5 Ways to Control Your Home’s Lighting

October 11, 2018

Exterior lighting

With the days getting shorter and many of us leaving or returning from work in the dark, homeowners may be looking for the best option to control lighting and possibly save on energy costs. Our team of residential electricians has put together 5 lighting options to consider, along with some pros and cons, to help you make the right decision for your specific situation.

Manually Controlled Switch

This is a basic on/off switch, just like any other switch in your home.

Pros – It’s easy! You can turn the lights on or off whenever you want. No programming required. A good option for upper floor balconies. Some manufacturers provide switches with a soft glow feature which makes it easy to find in the dark.

Cons – You must physically be at home to activate the lighting. Lights can sometimes be left on unnecessarily, defeating the purpose of energy efficiency.

Motion Sensor

This technology that will automatically turn the lights on when a sensor detects movement within a preset range.

Pros – these  lights can be placed almost anywhere. A good lighting option for areas where constant light is unnecessary, such as stairways & pathways. This technology can also be installed inside a closet, pantry or crawl space, eliminating the possibility of leaving a light on after exiting the space.

Cons – can sometimes be triggered by swaying foliage or tree branches, vehicle or pedestrian traffic passing by. The lights don’t always stay on long enough, but most manufacturers provide the ability to adjust the duration.


This is a  sensor that detects the light levels & will automatically turn on the lights at dusk and turn them off at dawn.

Pros  – it will automatically adjust to seasonal light changes and is unaffected by Daylight-Saving Time. A good lighting option where constant light is needed at night.

Cons – The photocell must be positioned to avoid picking up reflected light, so it may need to be positioned in a different location from the fixture.

Digital Timer

This is a hard-wired wall switch with programmable settings.

Pros  – can be set to turn on/off at specific times, including multiple times during day and/or week. Most models provide the ability to adjust for Daylight Saving Time. A good lighting option for anyone on a regular schedule or does not want lights to remain on all night. This is also a great way to control Christmas lights.

Cons – manual programming required. Settings are usually lost after a 4 hour power outage, requiring re-programming of settings.

Programmable (Astronomical)

This device is programmed by entering its geographical coordinates, which allows it to calculate the sun’s daily rise and set times at any time of year.

Pros  – has a back-up battery and will self-adjust to Daylight Savings Time. Can be preset to multiple on/off times per day, but also different settings for various days of the week. There is also a ‘random mode’ to turn the lights on/off at no specific times, giving the impression the home is occupied during your absence.

Cons  – The programming can be a little more involved than other technology.

Knowing what type of lighting you want and in what areas you want it can help to determine which option will best suit your needs.

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