How to Fix Motion Sensor Lights

house with outdoor wall light

Motion sensor lights are a fantastic invention. Time, effort and energy can be saved as a result. 

There are times, however, when motion sensor lights don’t work as smoothly as we’d like. However, it isn’t too difficult to determine what is wrong with them when problems occur. In fact,  later on in the article we’ll be giving you the top four steps to take that will likely resolve all your troubles. 

Read on if you would like to know more about motion sensor lights and how to fix them. 

house with outdoor wall light

What are Motion Sensor Lights?

Have you ever walked into a room and been surprised when the light turns on by itself? This is one example of a motion sensor light. When these lights detect movement in the room, they turn on. 

Motion sensor lights are able to detect when a person enters a room as well as when the room has become empty, turning themselves off after you’ve left. 

You can also find motion sensor lights outside. Outdoor lighting is improved exponentially thanks to outdoor motion sensors. Street and garden lights are very energy efficient and  can save huge amounts of power if they only turn themselves on when someone walks up to them. 

Obviously, streetlights designed for the road wouldn’t have motion sensors, however, for pedestrians, they work very well.  

How Do Motion Sensor Lights Work?

There are three kinds of motion sensor lights:

  • Active Sensors
  • PIR (Passive Infrared Sensors)
  • Dual Tech Sensors

Active sensors scan the room constantly throughout the night. They detect changes in the room through one of three different sensor methods: Tomographic, Ultrasonic, or Microwave sensors. 

Tomographic sensors use radio waves to determine when something in the room has changed. It will count how long it takes for the radio waves to bounce back from each location in the room. When you enter the room, the radio waves that hit your body return faster, alerting the motion sensor light to your presence. 

Ultrasonic sensors work in the same way but using sound waves instead of radio waves. Ultrasonic sensors are quieter as the sound is outside our range of hearing. 

Microwave sensors use microwave pulses to perform the same tasks as the previous two. Microwave sensors can be more efficient as they can pass through furniture. However, if they aren’t properly calibrated, you may find that the light turns on when you enter the room next to it as well. 

Passive Infrared Sensors detect your presence by monitoring changes in infrared radiation, or heat. The way this works is that the PIR sensor is calibrated to detect the level of heat that a person introduces to a room. This is to avoid things like small animals or sunlight from setting the sensor off. 

Other than that, the results of a PIR sensor are the same as with active sensors. The main advantage is that PIR sensors are not constantly scanning the room for changes, thus, saving power. 

Dual Tech Sensors are a combination of active and PIR sensors. They utilize both methods of detecting a person in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of an error. The most typical combination has a PIR sensor with an ultrasonic sensor complementing it. 

Now that we’ve learned about the various ways that motion sensor lights detect people, we can consider the last factor that changes how a motion sensor light functions. There are two types of motion sensor lights that can be used with all the above groups. We call these vacancy and occupancy sensors. 

vacancy sensor switches itself off if no one is in the room. However, you still need to switch it on when you first enter the room. You can use these to help you switch off lights that you tend to forget about or leave on when they’re not being used. 

Occupancy sensors switch themselves on when someone first enters a room as well as switching themselves off when the last person exits a room. These motion sensor lights are better for rooms where your hands tend to be full and you don’t want the trouble of flicking a switch. I’m sure many of us have experienced trying to turn off the kitchen lights with a tray full of food in hand!

bedroom with table lamp set

How Can You Fix Motion Sensor Lights?

While motion sensor lights are incredible, you can see how these designs could easily develop problems that require fixing. As we mentioned earlier, motion sensor lights usually have issues in one of four different factors. The below four actions should be enough to discover and correct the problem. You can do them one by one based on which one you imagine is the problem. 

Try Cleaning the Photocell

The photocell is an important part of the motion sensor light. If it is covered by dirt or debris that would go some way to explaining why you’re having trouble. Use a dry rag gently on the photocell until it is completely clear of debris. 

Check if your motion sensor light is working better now. If not, try the next step: 

Turn It Off and Back On

Believe it or not, sometimes all your motion sensor lights need is to be manually switched off and on again! By switching it off and on, the calibration may return to its intended position, correcting the problem. 

Replace the Batteries

If neither of the previous two attempts worked, you may have a battery problem. A damaged or depleted battery could easily cause a motion sensor light to malfunction. Replace all of the batteries with fresh ones and try it again. 

Replace the Bulb

If your motion sensor light doesn’t turn on at all, it could be that the bulb is damaged. Try replacing it with a brand new one and see what happens. If it works perfectly after that, then great! If not, it might be time to consider getting a professional in to take a look at it.

house under the sunset glow

How Can You Reset Motion Sensor Lights?

Every motion sensor light is reset in a different way. You can often find the instructions in a manual that comes with the light. 

Usually, you can simply reset the light and then recalibrate it. Once reset, the motion sensor light will have forgotten the first time you calibrated it. It will then scan the room after you’ve gone outside to determine what the normal setting should be. 

Assuming all goes well, resetting your motion sensor light may even correct the errors you’ve been having.

Now you know everything there is to know about motion sensor lights, including how to fix them. So, get on out there and set up some motion sensor lights of your own!

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