My next door neighbour has, or rather had, a motion detecting security light over her patio outside her door. It had stopped working so she asked me if I’d take a look at it.
Well, it seems whoever had fitted it had left the wires coming out of the wall exposed and going downwards as they entered the side of the light. The result was that on some rainy night, water had run down the wires into the light itself so when the passive detected movement on the patio and the light came on, it self destructed.
I gave her the bad news the other day and she said (very optimistically) that if she popped down to les Briconautes and bought another one for 10€ or so, would I put it up for her? I said that of course I would but that she shouldn’t be too hasty.
Her old light was one of those awful square ones on a thin metal bracket with a motion detector below the light itself the bulb of which was one of those thin tubular very high wattage ones. So not only did it look as though it should be outside some factory somewhere, but it was also very much old technology.
I said that things have moved on a bit and she now had two alternatives. She could either go for a solar powered light that would have the advantage of coming on every night at low intensity but then switching to high intensity if it detected movement, or she could stay with a mains operated one which would be LED and consume much less power than her old one.
I also said that although I hadn’t tried them myself, I’d heard of LED bulbs that contain movement detectors and that maybe we should look at those together before making too quick a decision.
OK, so that’s what I did a few days ago. I found that there are indeed such bulbs so you can in theory turn any light into a security light at not a very great cost. But what caught my eye was one I found on Amazon that is even more sophisticated in a way that particularly appealed to me.
The bulb is sold under the name ‘Sengled’ and it’s special characteristic is that not only does it detect movement and switch itself on if left in passive mode, but it can also be used as a normal bulb if you switch it on twice.
I loved this idea because my lights have always had ‘ordinary’ bulbs in them so unless I switch them on before I go out, if I arrive home late I have to find my way to my door in the dark and then fumble to unlock it.
Having movement detecting bulbs would be a godsend! So I told Chantal, my neighbour to hold on while I bought three bulbs to replace the ‘ordinary’ ones in the outside lights on the front of my house and then saw how they performed. Here are a couple of shots of the bulbs that I’m talking about.
Well, I’m sad to say that my initial findings were disappointing. My outside lights, front and rear, are of a lantern design with thick glass. The glass evidently prevented the motion detectors built into the bulbs from functioning so I had no ‘security light’ feature, just the ‘normal bulb’ operating mode.
I found this out after we’d returned from our restaurant night-out yesterday but before calling it a night I had to look into things a little bit more. This I did by removing the glass from the forward and side-facing sections of one of the lights at which time the bulb functioned perfectly.
The last thing I did was to grab some left-over ULM windscreen plastic that I have in my atelier and quickly make up some replacement plastic panels for the glass that I’d removed and guess what. Even placing a 1mm thick transparent plastic barrier around the bulb that I’d chosen to experiment with prevented it from detecting any movement.
I continued with my experiments today. I was able to because I found that unlike ‘real’ security lights, these bulbs detect movement and keep functioning during daylight. I suppose that it is a bit too much to expect them to work in a fully sophisticated way for what they cost (approx 7€ each inc delivery) and it’s no big deal really as even if they do switch on during the day, being LED they burn very little electricity during the 90seconds that they remain on. And you don’t keep marching up and down making them do so anyway, do you.
My idea was that if you take into account the ‘detection angle’ of the detector built into the head of the bulb, you needn’t remove the whole plastic sections in the forward and side-facing elements of the light if you could drill a suitable size hole of the right diameter in exactly the right place in each face. And sure enough, it worked. Here are some shots of the finished articles.
First, a couple of shots with all three lights switched on. The lights aren’t quite as bright in reality as the photographs appear to show them to be, but the level of illumination is ample for my purposes.
Now a couple of shots of one of the lights showing the holes that I drilled in the forward and side-facing plastic panels that I replaced the glass with. I left the glass in the two rear ones, by the way.
I’m very pleased with the results that more than meet my expectations. The motion detection feature works just as I wanted it to and it’ll be a boon in the future when I get out of my car and make my way to my door with the lights switching on in turn as I do.
The only downside is the holes in the panels. The lights are under the eaves of my house so water ingress shouldn’t be a problem and even if any does get in, there are drain holes in the bottoms of the lights to let it out.
Insects may be more of a problem because we have a heck of a lot of them down here and they all love (a) light and (b) holes. But when I took the lights apart the bottoms were full of dead insects anyway, so I doubt that they’ll pose too much of a problem. But I’ll just have to wait and see 😉