Best locations for security motion lights

Motion Light Location You Might Not Have Thought Of…

The best places to put outdoor motion lights. Is this topic even worth writing about? Yes! Why? Because home security is important. It begins at the perimeter.

Motion lights are put up outdoors for two reasons. Convenience and Security.

Outdoor Motion Light Locations

First I want to address this issue:

The Best Height For Motion Lights

How high up should you mount a motion light?

It may seem somewhat irrelevant. You may be restricted to the existing design parameters of your home and the accessibility to install the electrics. However height does make a difference for a motion light.

For most outdoor motion lights, the optimum height is between 6 and 10 feet off the ground. If you’re looking for maximum detection distance, mount it 8 – 10 feet up. If you go much higher, you will start to lose distance.

The RAB Stealth (being the best) will reach 60 feet. Their technical specs indicate optimum height of 10 feet for that:

RAB STL360 mounting height

Before I suggest motion light locations that you might not have thought of,

Most Are Above The Garage

The #1 motion light location where you’ll see them mounted is above the garage door. This makes sense for convenience, practicality and basic security if you only have one location in mind.


The second most popular location are walkways to/from entrances of the house. Again, convenience. Makes sense.

Additionally, you will find most lights to be on the front side of the house. That’s fine. However it’s important to understand the mindset of a burglar. They love the shadows (read on).

The Back Door

Pretty much every home will have at least an ordinary switched light at the back door. But how many have a motion light there?

It’s fairly easy to install because there’s already a light fixture there. All you have to do is replace it with a good outdoor motion light. Or, leave the original light and tap off the circuit to install the motion light nearby.

I wrote about what I consider to be the best one in this article.

Have you thought of this?

Each Side of the House

When home security is of a greater concern though, here’s what I recommend:
Each side of the house.

Motion light locations will be somewhat dictated by the layout of your home’s exterior and the surrounding land configuration including driveways, walkways, property entrance points, etc.

With that said, the objective is to eliminate or minimize any dark areas upon approach to the house from any direction.

A burglar is more likely to approach from the back or sides of the house. It’s usually darkest there and obviously away from the front / street where there’s a better chance of being seen. The burglar is not going to walk right up a walkway so bear that in mind when you’re considering a motion light location.

It’s About Deterrence

A key to the thought process of where to put your motion lights, is early deterrence.

A thief is going to be ‘jumpy’ to begin with. The sooner you have light on an intruder, the better. An unexpected illumination may send him running…

So in addition to your convenience locations, an important motion light location is along the sides and back of the house. Consider the direction where an intruder might use to avoid detection. Ideally you will want to cover the entire perimeter around your house with motion light coverage.

Motion Light Location
No Power? No Problem

Lets face it. Unless you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person with enough electrical knowledge, installing a new motion light where there’s no existing fixture will require an electrician.

Instead you might consider solar powered outdoor motion lights. The technology is getting better. Brighter illumination (lumens), better panels and batteries.

I live off the beaten path on a private road. There’s no readily accessible power along there. I wanted to illuminate part of the road which I could still see from the house. I chose a solar motion light which so far is doing a good job (mounted on a makeshift pole that I put together).

The point is, a solar motion light may be a relatively simple way to get more coverage outside your house.

This is the one I bought. So far so good. The sensor distance is about 30 feet. You’ll never get as good as the RAB Stealth, but not bad for a solar motion light.
Sunforce Solar Triple Head Motion Security Light
sunforce solar motion light

This type of lighting can be mounted nearly anywhere, but will require a mounting position which receives enough direct sunlight during the day to keep the batteries well charged. Though it will still charge in indirect sun – just not as much.

Motion Light Location: SUMMARY

If your property is big enough, I believe a best case scenario is to have two perimeters of light around the house. One installed farther out, which would be triggered first (probably solar lights). The second perimeter is based on the home itself.

The first perimeter (furthest away) will require either permanent installed 120-volt AC wiring to each location, or the use of solar powered lighting systems.

The second perimeter (at the house) can also be handled either way, but you will get more light with a 120-volt system (normal house power).

In summary, consider outdoor motion lights for your home and property. Go outside and walk your perimeter. Visualize yourself as the intruder and discover the weak spots where you may get on to your property undetected. Bathe these locations with motion lights.

Related: Solar Motion Lights For Outside – Bright Enough To Be Useful


  1. Thanks Ken. This is timely as I just got a couple solar-powered motion detector lights. Smaller one to go at road end of the driveway and a larger to flood end of driveway. That will cover steps to front deck, carport, workshop, and storage container.

  2. Something to keep in mind,
    The motion sensor can be detached and remotely mounted,
    We ran into the problem of the lights needing to be mounted too far away from walkways etc to be effective, so fished some wires into the walls to be able to mount the sensors away from the lights closer to a pathway and one actually far away that turned on a couple lights on the house when a car was on the driveway,
    Theres options, of course be careful and dont do stuff that you are not sure of.

    1. Tommyboy
      I’ve done that myself. I hooked up the extra sensor in the middle of the deck steps, connected to three sets of motion lights, set up at all three house doors.
      Reason being
      The ex used to show up at night and cause all sorts of…….stuff.
      She was NOT pleased when the whole yard lit up on her arrival.
      Too bad so sad.
      First and last time after the extra motion lights/sensor were installed.
      She was such a peach.

  3. Ken,
    Nice article, good food for thought. We have two battery operated lights on our shed and shop, cheap ones off the shopping channel. they work fairly well. I will be looking into the brands you suggest, as we want a couple right close to the house. Do not think we will put a 2nd ring further out though. We have critters walking right in around the farm at night, deer mostly, who sleep behind the house.(seems the coyotes do not bother them here). Do not want lights going on and off all night due to animals that far out. We live in an area where most of my neighbors shun the old farm sodium vapor ‘yard light’. We have actually talked about this, staying dark, we all like to go look at the dark night sky.(Also allows for better use of night vision equipment, imho). These security lights, with their timers are just the ticket.

  4. As Ken stated, you would do the sidewalks/roadways for yourself and doing the bushes for the sneaks. I’m still using motion detectors and cameras. If you have a determined intruder, will the lights coming on tell the person where not to sneak the next time a break-in or assault is attempted?

    1. A determined burglar is just that, determined.

      Most or your typical ‘chump’ burglars will always seek easier prey. Motion lights are very common on nearly every home. However usually just one, over the garage door.

      The chump burglar will be surprised if he sneaks around the side or back and suddenly gets illuminated with thousands of lumens of light. The chump will move on.

      The determined burglar will likely stake out the place for awhile and plan the break-in. Probably when you’re not home, and probably during the day.

      I don’t like to be surprised. That’s why I like good coverage with motion lights. When one of them goes on, I peek out the window. Around here, it’s mostly likely deer or other such 4 legged creatures.

  5. Good article and serious food for thought. Are there any solar motion activated lights that will send a warning chime to interior receiver? I’m thinking in terms of the currently available PIR driveway type alarms. Being able to set the chimes to specific areas would help as well.

    1. Desertrat, there were ones that did this, but I checked SmartHome web site and couldn’t find any. I used old technology call X-10 now replaced by Insteon. Insteon may allow for this but I’ve been 20 years into X-10 so I never played with it. X-10 equipment is also getting harder to get. It uses RF and house wiring to send information. The X-10 flood lights allow me to do send a code to my computer and from there trigger other X-10 modules. I have 4 X-10 flood lights around the house, when one it tripped it send a code to my house computer that turns on the stereo and plays an audio file through the house speakers. Since it knows what flood light was tripped it tells me where, drive way, front door, back yard. I had it once turning lights on the house in different rooms at night when triggered when I was on the road a lot.

      I think Insteon works the same as X-10 but is suppose to be more secure. Anyone with an X-10 RF control module can within 100 feet of my house turn X-10 modules on and off.

      1. Harbor Freight sells a outside cheap motion detector which chimes inside. Range is pretty good. No light. Cheap but useful.

  6. Wanna know where to put them? Go out and try and pee in the yard. Wherever you get away with it … well there ya go

  7. Due to my experience, and my natural ability to see well in the dark, I only turn on outside lights, manually, when absolutely needed.
    I much prefer to remain in the dark, watching, listening.
    I even roam my property on dark nights without artificial lighting.
    (Although I do have an excellent watchdog.)

    1. WarVet,

      I agree wholeheartedly with roaming your property at night. I’ve done that for years. I feel that everyone here should give it a try and I feel most prepper sites give that short shrift. Ken broached the subject a while back with an article on night sight tips.

      During the years that I’ve pondered what life would be like in the aftermath of a societal collapse, no matter what the cause, I always felt the need for night time surveillance/patrol of your property/surroundings would be paramount to safety and protection. You soon find that perspectives change after dark comes. You will see your property/home from the perspective of those who might be targeting your place. In a remote area like where I am, make it a point to spend a night staying up all night long. You might be surprised to observe who prowls around in their vehicles in the wee hours of the morning. It’s fun to see the startled looks on their faces when you light up their vehicles as they are prowling around.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      1. Dennis:
        Your comment about ‘night prowlers’ is spot on.
        No matter where you live: city, country, suburbia, gated community, or where ever – there is always that percentage of people that are ‘night prowlers’.
        Everywhere !

    1. The RAB’s? No.

      That said, if you slow walk straight towards a generic motion light, it will be harder for its sensor to detect you. Though it ultimately will.

  8. Sorry about the “off-topic” post, but to all current and former LEO’s…


  9. I’ve gotten within a few feet of these. Move slowly enough, they’re blind. I don’t know if I could have gotten all the way past, since I got bored with the game and started walking normally. My neighbor has one (shines in my bedroom window, idiot thing) that goes on whenever a car passes on the street but doesn’t notice me walking around in my yard. So it probably depends on the light.

  10. The motion light my parents have on the driveway goes off every time the outside cats are walking around or the occasional raccoon or possum crosses to get to the cat food dish. The light helps to track the raccoons and possums so that they can become fertilizer out back in the field.

  11. Here’s another thought. An acquaintance of mine in another rural area finally had cable tv available and signed up for it. He repurposed his mast mounted antenna rotor with floodlight fixture. He can sit in the livingroom and light up anything he desires out back, watching out the rear windows. Says it’s great for deer.

    1. Steve Long,
      That’s a pretty cool idea. It makes me think of another invention idea: an outdoor motion light that automatically tracks / moves with the motion – following it. Okay, whoever takes this to market, I thought of it first ;) 50% of all profits in perpetuity sounds good…

  12. My darkest area is at the side of our house where there is a side door but no windows and I worry that if we placed a motion sensor light there nobody would see it from inside the house when it is activated. We have a side gate with the path that runs along the side of the house and another gate across the garden that we can access from our private driveway. What would you suggest?

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