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Installing and Testing Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Install the Electrical Wiring for a Dawn Outdoor Light Fixture: Installing dusk to dawn light fixtures can be pretty straight forward, but every once and a while there may be a problem. Lets take a look at a list of check you can make to help get your dusk to dawn light fixture installed and working:

Wiring and Testing Dusk to Dawn Outdoor Light Fixtures

Electrical Question: I just installed a 150w dusk to dawn light fixture and it wont light up.

  • The bulb is new,  and a new switch. I have 120 volts in the bulb socket, but the light will not light up.
  • Could it be transformer not putting out enough power to light bulb, or what?

This electrical wiring question came from: Garry, a Handyman from Grants Pass, Oregon.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Garry.

How to Install the Electrical Wiring for a Dawn Outdoor Light Fixture

Application: Install Dusk to Dawn Light Fixture.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best Installed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor or Certified Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Tool Pouch of Electrical Tools, and Voltage Tester, Fiberglass Ladder.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience working with electrical wiring, the number of lights that will be replaced or installed and access to the light fixtures.
Precaution: Identify the lighting circuit or power source, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the electrical wiring and light fixture connections.
Notice: Installing additional electrical wiring for outdoor lighting should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

Installing Dusk to Dawn Fixtures

Installing dusk to dawn light fixtures can be pretty straight forward, but every once and a while there may be a problem. Lets take a look at a list of check you can make to help get your dusk to dawn light fixture installed and working:

  • Make sure all wiring connections are well make and the wire connection is on firmly. The smaller light fixture wires can easily slip out of the wire connector and prevent connection.
  • Testing for voltage using an audible tester is fine, but remember that it will not indicate that the neutral connection is working.

Dusk to Dawn Fixture Switch Settings for Accuracy

  • Switch settings for Testing can not only be hard to read, but confusing as well. Make sure that the light fixture is not left in the Test mode or switch position.
  • The test mode allows testing in the daytime after the light fixture has been installed. This is a really handy feature especially for positioning the motion detector head.
  • Light bulbs must match the specifications of the light fixture otherwise damage may result to the internal circuitry of the light fixture. The size and watts of the lamps is important, and also the type of lamp. Some CFL lamps should not be used with some brands of dusk to dawn light fixtures.
  • If all of the above checks prove ok and the light fixture still does not work, then you may have a defective light fixture. Contact the store where you purchased your disk to dawn light fixture and request an exchange.

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9 Responses to “Installing and Testing Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures”
  1. Jack says:

    I recently purchased a Harris 26w Mini Wall Pack LED Light that has a dusk to dawn sensor. Coming from the dusk to dawn sensor there are red and white wires. Can you please tell me where does the red wire get connected to? There is a Black wire, White wire and Brown wire coming out of my home electric which is standard. I connected the white wire from the dusk sensor to the white wire coming out of my home with along with electric wires from light but have no idea which wire the red one is supposed to be attached to for proper connection.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Jack,
      Typically a 120 volt dusk to dawn sensor has three wires: The white neutral wire which connects to the power source neutral and the light fixture neutral, a black wire which connects to the power source black wire, and a red wire which connects to the black wire of the light fixture. The ground wires are all connected together. Please verify these wiring connections with the wiring diagram which came with your specific light fixture and dusk to dawn sensor.
      I hope this helps,

  2. Joe McVein says:

    I am trying to wire in dusk to dawn switch to 3 outdoor lights on a single light switch. I know I can wire a single dawn to dusk switch into each light separately which seems to work. My question is can I wire a single dusk to dawn switch that will control all 3 lights?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Joe,
      A dusk to dawn switch should provide the volt and watt ratings which are the safe limitations of the device. The documentation supplied with the switch will also provide the application information and wiring connections which are specific for that unit.
      I hope this helps,

  3. T Moore says:

    I have an outdoor post lamp with 3-bulbs which is sharing a circuit breaker with lights to my gazebo. I recently placed 3 dusk til dawn defiant CFL Automatic Light Control sockets, 532 458 which I purchased from Home Depot. Only 2 of the mini florescent bulbs are lighting at dusk. While trouble shooting one lamp I noticed that the socket is not working. This would be the 2nd lamp not working in two days. Is it recommended to put 3 of these Dusk Til Dawn fixtures on one circuit? If not, how could I get a Dusk ’til Dawn feature to work on my outdoor 3 bulb post lamp?

    Thanks a Million.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi T.M.,
      Troubleshooting Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures with CFL Lamps
      I would suspect that the automatic light controlled sockets that you are describing will not work with CFL lamps. To prove this you may try replacing the CFL lamps with incandescent or halogen lamps of the specified watt rating.
      If the circuit were to become overloaded with these additional lights then the breaker would trip off.
      I hope this helps,

  4. billy says:

    Hi, I have a powerlite, starlux range, model GPS70, there is a red wire coming from the light sensor with a connection block attached what wire should I connect to this block?
    Regards billy

  5. bill novick says:

    I recently purchased a new outdoor post light. The post has an outlet and dusk to dawn light. When I originally installed it following the schematic I thought. The light came on when the power was turned on. When it became dark the fuse had blown. I made sure nothing had come loose and wrapped all caps and ends with electrical tape and then the same thing happened. I must have them wired incorrectly. Could you please provide a schematic or help.
    Bill Novick

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Bill,
      My guess is that the photocell has been wired incorrectly or there is a pinched or shorted wire within the wiring. Make sure the Line and Load wiring of the photocell is correct and double check all the wiring and make sure the wires are not pinched where the post light fixture attaches to the post. Sometimes the length or wire is long and can become pinched when the light fixture is mounted.


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