How to Add a Light Sensor to Outdoor Lanterns

2 Materials
1 Hour
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.
Can you spot the sensor?
How about now?
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.
I thought I could perform a similar trick with the porch lanterns, so we bought two black beauties and a sensor from Amazon.

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?

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).
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.
Now I can sleep easy at night since all sides of our house have security lighting!
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! Thanks for reading! -- Greg

Suggested materials:

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  • Cable

Handan & Greg @ The Navage Patch
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