We looked at motion sensor lights, floodlights, solar lights, and more to find the ones that deliver the best security lighting and energy efficiency. Read our full reviews to see how our top outdoor security lights stack up when it comes to brightness, convenience, cost, and installation.
These outdoor motion sensor lights feature precise motion detection logic, weatherproof construction, and a great warranty. The RAB Super Stealth Bullet Floods come prewired for easy installation, but make sure you don’t install them on the same circuit as your garage door opener or other appliances—it can overload the circuit, which can be dangerous and pricey if you burn out the circuit board. These are also one of the only lights we found that aren’t LED compatible, which can be a big drawback when it comes to power costs and how often you need to change out the bulbs.
If you want to upgrade your outdoor security, the Ring Floodlight Cam is a good place to start. In addition to extra-bright LED lights, you get a motion-activated camera with two-way audio and night vision. The Ring Floodlight Cam lets you record video and catch live action. Plus, a built-in siren gives you the power to scare away suspicious characters via the Ring app. But all of these bells and whistles come with a hefty price tag (about $250). One consolation, though, is lifetime theft protection—if the camera gets stolen, Ring will replace it for free.
Lifetime theft protection
Voice control with Alexa
3. LITOM LED Solar Outdoor Lights: Best Budget Light
This little solar-powered light packs a lot into its compact package. While it’s not the brightest outdoor light on our list, its wide-angle motion sensor and solar power supply make it a strong contender. You’ll like the flexibility of placing it anywhere (as long as there’s ample sunlight) and the tiny price tag—you can pick one up for around $17.
24-month unit life span
3 light modes
Cheap price tag
4. Mr.Beams Outdoor Motion Sensor Light: Best Wireless Spotlight
Mr. Beams lights prove to be a good choice time and again, and we like these wireless outdoor security lights for their convenient installation and the added security of a motion sensor. Because you don’t have to hardwire these lights, you can place them anywhere you need extra security—by the house, near a shed or other outbuilding, or in the yard. But they’re not as bright as some of the other lights on our list, so take stock of how much illumination you need before clicking the “buy” button.
Up to 1 yr. of battery life
Limited motion detection range (10 ft. max.)
5. MAXSA Dual Head Security Spotlights: Best DIY Installation
Bright for battery powered—and one of the cheapest cameras we looked at (coming in around $30)—this MAXSA spotlight is sure to light you safely to the door and scare off prowlers. Plus, the easy DIY installation gets you up and running in minutes. The motion sensor could be more sensitive, and people wish there were some way to either leave the light on or adjust the length of time the light shines. And even though it’s perfect for nonwired locations, the batteries are hard to change out, and the back is difficult to put back in place.
2 adjustable heads
Difficult battery compartment
No "on" switch
6. All-Pro LED Floodlight: Best Weatherproof Light
Built to withstand harsh temperatures and wet conditions, the All-Pro LED Floodlight was made to illuminate lawns, walkways, and driveways in any climate. But it doesn’t come with a motion detector, so you need to either keep it on all night or remember to turn it off before bed (which might defeat the purpose of having it in the first place).
No motion sensor
Shorter unit life span
7. Brightech LightPRO LED Yard Light: Superbright Pick
This is a great light to illuminate a large outdoor area. At 5,000 lumens, it’s the brightest light on our list. The addition of dusk-to-dawn technology means you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it on or off. Our main complaint is that it only shines downward, which limits the angle of illumination to just 120°.
Limited illumination range/direction
8. Oberlin Dusk to Dawn Motion Sensor Light: Decorative Pick
If you don’t want to sacrifice style for security, then this Oberlin light is right up your alley. The attractive design makes this motion-activated light an ideal choice for the front porch or back deck. But good looks don’t come cheap. This light is more expensive than many (around $80), and it puts out less light—just 800 lumens if you use LEDs or 60 watts if you use an incandescent bulb.
Customizable shut-off delay
Great motion sensor
Less bright illumination
Things to Consider in an Outdoor Security Light
There are a lot of security lights to choose from, so it’s important to know what kind will best meet your needs and keep your property safe. Here are some questions to help you pick the right type of security light for your home.
What types of outdoor security lights are there to choose from?
When it comes to outdoor security lights, there are a few types that dominate the marketplace because they deliver the most security and value. To help you figure out which one is best for you, we break down the most common types below.
Motion Sensor Lights Motion sensor lights do exactly what their name implies—they detect motion and light up to either get you safely to the door or scare off an intruder. This is a valuable feature to have in an outdoor security light because you know it’s doing its job even when you’re away from home or fast asleep.
Floodlights are useful for outdoor security because of their broad beam and high-intensity illumination. These lights are meant to literally “flood” an area with light. They’re an excellent choice for large yards and fields. They also provide superbright illumination in areas like garages or sheds where you may need some extra light after the sun sets.
Almost the opposite of floodlights, spotlights project a narrow, focused beam of light directly onto one area. Most of the spotlights on our list have multiple heads so that you can shine a narrow beam in various directions at once. Spotlights are a good choice to help light up a door or pathway for safe passage (and entry) after the sun sets.
What types of bulbs are best for outdoor security lights?
You’re looking for two things when it comes to a bulb for your outdoor security light: energy consumption and brightness. You want to keep your home and property safe, but you don’t want outdoor security to put you in the poorhouse. At the same time, you don’t want to skimp on illumination to save a buck. It can be a delicate balance, but we’ve got the highlights about each lightbulb option below.
These are the most cost-efficient bulbs for outdoor security lighting. LEDs deliver bright light without eating up electricity—and they can last up to five times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. But they do cost more up front (between three and five times more than incandescent bulbs), which leads some folks to pass them up. If you pick up an LED floodlight bulb, it’s even more expensive—about $5 per bulb compared to around $2 for standard LEDs. It’s important to weigh your long-term savings against the more expensive upfront cost before skipping LEDs.
These are the lightbulbs that appear above a cartoon character’s head when they have an idea—and probably the kind you grew up with. You’ll pay less for incandescent bulbs at the checkout counter, and they’ll get the job done, but they do it at a much higher energy cost. About 90% of the energy it takes to turn on an incandescent lightbulb generates heat instead of light, which translates into more dollars on your power bill. Plus, you’ll probably change out an incandescent bulb about 20 times before you’d have to swap out an LED bulb. It comes down to what matters more to you—cheaper upfront cost or long term energy efficiency.
What power source should I use for my outdoor security lights?
This might seem like an odd question to ask, but it’s not always simple to provide power to every outside location on your property that needs security. Many outdoor security lights require hardwiring into an electrical supply box, which can make installation complicated or impossible. Depending on where you want to put outdoor security lights, the power source can be a big factor. We line up the options below to help you pick the right light for your situation.
The main benefit of a hardwired security light is that as long as the power to your home is on, you’ve got light. You don’t need to worry about dead batteries or an uncharged solar cell. The only time you’d be left in the dark is during a power outage. The downside is that you need to wire it into your electrical system. Many security lights come preconfigured to make installation easy for those of us who aren’t electrical engineers, but others can be more tricky. If you have your heart set on a hardwired light but fear the installation, look into hiring a pro to install your light. That way you can blame them when the electrical box gets fried. (Not that I know anything about that!)
If you need security in a spot without easy access to your electrical system or you don’t want to hardwire something, battery-powered lights are a solid choice. There are many outdoor security lights that come with long-lasting batteries, so you don’t have to worry about changing them out every other week. We found battery-operated lights that last a whole year before you need to worry about swapping them out. But you do run the risk of dead batteries, so this option requires some diligence.
Solar Lights Solar lights are one of my favorite options because they tick all the right boxes—they’re environmentally friendly, they’re energy-efficient, and you can put them just about anywhere (no electricity of any kind required). Almost every outdoor light at my house uses a solar panel, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their brightness and their reliability even when the days grow shorter. Some caveats, though. Outdoor solar lights aren’t going to put out 5,000 lumens, and you can get interference from clouds and other pesky environmental factors. You also need to be able to place the solar panel in a spot that will get a consistent amount of sunlight every day. Make sure to evaluate where you want to place solar lights before going this route. If it’s on a north-facing lawn or another shady area, it might not provide the consistency you need from a security light.
How do I know if an outdoor light is weatherproof?
Your outdoor security light needs to be able to withstand all kinds of weather. One of the best ways to know if your light is up to the task is to check out the IP (Ingress Protection) or UL (Underwriters Laboratory) rating.
The first number in an IP rating shows how difficult it is for things like dust and water to enter the camera enclosure. The second number shows how tamper-proof the enclosure is. An IP65 rating means the camera enclosure is protected from dust as well as low-pressure water spray, which means the camera should stand up to rain and snow. A rating of IP67 means total dust protection and the ability to withstand full immersion in water up to about three feet.
Underwriters Laboratories is an independent organization that tests and rates products for safety. When it comes to how well a product stands up to Mother Nature, UL rates products based on what type of location they can safely operate—rated from dry to wet. Products rated for wet locations can be used in places where water may splash, drip, or flow onto the electrical components. UL identifies outdoor wet locations as uncovered or open-air porches, decks, and patios, as well as exterior walls, walkways, gazebos, and pergolas.
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Written by Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more