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Published on
March 18th, 2021

Are Your Exterior Lights on at Night? Install a Photocell Fixture

If you keep the exterior lights on at night for your New York City property, you may be faced with a variety of challenges. One solution that solves multiple problems is to install an exterior lights photocell fixture where your outside lights are placed. Bolt Electric explains the benefits of this type of exterior night lighting.

The Many Issues of Outdoor Lighting in New York City

Safety and security

For most people, the first issue that comes to mind when talking about outdoor lighting in the city is security. If you own or manage a property in New York, you know how important it is to make it safe for tenants. Single-family homeowners have the same concerns.

People need to be able to find their way into their dwelling after dark. You also want to discourage burglars and vagrants from hiding in unlit corners and damaging property or potentially harming residents.

Landscaping and signage

Lighting for signage and lights for enhancing landscaping are other common concerns. If you invest in trees or gardens, it’s nice to be able to highlight them after dark as well as during the day. If you have outdoor seating or dining, you want to make it accessible to users.

Some signage doesn’t have its own internal illumination and must be lit from an adjacent fixture. You want people approaching to be able to see the name of your building. Tenants who own small businesses without pylons or other large signs also need patrons to be able to find them.

Energy consumption vs. convenience

Some places simply leave their lights on all the time. While this eliminates the need to turn them on and off, it’s a major waste of energy. And if you live in a small apartment building, duplex, or single-family home, it may actually do more harm than good. It may seem like no one is home if your lights are left on day and night.

How Photocell Light Fixtures Work

Lighting from dusk to dawn

A terrific solution for the challenges posed above is to use photocell light fixtures wherever you have exterior lighting. The technology behind photocell fixtures is the use of semiconductors to manage electric current. Semiconductors, as the name implies, don’t typically conduct electricity very well. However, when they are exposed to significant amounts of light, their conductivity improves.

How do you expose a semiconductor to light? You place it anywhere the sun can shine on it. Working in conjunction with the photocell is a resistor that generates light. When electrical conductivity increases in the photocell, the resistance decreases, and the light is turned off.

In this manner, photocell light fixtures turn themselves on and off in response to changes in light at dawn and dusk. The setting of the sun triggers the photocell fixture to come on, and the rising of the sun in the morning tells it to turn off.

Some people confuse photocell fixtures with motion sensor ones. While photocell fixtures are sensitive to changing light levels, motion sensors respond only to motion. This presents some other problems that we’ll address in the final section below.

Benefits of photocell light fixtures

Using photocell fixtures offers a couple of benefits. First, you don’t need to worry about turning your lights on and off each day because it happens automatically. Second, you don’t have to reprogram your lights with seasonal changes. Photocell fixtures shift their on and off times gradually with more or less sun. All of these advantages save users money because they’re not accidentally running their outside lights when they don’t need them during daylight hours.

Types of photocell lights

There are several varieties of photocell lights available. There are plug-in photocell lights that are compatible with a standard wall outlet. There are also bulbs with photocells in the base that screw into light sockets to transform a normal fixture into a photocell device.

For security use or to light landscaping and signage, the best option is line-voltage wired photocells. These allow the entire circuit to be turned on and off by changes in ambient light.

Options for Photocell Light Fixture Use on Your Property

Dusk-to-dawn lighting with neighbors

There are a few legitimate concerns about using photocell light fixtures with other properties quite close to yours. As you can imagine, in New York City this can become an issue between neighbors. However, there are solutions you can employ to keep everyone happy and allow your neighbors to enjoy the additional safety you are bringing to the area with better lighting.

When installing photocell light fixtures on the exterior of your property, position the lights so they don’t shine directly into your neighbors’ windows (or the windows of your own tenants!). Opt for fixtures that allow you to adjust the angle of the light, so you can direct it to specific areas.

Most people would rather have continuous low light outside than a motion sensor light that turns on and off all night long, as long as the continuous light isn’t too intrusive. You can use light shields or vary the brightness of the light to accommodate people living nearby.

Using LED light bulbs

While you are installing new photocell fixtures outside your property, it’s an ideal time to think about other ways to conserve energy with your lighting. As well as potentially installing motion sensor lights in some areas, you should consider switching to energy-efficient light bulbs.

LED bulbs use less energy and last longer, which saves you time and money. You can use them in photocell light fixtures as well. Just make sure the fixture is designed to work with LED light bulbs.

If you’ve been looking for a solution to your exterior lighting issues and think photocell lights would be perfect for your property, we’d be happy to come out and give you a consultation. We can advise you about placement, power supply, and choice of fixture so you get the results you desire. Call Bolt Electric at 212-434-0098, or use our online form to schedule an appointment at your convenience.

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