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Adjust Motion Detectors

Learn the fine art of motion detector sensor adjustment and stop wasting energy illuminating passing cars and wandering neighborhood cats. With these tricks and a little trial-and-error, you can turn that hair-trigger nuisance light into a useful security feature.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

  • COMPLEXITY
  • Complexity Super Simple!
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    Get a helper to test the range as you make adjustments – it'll save a lot of trips up and down the ladder.

Tame a hyperactive motion detector

An outdoor motion detector light can save electricity and scare off intruders. But if passing cars or the neighbor's dog constantly triggers the light, you don't get either benefit. To stop unwanted “trips,” you have to limit the “detection zone,” the area where the sensor can see moving objects.

First, aim the detector. Turn the sensor head right or left and up or down so that its field of vision is roughly centered on the area you want to cover. To make the head stay put, you may have to tighten screws or ring nuts (Photo 2) on the arm that supports the head. Next, set the “on-time” switch to “test” (Photo 1). This will let you determine the detection zone by walking across the detector's field of vision. When it sees you, the light will go on for a couple of seconds. (Your detector may need a one- or two-minute warm-up period before it starts to work.)

If the detection zone in front of the detector is too long, aim the head down slightly. If the zone is too short, raise the head, but keep it at least 1 in. from lightbulbs and lamp covers. When the range is about right, make finer adjustments using the range dial (Photo 1). It may be labeled “range” or “sensitivity.” Start with the dial set at the maximum range and turn it down to shorten the zone.

If the zone is still too wide, narrow the lens opening with electrical tape (Photo 2). This is a trial-and-error process that can take a few minutes. Normally, you need to apply narrow blinders only to the right or left ends of the lens, but you can cover as much of the lens as you like. When the length and width of the zone are just right, reset the on-time switch.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Electrical tape
    • Stepladder
    • Slip joint pliers

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • No materials are required.

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September 13, 3:21 AM [GMT -5]

Since you generally don't have what everything does memorized I made it easier and more legible to see.... As you know, in order to adjust your motion detector, you must work on it during hours of darkness. So, your up the ladder looking up at the adjustment switches/knobs and trying to make out what the corresponding switch/knob does....in the dark...moths flying in every orifices on your face, the lights blinding you and the "raised" wording describing what each switch/knob kinda gets lost in the plastic. I took a black Sharpie and lightly went over the "raised" lettering and slowly watched all the words come out of the "whiteness."

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