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Click here to see a descriptive illustration of several styles of motion-sensing lights.
Dear Jim: My family would feel more comfortable with some outdoor security lights, but bright floodlights will drive up my electric bills. Are low-cost, motion-sensing lights a viable alternative for security? - Bill F.
A: Motion-sensing lights are the best choice for most homes. The newer models are reasonably priced and have sensitive, controllable motion sensors. The savings on your annual electric bills can be more than $100 as compared to using just two 100-watt floodlights all night.
Nothing scares would-be thieves away faster than having a bright light come on and shine in their eyes. Not only are they instantly blinded, but they think the homeowner has detected them and switched on a light.
There are many styles and types of motion-sensing light fixtures from which to chose. The most common and reasonably priced style is the two floodlight design with the motion sensor mounted beneath them. This style allows you to point the lights in any direction independent of the motion sensor.
For even more security, some models include a tiny built-in camera between the lights. When the lights are on, you cannot see the camera lens opening. The camera can be connected to a television or VCR (black-and-white or color) to capture a video image of who or what triggered the motion sensor light.
For higher style, select one of the decorative lanterns. Many of them have high-quality polished brass fixtures and beveled glass. The motion sensor is built-in and hidden, so it cannot be adjusted to different positions.
I use solar-powered motion-sensing lights at my own house. They are simple to install and, with no electricity needed, you can locate them wherever you need the most security. The sun charges up a battery inside of the housing and the light will continue to operate even after two weeks of cloudy days.
Motion-sensing models that use X-10 technology can turn on other lights and appliances inside your house. Plug an X-10 module into a wall outlet and plug the light or appliance into the module. When an outside light comes on followed by an indoor light and a radio, a thief will be sure he was seen.
If you need some low-level accent lighting, chose a dual-output model. A low-wattage bulb stays on all night. When motion is detected, the light becomes very bright for one to 15 minutes depending on your setting.
The angle of motion-sensing coverage and its range vary considerably among the models. Determine the area of your yard you want to protect. Select a model with the appropriate angle (100 to 240 degrees) and range (30 to 100 feet) to cover the area. A model with adjustable sensitivity will allow you to fine tune it.
Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 530 - buyer's guide of nine electric and solar motion-sensing light manufacturers (28 models) listing coverage angle, sensitivity range, styles (floodlight, lantern, yard light, entryway, landscape, adapter), bulb types, wattage, delayed off time settings, features, prices, weekly cost to operate chart, security lighting tips and illustrations with descriptions of several models.
Dear Jim: I recently had replacement windows installed in my home. They seem leaky, but I cannot determine if the air leaks are around the frame or the sashes. Are replacement windows less airtight than original ones? - Pam D.
A: Replacement windows should not be any leakier than your original windows. In fact, they should be much more airtight. You should call your window contractor back and have the windows and the installation checked.
One way to determine where the air leaks are is to move a lighted incense stick around the window sashes and frame. The trail of smoke will indicate where the leaks are.