Go It Alone Or Hire a Pro? Installing a Security Light

If you've thought about doing some DIY home improvements in an effort to save money or just want to learn a new skill, it's important to know when it's okay to go it alone and when to hire a pro.


A motion-sensor security light is an inexpensive upgrade to your home’s outdoor lighting that can enhance safety and provide tremendous convenience when your hands are full.

Depending on where you live and the complexity of the installation, an electrician will often charge between $70 and $150 to replace an existing fixture with a motion sensor. However, you may be able to do it yourself and pocket the savings. Here’s how to tell.

It’s OK to do it yourself if:

  • You have a basic understanding of electrical wiring
  • You have the necessary tools and supplies (screw driver, wire stripper, wire cutter, voltage meter, wire nuts, electrical tape)
  • You can easily access the outlet where an existing light is installed

You should hire a pro if:

  • You’re uncomfortable working with electricity
  • You can’t safely access the existing lighting fixture
  • You’re installing a new fixture and need to run wiring to it

The specific instructions for installing and calibrating your new motion sensor will vary depending on the fixture you purchase. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • To simplify installation, choose a replacement fixture with a base that’s similar in size and shape to the fixture you’re replacing.
  • Be certain to turn off power to the fixture at the circuit breaker before you expose any wires. You can test for power using the light switch, but it’s best to test the wires for voltage using a voltage tester to be certain.
  • Make sure to seal your new fixture from moisture. You can run a bead of silicone sealant around the top of the base to keep water from getting in from above. Leave a portion of the bottom of the base unsealed so water can drain out if it does get in.

Most well-equipped homeowners who know how electrical wiring works can replace an outdoor light fixture with a motion-sensor light fairly quickly. It’s a relatively simple project—if you have the right tools and skills.

If you need to hire a professional contractor for this project or any other, you can find quick, easy and free referrals at contractorfinder.ahs.com, brought to you by Home Advisor.