Outdoor Light Switches for Line Voltage Lights
We will look at the four major types of electrical Outdoor Light Switches for your Outdoor Line Voltage Lighting Fixtures. This will be a regular light switch, motion, dusk to dawn, and a timer. Each one will work differently and have its own advantages, maybe this will help in your decision. Each one will have different location requirements for the installation to work properly.
Having a qualified electrician to install one of these switches is recommended, some local rules require it. I do some work myself, I would not recommend anyone taking on an electrical job without some previous training, it can be fatal.
Now let us look at what each switch does and where to use them.
Regular light switch
This will be just an on and off switch that will be placed on the inside wall of your house to control your outside light without going outside. The major problem with using this kind of switch is that it is only manual and someone has to move the switch to make it work.
When you come home after dark, for illumination the light would have to have been turned on before you left.
This switch is not rated for outside use unless in an outside electrical box with a cover. This type of switch can be used in combination with the other ones. You can use this switch to turn off your light when on vacation or when you do not want the extra light.
For materials, the cost is the cheapest in this group. It can be the most expensive to install if you do not have a switch location already in line with the power cable to the light fixture and you have to hire an electrician for installation.
Motion detector with timer and dual bright
This motion detector must be mounted where it will detect movement to activate it. Mounting above 8 feet is recommended. I have mine for my low voltage lights above my garage door. It may take a little adjusting to get the correct light timing for your outdoor lights.
This switch will have several options when illuminating your lights. It will have 180-degree coverage from the front to catch motion to activate the options. One option is to have a motion sensor turn on the lights for a preset time, The one in the picture has settings of 1, 5, or 20 minutes of illumination after the initial start.
Another option is called Dual Brite timer. In this option, the light comes on after sunset and is dimmer than
usual. It can be set for dusk to dawn, 3 or 6 hours after sunset. When the sensor detects motion the light will brighten to full strength for the preset time of 1, 5, or 20 minutes.
A sensitivity switch can be adjusted to your desired setting. The sensitivity setting can be adjusted if you have small animals setting it off all of the time. You will have to play with the setting on this switch to get the desired results.
This type of switch is mounted by a 1/2 inch pipe thread with nut, should be mounted on a weatherproof electrical box. The black power wire for your light fixture must run through the detector for it to operate properly.
The total cost should be around $30 if installed in line with the power line to the light fixture.
Dusk to dawn
This simple interrupter must be mounted in a location that gets plenty of sun during the day. When the sun goes down the switch will trigger the light to go on until the sun comes back up in the morning.
Try not to mount in a location that your headlights will shine on it when coming home, as this will leave you in the dark when you most need the security light.
This simple switch will cost under $20 for the parts plus the installation in a weatherproof electrical box with a knockout.
The timer will have an electric motor that will rotate a wheel to keep time. As the presets pass a trigger it turns the light on or off. The time is preset and can be changed manually. Several sequences can be set for each day. Unless it is a digital version It will be the same for every 24 hour day.
Some of these boxes are rated for inside installations only, please check your specifications carefully. You must install in the garage or other location out of the weather if not rated for outdoor use.
Several adjustments for voltage can be made as these timers are made to operate pumps for pools and spas also.
The cost could be most expensive of this group, some are over $50 for just the timer.
We have outlined the differences between the four types of outdoor electric switches for your lights. Depending on when you want the light to shine and for how long will determine the kind of switch you will purchase and install.
If you are not comfortable with installing line voltage wiring, please consult with a certified electrician for installation. To view some Line Voltage light fixtures, see my information here.
On solution we did not discuss in this article is the remote type that can be initiated by a mobile device. This newer technology is quickly gaining popularity with the new smartphones having the capabilities of a computer. Look for future review of one of these as I have already changed my house thermostat to one that is connected to Wi-Fi.
As always if you find that you have any questions or comments please use the form below and I will get back to you shortly.
Your post “What types of electrical switches for your outdoor line voltage lights are there” gives good information for those that want to setup outdoor lighting. I would recommend also that they have a person trained in the electrical field to help them, at least the first time they try to install one of these switches.
It is also one of my recommendations. If you do not know what you are doing you can really get hurt and make a mess of the wiring.
I am an electrician and I would commonly wire systems like this using a combination of switching systems. It does cost a little bit more and you certainly do need to know what you’re doing, but it gives you a range of switching options. I would almost always combine a manual override switch with a timer, and a motion sensor. Most motion sensors (if not all) also have a night and day sensor and integrated settings.
Although not every one can install this type of wiring, I am just giving them the types that will work for this type of lighting. Thanks for the support of my knowledge. Secondary switch’s are not uncommon in this type of lighting.
I’ve been looking into setting up lights around the home and it’s definitely a confusing and difficult choice for someone who isn’t too crafty.
This cleared up some confusion I had and it’ll help me out. Very informative, well written – I enjoyed!
Thanks for the great article.
There are simply a bunch of choices if you look at all of the information available. We will keep the information coming on this website and hope that we can help some people make the right choice for them.
From your article, I can see you are talking about these options from experience. I loved the way you say not to shine your headlights on it, otherwise you will be in the dark when you most need the light.
I actually brought a timer that I wanted to use with my immersion many years ago. It was only after I brought it home, opened up the box, that I discovered that I really needed an electrician to complete the job for me. That information was ‘hidden’ inside the box, and not displayed on the outside of the box. Ah, the university of life…
Having knowledge before you commit to a purchase is what this site is about. A lot of the information is hidden inside the package or instructions.
I’ve used outdoor automatic lighting for years, usually the motion sensor type.
This summer I needed a project to advance my skills in software and electronics. So I got a little controller from Radio shack and a relay board and wired it up to my outdoor LED lamps.
I used the motion detection built into my security cameras, and a little software, to turn the lights on and off when motion was detected. The range is very good with using cameras, about 150 feet in both directions using two cameras.
The only drawback is the recovery time after the lights turn off. It’s a big shift in the cameras field of view and takes about 45 seconds to recover. So that leaves a 45 second dead zone where the lights cannot be turned back on. A regular motion detector would recover faster.
Nice post. My wife and I are currently doing some diy home improvements. You really gave the information in an easy to read form that anyone could understand. Thanks for the tips, because we were thinking of different lighting options we had for our backyard. I think that ‘Dusk to Dawn’ sensor seems really handy. I’m going to look into collecting more information about that option.
Not all of these switches will work for everyone, each person will have to choose which one will work for them. Some people will have several different kinds in their outdoor space.