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CFL bulbs do not work well for most exterior applications, including with motion sensor lights.  You can replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights in many places — lamps, ceiling fixtures, and throughout the home.  The rapid and frequent cycling actually damages a CFL, and the light produced by a CFL simply does not provide good security.

Male carefully replacing an old incandescent lightbulb with a new compact fluorescent light in an outdoor fixture to save money when the lamp is on.

Problems with CFL Bulbs and Motion Sensor Lights

Here’s a rundown of why your CFL bulbs don’t work or burn out quickly when placed in motion sensor lights:

  • Incompatible: Some motion sensors simply will not work with CFL bulbs. Either the bulb will not turn on, it will work but burn out very soon. This is because the circuitry of the motion sensor lights was designed for incandescent or other bulbs and it does not illuminate a CFL properly.
  • On/off frequency: CFL bulbs get physically damaged when turned on and off repeatedly. Indoors, you can control how often the switch gets flipped. In motion sensor lights, the CFL may get turned on numerous times every night by people, cars, and animals.
  • Extreme temperatures: The coldest Bay Area nights and the hottest summer days reach temperatures too extreme for CFL bulbs to work properly and last as long as they are advertised. The CFL would have to be designed for both outdoor use and for motion sensor lights.
  • CFL warm-up time: CFL bulbs typically start dim and brighten up over the course of several minutes. For security purposes and good visibility, most CFLs are simply not ideal.

Note: high-intensity discharge (HID) lights also suffer from frequent on/off cycles, making them similarly problematic for motion-activated security lights.

CFL Bulbs on Timers

Another option is to use CFL bulbs in security lights with a mechanical timer for nighttime hours. Given the energy efficiency of CFLs, this may be a cost-effective option for many places. If the all-night light will disturb you or your neighbors, however, you should look into a complete solution for motion sensor lights and appropriate bulbs.

Bulbs for Motion Sensor Lights

Assuming you want greater energy efficiency and longevity than incandescent bulbs, your best option is LED lights. LEDs do not get damaged or burnt out due to frequency switching, and they provide full brightness right away.

Outdoor Security with Motion Sensor Lights

Consider revamping your exterior lighting with wiring and lights. If your motion sensor lights are burning out too often, or do not cover enough ground, we can help. You can stop climbing the ladder to change bulbs frequently, and rest easy knowing that all the pathways and corners are illuminated as they should be.

Contact us to schedule an estimate for wiring or replacing motion sensor lights and other outdoor lighting needs!

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