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How To Turn Off Dusk To Dawn Light Fixture?

Dusk to dawn light fixtures are some of the best options for outdoor lighting available. These types of light fixtures have the ability to turn on and off without needing your input. Simply install them, wait for the sun to go down, and watch them light up on their own. However, sometimes these dusk to dawn fixtures might malfunction and turn on unnecessarily, or you might want to turn them off completely if you're away on vacation.

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To turn off your dusk to dawn fixture, simply install a sensor cap that fits over the photocell that operates the dusk to dawn light. This overrides the ability of the photocell to turn your dusk to dawn lights on and off. You can also use smart lights instead of dusk to dawn lights, which allow you to control your lights through an app from anywhere in the world. If all else fails, you can always uninstall the photo cell switch that comes on the light, then require the light to work as a regular light operated by a wall switch.

Old forged metal street lamp with glass, How To Turn Off Dusk To Dawn Light Fixture?

What is a Dusk to Dawn Light?

Dusk to dawn lights are those that, as the name suggests, turn off when there is light detected outside, such as regular sunlight, and turn on when there is no light detected, such as during inclement weather or night-time conditions.

Street Lights of Venice, Italy

These dusk to dawn lights don't require people to use a switch to turn them off. This allows people to use them year-round without worrying about turning them on to light up their driveway. They can be placed anywhere including:

  • On the porch
  • On the driveway
  • On the garage
  • Surrounding your property

How They Work

Dusk to dawn lights use a photocell to operate. These are sensors that take information from light shined directly on its surface. The more light that is shined on it, the less resistance it will show and the longer it will stay turned off. The less light shined on it, the more resistance it will generate, leading to it lighting up your garage, walkway, or other area. 

Benefits of a Dusk to Dawn Lights

Dusk to dawn lights have a wide range of benefits for homeowners. Whether you own a commercial property, a home, or a rental property, dusk to dawn lights can help:

  • Save a whopping 90% on energy costs
  • Help keep your family and property safe at night
  • Help reduce trip hazards
  • Make would-be intruders believe you're still at home, discouraging robbery attempts
  • Reduce energy consumption which is better for the environment
  • Prevent you from having to worry about turning your lights on or off, or having to ask someone else to turn them on or off

Reasons to Turn Off your Lights

Old street lighting lanterns during the late afternoon in the Pelourinho district

If dusk to dawn lights are so great at saving energy, why would people want to turn them off? Many people might want to turn them off while they go away on an extended vacation. Although leaving your lights on can help deter burglars, some people might opt to only keep their indoor lights on as opposed to their dusk to dawn lights on.

Some people might also find having the light on during night-time intrusive, and will only want their lights to be on should they have guests coming over or for outdoor events.

However, more commonly, many people might notice their dusk to dawn lights stay on and do not turn off even when the sun rises. If this is the case, this means there's something wrong with your light fixture's photo sensor. Other issues that signify an issue with your photocell's operation include:

  • Light turning on and off again
  • Light being off even during night time
  • Light being on during the day time 

Troubleshooting your Photocell

It's fairly easy to troubleshoot the photocell that allows your dusk to dawn light to operate. All you need to do is place a piece of black tape over the photocell. If the photocell, located at the bottom of your light fixture, turns on, this is a sign it is working fine.

Similarly, if you shine a light, such as from a flashlight or your camera phone, into the sensor, it should turn off as soon as it detects this light. Not doing so means you have an issue with your photocell.

To fix these issues, find out why your photocells are not turning your lights off. Some common culprits include:

  • Light reflecting on your cell from another cell
  • Your light being placed under an awning
  • Your light detecting bright light from another light, which turns it off, and causes a cycle of turning on and off between two lights placed side by side

A simple fix is using a light shield like this one on Amazon to place over your lights, helping to give a more accurate light reading to your photocell. 

How to Turn off Your Dusk to Dawn Light (Step-by-step)

Old colonial style lanterns lighting on walls in the streets of Salvador with the All Saints bay

To turn off your dusk to dawn light, one of the best options is to override your sensor using a sensor cape.

1. Locate the photocell, which looks like a camera lens poking up out of the top of your light fixture toward the back (or bottom) side of the light.

2. Put the sensor cap over your photocell, which will override the sensor and leave it off.

3. Follow your manufacturer's instructions for removing the sensor cap, and to purchase the right one for your light fixture. 

You can also uninstall the photocell sensor that comes on many lights. This looks like a small tube that is located on the side of your light, the photocell will be pointing up or toward the sun. These are great to transform any light into a dusk to dawn light, and they can be removed so you can turn your lights off manually.

These can be found online here on Amazon.


1. Turn off power to the lights. Remember, this should only be done if you are experienced. If you are not, contact a professional.

2. Unscrew the cover of the light fixture.

3. Locate the opening that feeds the photocell through the fixture. There are other wires that feed through this area, including a green, white, and black wire. 

4. Unscrew the bolt that holds this photocell in place, and carefully undo the wiring from the photocell. Black wires go on black wires, except for the black wire coming from your power source that should connect with the red wire on the power switch. White wires go on white wires, and the green wire from the photocell switch and the rest of the light fixtures all go together.

5. Rewire your light fixture

Rewire your light fixture to your original power source and connect green to green wires, black to black, and white to white wires. 

Other Dusk to Dawn Light Options

Facade of historic colonial style houses with their lanterns

You can also take off your dusk to dawn lights and replace them with smart LED outdoor lights. These are the best option for homeowners that want to control their lights through an online app. Simply use an app to set a timer, control the color, dimness, or even turn them on and off manually from anywhere in the world if you have Wi-Fi. These smart lights available on Amazon can be controlled with an app and can also be hooked up to your home automation system Alexa!

Final Thoughts

Old forged metal street lamp with glass

Dusk to dawn lights can help provide you with extra security, allow you to control your lights at night time without needing to worry about them, and help you save on energy costs. However, they can also prove to be prone to errors, so if you want to turn them off, make sure to test your photocell first for issues that can be fixed with a simple light shield. If this fails, you can install a sensor cap or simply uninstall the photocell switch attached to the light.