How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns

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Last November Handan informed me that it was time to replace our front porch lanterns. I agreed – the old lanterns were no longer fit sentries for our home. Their once-proud frames of brilliant white were now peeling, exposing a dull metal skeleton streaked with rust. Their glass faces, once clear and perfect, were now cataracts, blurring and marring the light trying to escape. They doubtless served the original owners of this house well back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but their nights of silent overwatch were over. It was time for an upgrade. We wanted bigger, blacker, and higher-end. I also wanted to get them with light sensors. It’s pretty dark at night around here, and we usually had no lights on in front because I would always forget to turn them on at night. Then if I did remember, I’d always forget to turn them off in the morning. So light sensors were a must.

But that presented us with a problem. Of the 30 gazillion lanterns Home Depot offered online, only like 7 of them came with light sensors built in, and those 7 were so ugly, you’d likely want to keep the lights off all night to avoid any embarrassing attention. We searched on Amazon with the same results. What to do?

I remembered that the year before I had installed a small light sensor into the side of the back shed to control the lanterns I had hung there.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com
Can you spot the sensor?
How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com
How about now?
How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com
There it is!

Since the shed had no interior walls, I simply drilled a hole in the side in which to install the sensor. Wiring up in the back was a cinch, because all the electrical wiring was exposed inside the shed.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

I thought I could perform a similar trick with the porch lanterns, so we bought two black beauties and a sensor from Amazon.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

As soon as we got the lanterns, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to wire the sensor in the same manner. The wiring from the house ran up through the porch roof, then down the columns. There was no way I’d be able to access it from the columns without removing the siding. I wasn’t about to do that! This meant I’d have to install the sensor inside the lantern. But would it fit? A quick check revealed that the small sensor would fit perfectly within the lantern’s housing. I grabbed my drill and fit it with a 7/16 inch bit. I determined the most unobtrusive place for the sensor, then drilled the hole.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

I then inserted the light sensor.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

And secured it to the lantern with the provided nut and foam washer.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

The sensor is small and unobtrusive, and in no way detracts from the beauty of the lantern.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

I wired up the lanterns and hung them on the house. (I can’t tell you how to wire them for liability purposes…you’ll have to consult an electrician or follow the instructions that come with the lanterns and the photo sensor).

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

Note – only this one lantern has the photo sensor. The other lantern gets its electricity from this one, so if this one is off, the other one is off and vice versa.

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

Now I can sleep easy at night since all sides of our house have security lighting!

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

Why are there green leaves on that tree, you’re wondering? Didn’t you do this project in November? Well, yes, but I took this picture just a few nights ago.

Oh! Just a few nights ago? Then why is there a CHRISTMAS WREATH hanging above your front door??

Ummmmm….you see, about that…..

Errmmmm…well, I meant to take it down in January, or maybe February, but…but…

But What?!?

Ah! Yes! But the ladder broke!

What? You don’t believe me?

Fine! I totally forgot about it until March or April. Then when I did realize it was still hanging, I kinda went, “Meh, might as well let it stay there until next Christmas.” Besides, the birds love it! They’ve been dive-bombing it all spring to steal bits to take back to their nests. You wouldn’t want me to deprive the poor birds of their nesting material, would you?

And really, if you think that’s bad, you should see the state of my kitchen! Remember my glorious triumph when I made those pull out shelves and reclaimed my kitchen? Well, sic transit gloria. Glory fades, my friends! Someday I’ll reclaim the glory of my reclaimed glory, just as someday I’ll take down that wreath!

–Greg

Don’t forget to save this idea to Pinterest, so you can find it again later!

How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns | DIY outdoor automated lighting | DIY ligthing automation | #DIY #Lighting #TheNavagePatch #HowTo | TheNavagePatch.com

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17 Comments

  1. Handon, you’re a lucky girl! (We already know Gregg is a lucky guy…lol) He’s pretty handy to have around. My hubs and I have been married almost 29 years and I can always count on him to fix things around the house. It’s a Godsend to have someone in your life that can do these things. Even if I have to be the one reading and giving instructions, I know the hubs will do it. I’m really enjoying your blog. Your home is beautiful and I can just imagine how it must look and feel on the inside. Yours is the first blog that I’ve gotten actively involved in commenting. You both are adorable. Now, about that wreath….. πŸ˜‰ just kidding, I say leave it up. Lol

    1. Thank you so much, Andi! Oh yes I am very lucky and he is my treasure! Before we moved to USA he only used be the chef of our house, and really wasn’t yet the handyman as the circumstances didn’t require him to be. But after we moved to USA and bought our first home, he started learning DiYing. He first got interested in the wood working, then plumbing, then electricity, then one-by-one he learned almost everything that one would need to know to take care of a house. Same thing with me: I only started crafting after we moved to USA. At the beginning I was a hot mess, couldn’t do anything properly…but in time and with not ever giving up I got a little better and now I can do somewhat nice things πŸ™‚
      As for the wreath…. aaahhh! what can I say? He is a man! So he needs to be reminded of things constantly πŸ˜‰

      1. That is so awesome! You two are perfect together. You give me hope to start projects that seem daunting to me. I love your projects and you certainly look very experienced at what you do. All your hard work has paid off. I’m excited now to get started on something. ?

    2. Andi, we’re so happy to have you as a reader and as a commenter! And you’re right…Handan is a very lucky girl! πŸ˜€

  2. That’s a great idea! We have the same problem – either forgetting to turn the porch lights on at night, or forgetting to turn them off in the morning. We just might give this solution a try!

  3. Hi my husband is an electrician so when we built our home 9 years ago he had the brilliant idea to run all the wiring and stuff before the garden was put in. So we have a light post in the garden and he set it up for the lights to all turn on at a certain time. He even put one on our shed out back. Thankful for him and his way of thinking these things now I so appreciate the lights at night. I understand your reason for having the lights turn on and light up the area when the evening comes. One summer he put a light at the side of our home that was on a motion sensor it was so sensitive, it picked up someone riding a bike on the street. It was funny one summer we had guests over and they left down the side of the house it was quite late. They didn’t know what hit them when they walked past this light, it turned on them and was so bright. We all had a great laugh about it. Anyways to much maybe… ha ha.. You did a great job on it and your home is pretty!!

    1. Hi Sandra, that is great the he thought to do that…it really makes life easier in the long run. There’s nothing harder than retrofitting something and nothing more aggravating than knowing you could have done it right from the start! I can picture your light…sometimes it can feel like getting caught trying to scale the wall of a prison when those motion sensor lights hit!

  4. What an ingenious idea! I have never thought about installing a sensor on my porch or garage lights- we actually never seem to use them that often. But maybe if I had this installed I would actually remember that they are there! LOL
    Thank you so much for this wonderful idea & for sharing it with us over at the Monday Mish Mash Link Party!
    *Hugs*

  5. Do these sensors come on at dark and then get brighter if they sense something. Or are they off until they sense?

    1. Hi Stella, the sensors I have are just light sensors, so they come on at dark and stay on until sunrise. They don’t have motion-sensing capabilities. Motion sensors are much bigger than light sensors, and they wouldn’t fit neatly into the lantern like a simple light sensor does.