detection
The distance at which a motion sensor can pick up movement is called its range of detection; typically, it’s listed on the package or description. Most motion sensors can detect movement from 20 to 100 feet away. In addition to distance, make note of the light’s detection angle, measured in degrees, which will let you know the span of the detection field.
Direct-wired motion sensor lights are often mounted at or above door height on exterior walls and may come with one or more spotlights that can be adjusted depending on the area you want to illuminate. These types of lights typically have the greatest range of detection, up to 100 feet, and can be set to illuminate large areas of a yard or driveway.
Decorative wall-mounted motion sensor lights are designed to look like standard porch lights and, when triggered, will illuminate approximately the same area as a standard porch light. Decorative motion sensor lights often have a closer range of detection than their spotlight-type cousins.
While durability may not seem that important for a light that will be mounted on a wall or ceiling, users need to take into consideration that these lights are intended for security purposes. This means that you want the fixture to be durable in case an intruder is startled by the light and decides to take a swing at it.
The light can also be damaged by the impact of the ground if it’s knocked from the mount or dropped while the user changes batteries or attempts to connect the light to a power source. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to invest in a motion sensor light with a high degree of durability.
The purpose of a motion sensor light is to provide a level of security to the home by reacting to nearby motion and illuminating the intruder in bright, blinding light. However, this doesn’t mean the home needs to look like a high-security outpost. Choose between a variety of different motion sensor light styles to find one that matches or complements the aesthetic of the home.
Flush mount lights are great for covered porches because they are typically mounted to the ceiling. There the lights are mostly out of sight rather than being clearly visible to potential intruders.
Lantern lights are another good option for the exterior of the home. This is because they look like regular porch lights that have been left off, but when someone approaches, they activate, adding an additional sense of surprise and possibly giving the impression that someone is home and very much aware of the trespasser.
There are a handful of other features to look out for while shopping. Consider the following extras when choosing an outdoor motion sensor light:
- Auto-reset: Because they interrupt the electricity flow, power surges can affect direct-wired motion sensor lights, causing the light to come on and stay on, or remain off. With an auto-reset feature, the light will reset itself automatically after a surge. The alternative is to manually shut the power off for half a minute and then turn it back on to reset the unit.
- Adjustable illumination coverage: Multiple spotlight-type motion-sensing lights can be adjusted to illuminate more than one area. Some lights come with adjustable heads that allow you to direct light in a narrow beam or a broad illumination pattern.
- Adjustable sensitivity: To minimize nuisance triggering, such as the light turning on when leaves are blowing, some models let you tweak the sensitivity, so only strong, solid motion will be detected.
- Adjustable light duration: This lets you adjust the length of time the light remains on. The option is found more often on direct-wired lights because once the light goes on, it can quickly drain a battery or a solar cell if it remains on for longer than 30 seconds.
The mounting location of an outdoor motion sensor light can vary depending on the specific product, the home, and the ideal placement according to the user. Typically a motion sensor light is mounted on a wall or ceiling near an entrance to the home, including the front door, side door, back door, and garage. The light should be mounted about 6 to 10 feet off the ground for optimal coverage.
Some products can only be mounted to a ceiling, while others can be mounted in just about any orientation. Under-eave installations can be a good idea to help ensure that the light is high enough to avoid tampering and placed in an area that is difficult to see at night.
Our Top Picks
This list of top products was selected based on the power source, brightness, range of detection, overall quality, and several additional factors mentioned above to help you find the best outdoor motion sensor light to protect the home.
These URPOWER motion-sensor lights charge in 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. Once charged, their internal batteries pump out enough juice to cast bright illumination that lasts 30 seconds after movement is detected within 10 feet of their astute motion sensors.
A good choice for those who come home at night and dread stumbling through the dark, the URPOWER four-pack enables you to add visibility to every step from the driveway to the front door.
- Lights charge in 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight
- Come on for motion within 10 feet
- Lights stay on for 30 seconds after detecting movement
- Four-pack to add light to steps, entries, and paths
- User must install on flat surface, but lights come with screws
No sun and no electrician necessary! Because the Mr. Beams Wireless Spotlight is powered by three D-cell batteries, you can install it virtually anywhere—on a fence, the garage, a storage shed, or even on a tree—and have light right where you want it. Batteries last a long time in this low power-consumption model (up to 12 months), and its ability to direct illumination to a specific area is a nice feature.
When triggered by a motion from up to 30 feet away, the light shines on the immediate area and stays on for approximately 20 seconds. While light output is only rated at 200 lumens, it seems brighter than it really is, thanks to a reflective face that amplifies the light.
- Wireless and not solar; runs on D-cell batteries
- Low-power use to help batteries last up to 1 year
- Triggered by motion 30 feet away, stays on for 20 seconds
- Affordable outdoor motion sensor with weatherproof design
- Only 200 lumens of brightness
- Not as attractive as some motion sensor lights
If the goal is to light up the entire front entrance with plenty of lumens to help protect the home, this 2,000-lumen outdoor motion sensor light from Ring is a smart choice. The light comes with a Ring Bridge, which is essentially a wireless hub that allows the lights to connect and communicate with other Ring devices, including lights, doorbells, and security cameras to form a whole-home network.
This product consists of a single motion sensor with a range of 70 feet and two security lights with a color temperature of 3,500K. The motion sensor light can also integrate with Amazon Alexa Smart Home systems for voice control, though it should be mentioned that these lights do need to be hardwired into the home’s electrical system.
- Smart motion sensor that can communicate with Ring devices
- Very bright at 2,000 lumens
- Detects motion up to 70 feet away
- Also can integrate with Amazon Alexa
- Lights require hard-wiring
- More complex setup than other motion sensor lights
If the front or back of the home is regularly used for carrying large objects, like oversize packages, lumber, pipes, or other DIY materials, then this flush-mount motion sensor light by Lineway is a great choice. The light mounts to the ceiling of the porch where it is both out of sight from potential intruders and out of the way, making it easier to carry objects through the entrance without damaging the light.
The light needs to be hardwired into the home’s electrical system, allowing it to be controlled with a simple flick of a switch. It has a sensor range of 18 feet, and the light produced is about 1,200 lumens in brightness. The color temperature of the light falls between 6,000K to 6,500K, and it has four operating modes, including dark mode, dim mode, daytime mode, and night mode.
- Low-profile flush mount to stay out of the way
- Mounts to porch ceiling
- Sensor detects motion up to 18 feet away
- Can replace existing porch light and be controlled by a switch
- Requires hard-wiring
- Motion sensors on all sides might activate from indoor movement
This motion sensor light by Tobusa meets all the needs of range, brightness, and durability, but the high functionality doesn’t mean that the light can’t look great on the exterior of the home. Combine style and security with this lantern-style outdoor motion sensor light.
The lantern has a durable black metal frame with attractive glass panes, and it uses an E26 light bulb for up to 999 lumens of light. Hardwire the light into the home’s electrical system and simply flick the switch and let the light take care of the rest. Its built-in dusk-to-dawn sensor automatically turns on at dusk and turns off at dawn with a motion sensor range of up to 40 feet.
- Stylish lantern-style design with Edison bulb
- Durable black metal frame
- Nearly 1,000-lumen brightness
- Built-in dusk-to-dawn sensor and 40-foot motion sensor range
- Requires hard-wiring
- Less efficient than some lights, with nighttime always-on setting
Protect the home with these industrial-level motion detection lights for the front, side, or back entrance. This product includes a highly sensitive motion detection sensor that has a range of 70 feet and a 180-degree detection angle. It also has two high-powered lights with a color temperature choice between 3,000K for warm white light or 5,000K for daylight.
The outdoor motion sensor light by Leonlite outputs about 1,800 lumens of light when activated, and it operates on a dusk-to-dawn sensor, saving users the hassle of turning lights on or off throughout the day. This automatic function also helps reduce energy costs, but the light can be used without dusk-to-dawn mode activated for more manual control.
- Industrial-level LED floodlight
- Motion-sensing range of 70 feet and for 180 degrees
- Puts out 1,800 lumens of light when movement detected
- Dusk-to-dawn sensor or option to control manually
- Requires hard-wiring
- User might have to adjust motion sensing until right
- Brighter light than some owners (or their neighbors) might desire
Adding motion-activated lighting to the exterior of the home serves three purposes: convenience, energy savings, and security. These Sengled outdoor motion sensor light bulbs can be used in any standard light fixtures and provide up to 1,500 lumens of light at a color temperature of 3,000K. With these lights in place at the front, side, or back of the home, the lights will turn on automatically if motion is detected within 23 feet.
The convenient motion range and bright light output can help illuminate the front of the home when users get home late or deter would-be burglars with surprising bright light. These lights include a dusk-to-dawn photocell sensor so that the lights stay off during the day. The user also has several mode choices, including Auto ON/OFF or Always On mode, which enables the LED bulbs to stay on in the dark whether or not there is motion.
- Motion-sensing bulbs that can screw into current light
- More affordable solution than replacing and wiring existing fixture
- Provides up to 1,500 lumens of light
- Dusk-to-dawn photocell sensor
- Fewer adjustments and options for setting motion detection range
A motion sensor light can help protect people and property by illuminating an area when thieves or vandals come around—or it can just help residents see their way to the door at night. The URPOWER Solar Lights come in a pack of four to thoroughly light stairs or paths after charging in the sun. The solar lights offer easy installation and plenty of energy savings, but if you need to light up an area that gets fewer daily rays, choose a battery-powered light such as the affordable Mr. Beams Motion Sensor LED or an electrical, hardwire solution like the LEONLITE Motion Sensor Flood Lights.
How We Chose the Best Outdoor Motion Sensor Lights
Choosing the best outdoor motion sensor light involves plenty of personal preference for ease of use, brightness, and light type. We analyzed available motion sensor lights to check their power source, brightness and color temperature, and aesthetics. We also looked at the sensor’s range of detection, which can vary from 20 feet to 100 feet, and its detection angle. This can make a difference in whether a motion sensor turns lights on when it should—or activates them when not desired.
We also considered durability and how the lights mount. Finally, we noted helpful additional features of these lights, such as dawn-to-dusk activation, adjustable sensor sensitivity, and adjustable light duration as a balance between security and energy savings.
FAQs About Motion Sensor Lights
The best motion sensor light can help to illuminate the way to the door at night or deter burglars, trespassers, and even roaming animals with intense outdoor light. For more information about these innovative devices, like motion floodlights, that can help keep your home safe, take a look below at some of the most frequently asked questions about motion sensor outdoor lighting.
Q. Do motion sensor lights deter burglars?
Motion sensor lights can deter burglars by startling and temporarily blinding them, while the increased outdoor light can bring unwanted attention from nearby neighbors, passing individuals, and the people at home.
Q. What is the best solar motion sensor light?
Solar lights are a great option if you don’t want the hassle of charging batteries or hardwiring the lights. One of the best solar motion sensor lights is the URPOWER Solar Motion-Sensor Lights, which are easy to install and can operate from dusk to dawn with just a few hours of direct sunlight.
Q. Do motion sensors need special bulbs?
It depends on the product. Some motion sensors use regular bulbs with a motion detection system, while others can use a regular light fixture, but the bulb is a motion floodlight with a motion detection system built in. Check the manufacturer’s directions to find out whether a specific motion sensor needs a special bulb.
Q. What are the best motion sensor light bulbs?
Instead of replacing an entire light fixture, just use motion sensor bulbs to provide intense security light to the home. One of the best options available is the Sengled Motion Sensor Flood Lights, which are waterproof and compatible with standard light fixtures, making them ideal as quick, inexpensive outdoor security lights.