security light on brick wall

The Ultimate Guide To Outdoor Security Lights

Published 27th May 2021
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If you’re worried about your home being broken into and burgled, there are a few simple things you can do to make your property a more difficult target for potential intruders. One surprisingly simple and effective measure is installing outdoor security lights on your property. 

These motion-activated devices bathe the area around them in bright light when someone approaches. Darkness is a thief’s best friend, and the bright flash of a security light makes it easy to identify their face and ward them off. Plus, a sudden bright flash of light can also be helpful in deterring unwanted animals from straying onto your property, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any fiendish fox filing through your bin bags - bonus!

But with hundreds of outdoor security lights out on the market, it can be difficult choosing the best ones for your home. Not to mention, there’s so much technical jargon that isn’t properly explained in advertisements. If you’re left feeling overwhelmed with the choices on offer, or confused as to what exactly PIR security lights are, this buyer’s guide is here to help! We’ll start off by giving you some general advice and information, like where to place your outdoor security lights and explaining the difference between the various types you can find on the market today. After that, we’ll showcase some of our favourite models to help you find the right one for your home, needs, and budget. Let’s get started!

How are outdoor security lights powered?

solar panel PIR light

Since security lights are placed outside your home, providing them power is more complex than simply plugging them into your nearest electrical outlet. For a long time, the only way to power outdoor security lights was to have them hardwired into your home’s electrical grid - a time-consuming and often costly process, as you need the experience of a trained electrician to install the cables safely. 

That’s still the case with some powerful or feature-rich security lights, but these days you have much choice. Solar security lights are a good example. These security lights are powered entirely by a dedicated solar panel fixed to their housing. Solar energy is entirely free and a sustainable way to power your outdoor security lights, perfect for those who are looking to keep costs down. For this reason, many of the security lights we’ll be recommending later on are solar security lights.

Halogen or LED security lights?

security light under roof

Halogen bulbs used to be the king of the outdoor security light world. These bulbs are filled with a small pocket of halogen gas, which makes them glow brighter and longer than normal incandescent bulbs. However, in recent years, a pretender to the throne has emerged: LED bulbs. These bulbs use electrically sensitive semiconductor materials rather than the filament in a traditional light bulb. This makes them more energy efficient. But which bulbs make the best security lights?

The answer, far and away, is LEDs. LED security lights use up to 90% less electricity than halogen security lights. If your outdoor security lights are powered from your electrical mains, you’ll save money over time when you pick LEDs. They’re efficient enough to be powered entirely from a solar panel too - in fact, almost all solar security lights use LED bulbs. All of the best security lights you’ll find in this guide are LEDs of one kind or another.

Where should I position my outdoor security lights?

smiling man installing light

There are two main things you need to take account of when positioning your outdoor security lights. The first is effectiveness and the second is legality. To be effective, your security lights need to illuminate potential entrances to your home and provide the widest possible angle for the sensor to detect moving objects. 

It might seem obvious to place the light directly over your door or window, but positioning your security lights near a corner with the light facing the entry point often provides better coverage. You should also make sure your security lights are high enough. If you position them within arms reach, it’ll be much easier for an intruder to disable or break the light.

There are a surprising number of laws that govern where you can position your security lights. This is because the bright spotlight generated by your security lights can disturb and annoy your neighbours. Nobody wants to be a nuisance, so try to position your lights so that they don’t shine light towards your neighbour’s windows and are only activated when someone steps onto your property. Having a security light that activates every time your neighbour walks into their garden or someone walks along your street can cause all sorts of problems. We strongly recommend checking with your local authority to read national and local regulations governing where you can and cannot place outdoor security lights.

Finally, make sure to consider shade when installing solar security lights. Depending on the position of your home relative to the sun, areas of your property might be particularly shady. Placing your solar security lights there means they won’t get enough sunlight during the day to charge.

What are PIR Security Lights?

PIR sensor light

Throughout this guide, and in many other places on the internet, you’ll see references to ‘PIR sensor lights.’ So what are they? A special kind of outdoor security lights? Not really. In fact, almost all security lights you can buy are PIR security lights. 

PIR stands for Passive InfraRed. Without getting too technical, infrared is a type of radiation that we feel as heat. Everything gives off some amount of infrared radiation, but the warmer the object is, the more infrared it emits. That makes it perfect for measuring body heat: infrared thermometers let you take someone’s temperature remotely, for example.

PIR security lights are constantly monitoring the ambient temperature (that’s where the ‘passive’ part comes from). A gradual, slow change (like dawn and dusk) won’t trigger the sensor, but if it detects something warm passing by - like the body of an intruder - the sensor will activate the light. Because PIR sensors are very effective and need little power to work, they’re the standard for outdoor security lights with sensors. All of the outdoor security lights you’ll see in this buyer’s guide are PIR security lights.

Let there be light!

bright spotlight

Now that we’ve illuminated some of the murkier parts of the outdoor security light world, we can look at our picks for the best ones on the market today. Not all houses are the same, and that means that there’s no one ‘best security light’. We all think these devices are great in their own ways, and we’ve dissected each to help you make an informed decision.

Dual Head LED Motion Spotlights

dual head spotlight

Pros: Two independent spotlights, adjustable solar panel

Cons: Position of solar panel can affect PIR sensor, only 80 lumens

Want two solar security lights in one? This product is the choice for you! This dual head security light features a pair of spotlights which can be pointed in different directions. The spotlights can each move in a 90-degree arc for up to 180-degrees of total coverage. If you want to cover your front door and your garage door simultaneously, these outdoor security lights are a good option.

The spotlights are both activated from a single PIR sensor that lies in between them. They’re also solar security lights, and the solar panel rests above the PIR sensor. Unlike many solar security lights, this solar panel is set on an axis so you can change the angle the panel sits at without much trouble. 

This feature is particularly useful if you’re looking to install these lights in a location that gets a bit shady throughout the day, but it does present a potential problem. If the solar panel is set too low, it might block the sight of the PIR sensor. Of course, all you need to do is remember to flip the solar panel up as it gets dark out. Do that, and you’ll never need to worry about this problem.

You should be aware that these spotlights have a combined light output of 80 lumens. While 80 lumens might sound like a lot, and is enough to class this product as an outdoor security light, there are more powerful outdoor security lights in this guide. This is one of the best security lights for protecting small houses with multiple entries, but if you have a big garden, one of the more powerful products in this guide will be a better option.

Ring Floodlight Camera

ring floodlight

Pros: Includes camera & other features, brightest floodlights

Cons: Expensive, must be hardwired

Our next pick comes from Ring, the smart home company that specialises in video doorbells and security cameras. This marvellous model is a modification to one of the most popular items in their smart security and safety range, the Ring camera. Ring has taken their popular HD, motion-activated camera and combined it with a powerful pair of headlights. You get all the benefits of the Ring camera - the ability to stream video to your wireless device at any time, a two-way talk function and a loud siren for scaring off animals and intruders - with a pair of outdoor security lights to boot.

If you’re looking for some truly bright LED security lights, the Ring Floodlight Camera is the product for you. Ring’s custom LED floodlights can put out a scorching 3000 lumens of combined brightness - enough to make the darkest night as bright as the Sahara desert at high noon! In a similar way to the dual spotlights mentioned above, these floodlights are mounted on independent arms.

All those features need a lot of electricity to operate, and that means the Ring Floodlight Camera must be hardwired into your home’s electrical grid. Unless you’re a qualified electrician, you’ll need to hire someone to install it for you. It makes it difficult to reposition afterwards as well, so make sure you’re absolutely happy with it’s placement before you install it.

It’s also far more expensive than any of the other outdoor security lights with sensors included in this buyer’s guide. It’s not unreasonably priced when you consider the camera and extra features, but you may find it overkill for your needs if all you’re looking for is PIR security lights. You should also bear in mind that, in order to view saved clips, you’ll need to sign up to the Ring Protect plan, a monthly subscription service.

Solar Sensor Wall Light

solar sensor wall light

Pros: 12 hour power, superior weather resistance

Cons: limited detection angle, impossible to aim

This next security light is as far away from a spotlight design as you can get. In fact, it doesn’t have a spotlight at all, and its 16 LEDs can’t be repositioned in any way. However, what it lacks in flexibility, it more than makes up for with its toughness and energy efficiency. The solar panel mounted along the top of the security is hyper-efficient at converting solar energy into electrical power. After just eight hours of charging, it can stay on for 12 continuous hours if need be. It offers the longest protection time of any of the LED security lights with sensors in this guide. 

Although it has the longest protection time, it’s not the most flexible security light on our list. We’ve already mentioned that the sensor or lights can’t be aimed in any direction, but we should also point out that the PIR sensor only detects movement in a cone that’s 120-degrees wide. That’s not especially narrow for PIR sensors, but there are outdoor security lights with sensors that have a wider field of view.

The special shape of this outdoor security light is designed to protect it against water damage, as rain that falls on to the solar panel rolls off the panel. With nowhere for water to pool this is one of the most weather resistant outdoor security lights around. That’s reflected in its IP65 weatherproof rating, which means it works after being sprayed with water from a nozzle - which is a good simulation of normal rainfall. If you live in a rainy part of the world, this is definitely one of the best security lights you can get your hands on.

Slimline PIR Floodlight

slimline PIR light

Pros: Wide detection angle, lots of control

Cons: Wired power only, limited movement

Up next is this slimline PIR floodlight. Don’t be fooled by the thin frame: its impressively powerful LEDs give off a serious amount of light! It even has a wide detection angle - 180-degrees, to be exact - making it the second widest in this buyer’s guide, beaten only by the Ring Floodlight. That’s only if you have the detection angle set at maximum, though. This security light has a set of three knobs built into its chassis that allow you to customise at what range the security light activates, how bright it is, and the delay before it turns off again.

There’s a cost to be paid for all of this control, and that’s the power source. Like the Ring Floodlight Camera, this model is hardwired only. And, while this floodlight is flexible with its power and sensitivity, its physical movement is a lot more limited. You can rotate it up and down on the Y-axis, but its U-shaped metal support bracket doesn’t allow any movement left to right. Still, get it in the right spot, and this is one of the best security lights you can buy.

NICREW Battery Powered Spotlight

battery powered light

Pros: Battery powered, easy to aim

Cons: Just four LEDs, narrow beam

Anyone who lives in the UK will know that the weather is far from predictable. If you’re worried that your property doesn’t see enough sun for solar security lights to charge properly, then the NICREW Battery Powered Spotlight is a great alternative to hardwired security lights. As the name suggests, this security camera is powered entirely from a set of batteries - specifically a set of four D-cell batteries. D-cell batteries are common enough, and you can buy rechargeable ones for a more environmentally conscious power source. If you’re looking for a set of quality rechargeable D-cell batteries, we recommend the Energizer ACCU series. Plug these into the NICREW security light, and it’ll be a long time before you need to recharge them.

Another feature we love about this security light is the placement of the PIR sensor. Most outdoor security lights with sensors fit the PIR sensor underneath the security light, but with the NICREW it’s installed in the middle of the light itself. Together with the NICREW light’s flexible adjustable stand, this feature makes the sensor much easier to aim towards a vulnerable part of your garden.

We’re less keen on the number of LEDs that this security light has. Four LED bulbs is still enough to sufficiently light up your garden, but you’ll get more power from the outdoor security lights that have 16 or more LEDs. And this is a spotlight, not a floodlight, you gain far more precision with where the light is pointing, but the beam is narrower than the floodlight designs in this guide.

Lighting the way

security light against sky

With all of our picks for the best security lights analysed in detail, it’s time for us to finally dim the lights on this buyer’s guide - but there’s still time for a few last helpful words! If you want to see an even wider selection of outdoor security lights, you can browse through our extensive selection here. From big name brands, such as vidaXL, Sealey, and Draper, to smaller, independent retailers, our online shelves are full to bursting with models to suit every property, so you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for here at OnBuy.

We should also mention that, while outdoor security lights with sensors can be an effective deterrent on their own, they’re best used in combination with other security devices, including outdoor security cameras and burglar alarms. For more information on how you can protect your home, why not read our dedicated security camera buyer's guides? From general advice on how to create the ultimate outdoor security system to top tips on selecting the best security cameras for your home, we’ve got all the information you need to enhance your home security today. 

The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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