Join the latest trend in housing – Go Green!

Installing a “photocell or dusk-to-dawn lights” on your exterior lighting can cut your electricity bill by over $100! A photocell will automatically control the lights so that they turn-on at dusk, and turn-off at dawn. This provides safety and security as well as eliminates the waste caused by leaving lights on.

The process to install a photocell is simple and takes about an hour or two. Here are the basic instructions:

WARNING:  If you are unsure about this project, consult a qualified contractor or electrician.  We disclaim any and all liability should you suffer any loss or injury.  Perform at your own risk!  Do not use a photocell with a dimmer switch.

1. Start by turning off the power to the light fixture.


light switch

2. Next, remove the existing light fixture from the wall. Mount the electric box to the wall (you may have to “punch” out some holes in the electric box). Ensure that the mounting holes for the light aligns with the mounting holes on the electric box.

Note: The existing house wiring should have 2 or 3 wires – ONE Black, ONE White, and ONE Ground/Green/Bare wire (may not be present on older homes).

  • The black wire is usually the “hot” wire and will “shock” you if the power is not off.
  • The white wire is usually the “neutral” wire and should not have any voltage.
  • The green or bare copper is the ground (if present) and should not have any voltage.

3. Now mount the photocell in the electric box. Make sure that the photocell points toward the sunlight, not toward a dark area. Otherwise, the light(s) may come on too early and stay on too long. Read the instructions that came with your particular photocell.

Photocell and mounting box

Photocell in electrical mounting box

4. In this example, the black wire on the photocell connects to the existing black wire coming from the house. Strip, connect, wire nut, and tape these wires together.

5. The white wire on the photocell connects to the existing white wire from the house AND the white wire on the light fixture. Strip, connect, wire nut, and tape these wires together.

6. The red wire on the photocell connects to the existing BLACK WIRE FROM THE LIGHT FIXTURE. Strip, connect, wire nut and tape these wires together.

7. The ground wire (if present) should be “grounded” to the electrical box, and then connected to the light fixture (if the light fixture has a “ground” wire/connection). Wire nut and tape.

8. Bunch up all the wires and push them into the electric box. Mount the light fixture over the electric box and secure with the mounting screws you removed in step 2. Be careful not to “nick” or damage the wiring.

photocell installed and mounted

Operating photocell mounted in electrical box

9. Turn the power back on. If the circuit breaker activates, check your wiring.  If all is fine, the photocell will now act as an automatic daylight switch.

Note: To test the photocell during the day, place a piece of black tape over the photocell. After a couple of minutes the light should turn on. Remove the tape and the light should turn off. Now you’re ready for the evening to arrive.

You can also download PDF instructions (approx 2 megabytes) how to install a photocell to control lighting for your property. (installing_photocell)

Enjoy the piece of mind knowing that you’re doing your part to save money and reducing your energy use.