Why do people want to make their homes smart? They want to enjoy the convenience and energy savings that having a smart home can bring. A smart home can allow you to feed your dog from the other side of the world, turn your lights on for you when you are on your way home and tell you who is at your door.
Daylight Sensor Comparison Table
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A smart home should also have at least some ability to sense light. There are many applications for this ability. As of now, there are not many ways to integrate light-sensing ability with hubs or digital assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant, but here we will explore some of the possibilities and look at some awesome products that will help you give your home a little more intelligence.
How We Reviewed These Daylight Sensors
We found some really good products in several categories that make use of photocells. The simplest ones are just light bulbs that turn themselves on and off according to ambient light levels. We picked the most dependable and highest-quality models for inclusion here.
There are many daylight-sensitive outdoor receptacles on the market today, and most of them are either overpriced or just plain junk. We excluded all the ones that were unfairly priced and went ahead and examined the rest to see how durable, dependable and weatherproof they are. We ended up with two that we want you to see.
We found two photocell switches that amazed us with their price and versatility. It takes some basic wiring, but almost anyone can incorporate one of these into a floodlight, lamp post, outdoor outlet or almost anything else.
The Best Daylight Sensors Compared And Reviewed
JMKMGL Dusk-To-Dawn LED Floodlight
Does your outdoor floodlight operate on a manual switch? Or, even worse, does it stay on 24/7? This floodlight senses light levels and automatically turns on at dusk and off at dawn. This can save you over $100 per year if you use it to replace a 250-watt HID light that runs constantly.
The LED light only draws 40 watts of power, yet sheds as much light as a typical incandescent floodlight that uses six times as much electricity. This particular LED light gives off a cold bluish light. This may take some getting used to if you are accustomed to warmer HID and incandescent lighting.
Installation is not very difficult if you are just replacing an existing floodlight because the wiring is the same. It is just a matter of removing the old light, mounting this one with the included hardware and connecting the wiring.
- Sheds light over a wide area.
- Saves energy over other conventional types of lights.
- Relatively easy installation.
- Installation can be difficult if not simply replacing an existing floodlight.
- Color of this light is a bit “cold” for some.
Boxlood Dusk-To-Dawn LED Light Bulb 2-Pack
Here is a simple way to make outdoor life a little smarter and simpler. These LED bulbs just screw into your outdoor sockets. They come on at dusk and shut off at dawn. You can use them in lamp posts, porch lights and just about any other outdoor socket. We would recommend using them in fixtures with either clear or highly transparent glass. This is because more opaque glass can block some daylight and cause the bulbs to come on a little before dusk and stay on a bit after dawn.
These 9-watt bulbs replace 60-watt incandescents, so they save energy in two ways: by turning on and off automatically and by drawing less electricity while in operation.
There is no way to disable the automatic on/off feature, so you won’t want to use them to replace lights that you need to remain on all the time.
- Very simple replacements for standard screw-in light bulbs.
- Reduced functionality when used in lamp posts unless the glass is clear.
- A bit bulky compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
THlighting Dusk-To-Dawn LED Bug Light 2-Pack
Bug lights do not repel insects. They are, however, less attractive to bugs than “white” lights. Little flying and crawling insects are instinctively drawn to bright light, but not so much to the yellowish part of the spectrum.
These bulbs draw only five watts of power, but give off an amount of light equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent bulb. This is a nice and gentle light that will work great on your porch. Don’t expect them to light up your entire yard. These are meant for porch lighting rather than area saturation. They are not recommended for lamp posts or receptacles.
Like the lights we reviewed above, these automatically come on at dusk and go off at dawn.
- Gives off a light that is less attractive to bugs.
- Simple replacements for screw-in bulbs.
- Not for use in lamp posts.
- Light is a bit dim.
Westek Programmable Light Control
This little device makes any socket smart. You simply screw it into a socket and then screw any incandescent, halogen, CFL or LED bulb into it.
The LED bulbs above turn on and off automatically at dusk and dawn. This adapter does the same thing and more. It has a timer feature that can be set to turn the light off after two, five or eight hours. This is pretty useful because if you are not expecting to come back home until the next day, you can hit a button as you leave so the light will turn off after a while instead of burning all night.
It can be used in most any outdoor light fixture.
Another cool feature is the random program. It turns the light on and off at random times to deter any potential intruders that may be watching your house. Yes, there are much more effective light-control products that would be a lot better at tricking would-be burglars, we thought this is a cool feature to find.
- Several automatic control options.
- Can accept most any type of screw-in light bulb.
- Will cause any light used with it to stick out an extra four inches.
ECO Plugs Outdoor Yard Stake Timer with Photosensor and Remote Control
This is a six-outlet receptacle that turns power on and off to all the plugs at dusk and dawn. We realized the potential for Christmas lights right away, but there are many other uses for this product. It can be used for other holiday lighting, of course, but it can also be used for accent lighting around shrubs and flower beds, walkway lighting and other permanent applications. You just have to have a little imagination.
There are some other features here that bear mentioning. It has a timer function that will cut the power after two, four, six or eight hours. You don’t have to walk out to it to set the timer or change the setting from timer to photocell if you use the included remote. The remote also has a master on/off switch that overrides the timer and daylight sensor functions.
- Can control up to six different lights or other apparatuses.
- Also has a timer function.
- Included remote control.
- Green color blends with just about any outdoor decor.
- The two-piece stake may break unless shoved into the ground at an almost perfect perpendicular angle.
Century Outdoor 24-Hour Timer With Photocell Light Sensor
This outdoor photocell-controlled receptacle features two grounded plugs. It cuts power to both outlets on when the sun goes down and shuts it off at sunrise.
This one is set by the twist of a dial rather that a few clicks of a remote. You set the knob to on, off, photosensor mode or to one of the four timer settings: two, four, six or eight hours.
Christmas lights and holiday decorations are also stand-out uses for this item, and so are all of the other outdoor landscaping uses mentioned in the review above. This receptacle is a bit more discreet than the ECOPlug. It is meant to be hidden among vegetation.
It only has two plugs, so it may be more suitable for more moderate set ups. I use a one of these to control the lights around my koi pond. I have the receptacle itself hidden in a shrub, and I covered the red power light with a piece of electrical tape. Thanks to the flat black color of the housing, you can’t see it at all, even if you are looking for it. The lights’ wires are shallowly buried in mulch. You can’t see the receptacle, wires or anything else that you’re not supposed to.
- Also has a timer function.
- Black color is suitable for stealth applications.
- Simple dial operation.
- Only two plugs.
- LED power light can be annoying.
CSLU Waterproof Photo Sensor Switch
This is a very simple photocell switch that can be used in various applications. It really can be wired to just about anything, if you have a little electrical knowledge. Even if you have no experience with electricity, a quick look on Youtube will reveal numerous videos about how to install a basic photocell switch.
Here are just some of the many things that you can incorporate this model into with minimal skill and a willingness to learn:
- Lamp posts.
- Pool filters.
- Pond pumps.
- Simple design.
- Relatively easy to install.
- The sun will eventually discolor the protective plastic dome if placed where the sun will shine directly on it in the daytime.
Solo Lights Photocell Switch
This photocell switch works exactly the same way the CSLU model does, but the design is a bit different. There is no protective dome. This switch is made to be more discreet. For example, I have seen it used as an add on daylight switch in a big halogen lamp post. There was a small hole drilled in the post near the top, and this photocell switch was mounted inside with the “eye” peeking out of the hole. The wiring to the light was a simple job that took about five minutes.
Of course, you don’t have to install it in a lamp post. The possibilities are almost limitless. What do you use outdoors that plugs into an outlet? Now imagine one of these wired to that outlet. Get it?
- Easy to wire to just about anything.
- No mounting hardware included at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t Wiring A Photocell Into My Home’s Power System Dangerous?
It can be. You have to know what you are doing. But it is not a difficult thing to learn. It can actually be fun. I feel obligated to remind you to check your local ordinances regarding what types of electrical jobs need to be done by a licensed electrician.
Aren’t There Any Daylight Sensors That Work With Smart Hubs, Alexa, Or Google Home?
At this time, there really aren’t many ways to incorporate daylight sensors with the usual methods of smart home control. Will there be in the future? We think so!
The Final Verdict
The daylight-sensitive LED bulbs that we reviewed here are simple and inexpensive ways to make your home a bit smarter by automatically giving you light outside only when you need it. Westek’s adapter can turn any light bulb into a smart light, and also offers a timer feature.
The photosensitive multi-outlet receptacles are great ways to control multiple outdoor lights, pumps and anything else that works on 100V current. If you are into landscaping, take a good look at these and let your imagination run!
Anyone who likes a good project will enjoy installing one of the simple photocell switches. They are versatile and can be easily wired to most any outlet.