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Installing and Testing Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures

I just installed a 150w dusk to dawn light fixture and it wont light up: How to Install the Electrical Wiring for a Dawn Outdoor Light Fixture.

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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 in 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:

Dusk to Dawn Fixture Switch Settings for Accuracy

More about Security Lights and Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures

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Installing Motion Detector and Security Light Fixtures

Installing motion detector lighting fixtures provide security and energy savings and they can easily replace an existing exterior wall fixture.

More about Wiring Light Switches:

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Wiring a Light Switch – Diagram 1

Fully explained pictures and wiring diagrams about wiring light switches describing the most common switches starting with photo diagram 1.

For more information about Troubleshooting
Troubleshooting Electrical Wiring
Licensed Electrician Reveals the Secrets of Successful Electrical Troubleshooting Methods used to solve the majority of the home electrical problems and wiring failures encountered.

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Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
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The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

13 Responses to “Installing and Testing Dusk to Dawn Light Fixtures”
  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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,

  6. 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?

  7. 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,

  8. 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.

  9. 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,

  10. Ken Bryan says:

    I recently replaced bulb and sensor for dusk to dawn light. It still does not work. I checked my connections and have power where I connected the wires together. I went to a bulb with more wattage (175w) could this be the reason it won’t come on, or could it be a faulty ballast or something else? This has me at wits end. I am thinking about installing a whole new unit. Thank You, Ken.

  11. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Ken,
    The higher watt lamp may be the problem, so try installing lamps with the original specified watt size as recommended by the manufacturer.
    I hope this helps to get your light working,

  12. Daniel says:

    I just purchased a Defiant 325 052 photo control to replace a Lutron on/off with a photocell. The Lutron had 4 wires, black, green & blue from the bottom and a black from the top. I had wired it as a light switch in the line. The black wires with the photo cell in the middle connected the black wire from the power source and to the fixture. The green wire to ground of course and I capped off the blue wire. It worked, at least for a while.

    I know wiring can often be routed many ways. Will this continue to work? What is the downside of my method?

    Thanks, Daniel

  13. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Daniel,
    From what you have described the previous Lutron switch may have been a 3-way switch, therefore the light fixture may be controlled by two or more switches. With this in mind the operation of the photo control will be affected by any other switch within the circuit. It would be best to completely identify the switching circuity in order to make the wiring modifications which will enable you to wire the photo control to become the one source of control for the light fixture.
    I hope this helps you,