Outdoor Motion Detector: Types of Sensors, Components & How They Work

outdoor motion sensors

There are so many types of outdoor motion sensors these days it is difficult to choose from the many shapes sizes and styles. The choice really depends on your needs and your budget. People invest in motion sensors for any number of reasons. The most common reasons include:

  • Security
  • Safety
  • Saving Money
  • Conserving Energy

The Components of all Motion Detectors

Motion sensors can be purchased for indoor as well as outdoor use.  Indoor sensors are often times used as an extra precaution while outdoor motion sensors are often used as a primary means of safety and security.

As with most gadgets these days the costs range from modest to expensive, depending on the complexity of the item. Regardless of the cost, all motion detectors have a few essential features that come on all makes and models.

  • Timer switches which control when the lights go on and off. Motion detectors may come with have automatic switches, manual switches or both types of switches. Others may come with a manual override option. Choose the option that will work best for your needs.
  • Adjustable timing for the sensor. Since sensors are used to sense motion, the lights also come with an option to adjust the amount of time that the light stays on. This can range from 1 minute to 60 minutes, depending on the type of sensor.
  • The detection range of the sensor. This can range between 30 and 70 feet depending on the model of the sensor. All outdoor motion detectors should indicate the detection range and should indicate if this will be affected by temperature.

Types of Outdoor Sensors

  • Solar Powered Sensors do not require additional wiring as they come with rechargeable batteries that typically last a few years. These are easy fairly easy to maintain and install. They still work even with power outages but tend to be limited in projecting light because they are powered by the sun.
  • Motion Sensored Standard Outdoor Lights give the appearance of typical outdoor porch lights and use a photocell to shut off during the daytime. These standard lights typically offer three levels of lighting, the highest being when motion is detected. The standard outdoor light and motion sensor is a popular choice for homeowners because it is fairly inexpensive and looks very much like a standard outdoor light. These types of sensors often require additional wiring.
  • LED Battery Powered Motion Light Sensors are typically used for smaller spaces and are battery powered. These can be used for indoor and outdoor areas. Because these are so compact they are easily mountable but the amount of light they give off is minimal.

What to Look for in an Outdoor Motion Detector

You will first want to decide what is most important to you in an outdoor motion sensor. If safety and security is more important than saving money you may want to go with a sensor that is a bit more expensive but provides brighter lighting and more reliable powering features.

You will want to know the wiring requirements necessary to install any of the non battery powered sensors. Choosing a motion sensor that you can install and maintain yourself will save you money and a headache in the long run.

While all motion sensors have a few essential features, many of the more elaborate models offer additional elements such as changeable brightness levels, adjustable sensor ranges or decorative features.

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