10 Best Motion Sensor Lights - SafeWise Buyer's Guide
2018’s Top Motion Sensor Lights
Nothing stops a trespasser in his or her tracks faster than a motion sensing light. If someone is tip-toeing around your property, the sensor will detect movement and shine a blinding spotlight to alert you of an intruder’s presence and scare them off. Since 11% of all energy use in residential buildings comes from lighting, motion sensor lights also have the potential to reduce your energy costs.1
SafeWise recommends installing motion activated lights in and around your home to help thwart a break-in. With the long list of motion sensor lights on the market, it will be important for you to find one that best fits your needs and your budget. Below, we’ve identified eight affordable motion-activated lights that each offer a unique advantage to help you decide what will work best for your property. These top motion sensor lights under $100 have unique features like smart technology, covert designs, and more.
How Do Motion Sensors Work?
A motion sensor (or motion detector) is the linchpin of your security system, because it's the main device that detects when someone is in your home when they shouldn't be. A motion sensor uses one or multiple technologies to detect movement in an area. If a sensor is tripped, the light floods the surrounding area and illuminates anything in its path.
Types of Motion Sensors
The following types of motions sensors are used in lights to detect movement.
Passive Infrared (PIR)
Detects body heat (infrared energy). Passive infrared sensors are the most widely used motion in home security systems. When your system is armed, your motion sensors are activated. Once the sensor warms up, it can detect heat and movement in the surrounding areas, creating a protective "grid." If a moving object blocks too many grid zones and the infrared energy levels change rapidly, the sensors are tripped.
Sends out microwave pulses and measures the reflection off a moving object. They cover a larger area than infrared sensors, but they are vulnerable to electrical interference and are more expensive.
Dual Technology Motion Sensors
Motion sensors can have combined features in an attempt to reduce false alarms. For example, a passive infrared (PIR) sensor could be combined with a microwave sensor. Since each operates in different areas of the spectrum, and one is passive and one is active, Dual Technology motion sensors are not as likely as other types to cause false alarms, because in order for the alarm to be triggered, both sensors have to be tripped. However, this does not mean that they never cause false alarms.
Area Reflective Type
Emits infrared rays from an LED. Using the reflection of those rays, the sensor measures the distance to the person or object and detects if the object is within the designated area.
Sends out pulses of ultrasonic waves and measures the reflection off a moving object.
Detects vibration. A vibration sensor uses a small mass on a lever, which is activated by a switch to an alarm when it vibrates.
MAXSA Innovations Motion-Activated Dual Head LED Security Spotlight
The solar powered MAXSA Innovations Motion-Activated Dual Head LED Security Spotlight is ideal for sheds, decks, garages, and walkways. It can detect motion up to 40 feet away, and comes with four super bright 0.5 watt LED lights that give off 160 Lumens. What we especially like about this product is its dual adjustable light heads allow you to secure two areas at once. For example, one light head can illuminate your deck and the other can spotlight your grill.
Unique Feature: The MAXSA Innovations Motion-Activated Dual Head Security Spotlight has two bulbs for greater brightness and detection.
Dual Head. Get two lights instead of one, so it can detect motion in nearly 360 degrees.
Long Range. This motion sensing light can detect motion up to 40 feet away and within 180 degrees from each bulb.
Solar Powered. Use the solar power panel to charge this light. When fully charged, it will illuminate for one minute, 90 times.
DIY. Install this motion sensing light easily. It doesn’t need to be hooked up electrically, so you’ll only need to mount it.
Bright. This light puts off 160 lumens.
Price. Compared to other lights on this list, the MAXSA motion activated security light is kind of pricey.
First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket
One of the biggest advantages of the First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket is its simple installation. The First Alert screws into an existing light socket and then a light bulb screws into the First Alert. The product converts nearly any indoor fixture into a motion light that senses movement in a 360 degree radius, up to 12 feet. As a bonus, this motion sensor is easy to take with you if you move.
Unique Feature: This light has 360-degree motion detection within 12 feet.
360 Degrees. Monitor motion in every direction with the First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket.
Easy Install. Screw this light into an existing socket.
Affordable. Spend less than $20 on this motion sensor light.
Compatibility. Use this motion sensing cover over incandescent or flourescent bulbs.
Only Indoor. This isn’t meant to be an outdoor light.
Frostfire Bright LED Wireless Solar Powered Motion Sensor Light
If you’re looking for an unobtrusive and powerful motion sensor light, the Frostfire Bright LED Wireless Solar Powered Motion Sensor Light is a solid choice. It’s a 16 LED outdoor light that’s waterproof, heatproof, and made of high impact plastic, so it’s not only bright, but also durable. Whether you use the light to illuminate a dark walkway for safety or as security lighting that helps scare off a would-be burglar, you’ll appreciate that the light stays on a dimly lit mode. Once motion is detected within a three meter activation zone, the light illuminates.
Unique Feature: The Frostfire Bright LED Wireless Solar Powered Motion Sensor Light retails for $49.99, but it’s only $14 on Amazon.
Solar Powered. Charge this light with the power of the sun and forget about replacing batteries.
Water/Heatproof. Install this light outside without worrying about heat or rain.
Easy Install. Mount this to a shed, eave, or porch with a few screws.
Expensive MSRP. This light costs $49.99 retail, but you can find it for cheaper on Amazon.
Sunforce LED Solar Motion Light
The Sunforce LED Solar Motion Light can be adjusted to your personal preferences. You can program what level of darkness activates the light, how long the light stays on once activated, its sensitivity to motion, and the range of motion detection. A solar panel powers all of these functions, so you don’t have to use your home’s power to run this device. Even if the sun doesn’t shine all day, as long as the battery is charged, the motion light will activate. When it does, it gives off a Lumen output of 850.
Unique Feature: Choose from a number of customization features like length of illumination, sensitivity to motion, and more.
Very Bright. This light is brighter than others—with 850 lumens.
Solar Powered. Charge your light with the sun.
DIY. Mount the Sunforce LED Solar Motion Light easily. It needs brackets, but no electrical work.
Short Battery Life. This light will run for 30 minutes, turning on 72 times and staying on one time for 25 seconds. It’s less powerful than other batteries.
Heath Zenith Bayside Mission Style Motion Sensing Decorative Security Light
If you want to startle the bad guy without taking away from your home’s attractiveness, the Heath Zenith Bayside Mission Style Motion Sensing Decorative Security Light may be the answer. This light requires hardwiring, but offers an impressive 30 foot detection range with one 60 watt bulb. The pleasant looking motion light comes in black or matte white finish, so it will compliment your home’s aesthetics instead of detracting from them.
Unique Feature: The style of this lamp helps it blend in with sophisticated décor.
Stylish. The Heath Zenith Bayside Mission Style Motion Sensing Decorative Security Light has stylish design.
Long Range. This light detects motion from up to 30 feet away.
Hardwired. It’ll be more complicated to install this device since it uses your electrical system to function.
Interlogix Indoor Wireless Pet Immune SAW PIR Detector
The Interlogix Indoor SAW PIR Detector’s sleek, wireless design allows the detector to be set up almost anywhere without looking out-of-place or messy. The detector is also pretty easy to install, and the low battery alerts give users ample time to put in a fresh battery, minimizing downtime. As the name suggests, the sensor is immune to pets weighing up to 40 pounds, which helps prevent frustrating false alarms. This sensor does need to be integrated with a security system or control panel - it’s not meant to be a stand-alone device. As a result, it’s definitely not the cheapest setup on the market. Additionally, the SAW PIR Detector runs off of batteries and does not have a wall plug or charging option, meaning you’ll have to pay for replacement batteries.
Unique Feature: This motion sensing light can identify pets (up to 40 pounds), so it won’t sound an alarm.
Wireless. This motion sensor will work with your home security system wirelessly.
Pet Friendly. The Interlogix Indoor Wireless Pet Immune SAW PIR Detector can distinguish between people and animals (pets weighing up to 40 pounds.)
Compact. This tiny motion sensor won’t light up, but it will communicate with your home security system covertly.
Only Compatible With Frontpoint System. This light is supposed to go with the Frontpoint home security system and can’t be used on its own.
Battery Operated. You’ll need to replace batteries with this device.
Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor
Marketed as a smart motion detector, the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor offers easy integration with existing home automation devices. Paired with If This Then That (IFTTT) technology, the motion sensor can be programmed to a range of actions upon sensing movement, including sending a text alert or turning on lights. This does mean, as with many smart devices, that the SmartThings Motion Sensor requires a smart hub to connect with a smart home network. Users who don’t already have a hub will have to foot that additional cost.
Unique Feature: Integrate this device with your home automation products when it senses you coming and going.
Smart. This motion detection sensor can be programmed to turn lights on or off when motion is detected and communicate with home automation devices.
Alerts. Get an alert through your app if motion is detected.
Security and Convenience. Use this device for both home automation convenience and security.
Need To Buy Hub. You’ll need a main hub for the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor to work properly
1byone Safety Driveway Patrol
1byone’s Safety Driveway Patrol is a durable outdoor alarm system with one or more weatherproof motion sensor panels (you choose). The Driveway Patrol unit has three chime options, and the speaker is about the same size as a baby monitor, meaning it can be covertly positioned without looking out of place. Since this system comes with multiple sensors—it can easily network with up to six sensors—the alarm is able to cover multiple areas at once. The biggest problem with this alarm is that movements in nature easily trigger it — the sensitive detectors pick up on nearly any movement, including that of birds, insects, and even tree branches moving in the wind. Secondly, the Driveway Patrol does not have any outdoor light or sound features included. So while the sensor will alert you to incoming visitors, it may not deter possible intruders.
Unique Feature: Can cover multiple areas
Multiple Sensors. Buy one or more sensors with the 1byone’s Safety Driveway Patrol to keep a better eye on your home.
Long Range. Sensors can communicate with main hub up to 100 feet away.
Sound And Light Alerts. When a sensor detects motion, it’ll send a wireless signal to the hub. You can program it to beep loudly or softly or with an LED flash to alert you.
Battery-Operated. You’ll need to replace or recharge batteries.
Won’t Frighten Intruders. The alarm is sent to the hub inside your home, so it won’t scare off trespassers.
RAB Super Stealth
The RAB Super Stealth is one of the sturdiest motion-activated floodlights available. This industrial-grade motion lighting system offers a 60-foot detection area, and the motion detector senses 180 degrees out and 360 degrees down. Secondary sensors monitor behind and below the light. It’s also protected from power surges and radio frequency interference. The RAB Super Stealth is a big light, so it’s not a great choice for those wanting small or discrete sensors. The cost is also relatively high, with a single unit running about $90. You’ll need to be handy with a drill to get this light installed, because the RAB must be wired into a hardline and its mount must be securely fastened into a sturdy surface.
Unique Feature: This motion sensing light can handle bulbs up to 1,000 watts.
360 Degree Views. Depending on how you arrange the lights, this dual bulb sensor can monitor up to 360 degrees.
Very Bright. Use up to 1,000 watts.
Dual Headed. Multiple sensors give this light greater detection range.
Hardwired. You’ll need to hook this up to your electrical system.
Expensive. This is the second most expensive light on the list.
Rugged Grade High Power 1000 Lumen Solar Motion LED Flood Light
Light up your driveway, garage, side of your home, or hatchway with the Rugged Grade High Power 1000 Lumen Solar Motion LED Flood Light. With 1,000 Lumens, it can easily scare away burglars and light your way when you’re outside at night. Since it’s solar powered, you won’t need to change batteries. Just hook up the solar power cable 10-12 feet from the motion sensor light to keep it functioning.
Unique Feature: Customers gave this motion sensing light 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Dimming Feature. This device will go from 10% to full brightness when it detects motion—to conserve battery and enhance security.
Solar Powered. You won’t need to change batteries, just use the sun to recharge your light.
Great Reviews. Customers gave this light 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Expensive. The Rugged Grade High Power 1000Lumen Solar Motion LED Flood Light is the most expensive on this list at close to $100.
Motion Sensor Light Placement
Before you install motion sensor lights, make sure to read the installation instructions, since they will likely include placement recommendations.
Keep in mind that motion sensors aren't error-proof, and there are instances in which there could be false alarms. False alarms are usually caused by electrical failures, user error, poor application engineering, power surges, lightning, and faulty equipment. They can also be triggered by animals, insects, and foliage.
The best thing you can do to increase the effectiveness of your motion sensor lights and prevent false alarms is to read the instructions that come with your lights and then consider the following motion sensor light placement tips:
- Keep PIR sensors 10—15 feet away from heating vents, where the sunlight shines in, and radiators. If a motion sensor detects a swift change in heat, even that of a cloud passing quickly over direct sunlight shining into your living room, it could be tripped.
- Place motion sensors at "choke-points"—areas where people have to walk through. That way, an intruder will trip the sensor regardless of where they are headed.
- Walk through your yard and assess where intruders are most likely to enter, and what path they would take. Keep in mind that most motion sensors can detect between 50 and 80 feet. Most burglars enter the home through a front or back door, patio door, or garage door, so it's advisable to place the sensors near those areas.
- Motion sensors work best when the intruder walks parallel to the sensor, not toward it. For example, in a yard you tend to walk parallel to the hedges, not directly toward them. Find areas that an intruder would walk alongside like exterior walls along paths.
Installing motion activated lights is an easy weekend project that can help discourage intruders and make the area surrounding your home safer. Ultimately, the motion sensor light you choose will come down to your needs. Take some time to figure out exactly what you want from a motion sensor light, and then give one of these products a try. To help make your home even more secure, consider getting a home security system with security cameras, alarms, 24/7 monitoring, and other great features.
See our recommendations for the Best Home Security Systems.
- Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, “Lighting Efficiency”