Fix-It Friday: No More Dark To Fear… How To Install A Dusk To Dawn Light

Porch Light at Night
Fix-It FridayHome Improvement 2 Comments

The other day I accompanied my Aunt Rose-Marie from Brooklyn to a doctor’s appointment in Manhattan via Access-a-Ride (a paratransit program for individuals unable to use public transportation). It’s a service that she’s grateful for, but it’s far from the door-to-door car service I mistakenly imagined it would be. Long story short, what should have been a 40 minute ride home turned into a 2 ½ hour nightmarish tour through Brooklyn with a hostile driver who had no concept of navigation, conduct codes or deodorant.

Norma_Aunt RoNormally, Aunt Ro would have left the porch light on, but getting home hours later than anticipated (especially with “fall back”), we were dropped off in front of a pitch-black house. Wanting to get away from creep-o as quickly as possible, our swift exit was stymied by Aunt Ro fumbling in the dark to find her keys and unlock the door.

Happily, all ended well, but I promised that would be the last time my aunt would come home to dark house.

“Aunt Ro, you’re getting a dusk-to-dawn porch light, and I’m installing it tomorrow.”

Exterior lighting these days offers several security and even energy saving options that in my opinion are too beneficial not to have, especially for women living alone.

Here are some of the features motion sensor fixtures offer:

  • Dusk-to-dawn option
  • Selectable light timer
  • Detects movement up to 70ft away
  • 150-degree of light radius
  • 2 levels of brightness

Installing one is no different than any other fixture, styles range from basic to designer, and prices start at as low as $30.00.

How To Install A Wall Mounted Light Fixture
(with light and motion sensors)

  • Familiarize yourself with your fixture’s instruction booklet.
  • Shut the power at the service panel and turn OFF the light switch.
  • To remove the existing fixture, typically, there two fine-thread mounting bolts. Unscrew them, back out the fixture and it will then drop free – be prepared to hold the weight of the fixture. (If the fixture is stuck in place with paint or caulk, gently tap it or pry it loose with a flat screwdriver.)
  • Test the wires with a non-contact pen tester to double check power is OFF.
  • wire nutsUnscrew the wire caps to disconnect the wires from the old fixture.
  • Determine if the new mount is the same as the old one. If it’s different, you will have to install a piece or two of new hardware – this may include a strap or a center-mount.
  • Hanging a light fixture is a balancing act – you have to make the connections while holding the fixture in place. Working with a friend will help.
  • Use the wire nuts provided in the light kit and attach the wires: white-to-white, black-to-black, and green to bare or directly to the metal box.
  • Once all of the wiring is secure, carefully push the wires back up into the box. Slide the light into place and screw on the bolt caps.
  • Install the bulb in the light. Be careful not to exceed the maximum wattage listed – this is a fire hazard.
  • Turn the power back ON from the service panel and turn the light switch ON.

Now that the fixture is installed, set the various features that best fit your needs (i.e. timer, range, sensitivity, etc.) according to the instructions. Finally, seal the fixture to the wall following to manufacturer’s recommendations. (I caulked with a silicone weather sealant.)

With a motion sensing, dusk-to-dawn light you can’t be afraid of the dark anymore because there won’t be any!

Norma sig

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • Christal Neil

    Norma – thank you for the helpful and interesting info, especially on installing a dusk to dawn fixture and my “fav” those pesky anchors. P.S. Love your photo of you and your Aunt Ro.

    • Norma

      You’re welcome, and my pleasure! Thanks for your comments!