Using motion detectors to turn on lamps is a common way to save energy and make your home safer. However, it can be difficult to determine how to connect a sensor to a lamp and what adjustments you need to make.
The first step is to locate a lamp and a sensor that’s compatible with your wiring. Many modern motion-activated lights have a small opening on the face of the fixture to attach the motion detector to (Photo 1). The next step is to unscrew the fixture’s canopy and remove it from the wall or ceiling. If the canopy is caulked to the surface, you may have to cut that away with a utility knife before you can unhook it.
When you’re ready to start wiring, shut off the power at the main panel. This should be done even if you’re only going to replace the light switch. Having power running to the light while you’re connecting wires can be dangerous, especially if you’re using a voltage tester to check the three leads on the switch: black (hot), blue (switch leg) and green (ground).
Now that you’ve made sure all of the switches are off, it’s time to run wires to your new lights. Depending on your needs, you’ll have different wiring options. The easiest option is to use a single power cord for both the lamp and the sensor.
Once the wires are in place, connect them to the sensor and the lighting fixtures (Photo 3). Be careful with your connections. One wrong connection can make your system fail to work, so it’s important to take your time here.
After all the wires are connected, mount the sensor and the light on an electrical box at the desired location. Ideally, you’ll install them about 6 to 10 feet above ground level so they have more wiggle room and can detect people walking by in their natural state.
You’ll need to adjust the sensitivity, range and delay time of the motion sensor before you can use it. Most devices offer a testing mode so you can adjust them to your specifications before reinstalling the fixture.
It’s also a good idea to avoid placing your sensors near windows or doors where they could reflect infrared energy back into the room. This is called a “trip,” and can be annoying to you and your neighbors.
The best way to solve this problem is to adjust the sensitivity and delay time of your motion detectors to reduce their detection area and avoid “trips.” You can adjust these settings by adjusting DIP switches, and you can also change their wattage.
Some manufacturers also make smart-switches for motion-sensor lights that let you program your fixtures via mobile apps, allowing you to set them to automatically turn on and off in response to a specific trigger like movement.
Another good option for homeowners looking to add a motion sensor to a light is a motion-sensor bulb that attaches directly to a conventional light fixture. These devices are surprisingly affordable and come in many shapes and sizes.