It’s Easy to Install a Motion-Sensor Switch

For safety and convenience you might want to consider installing a motion sensor switch.

thumb sensor14I like to think that I’m doing my part to be more “green” around my home. In fact, Shari and I have a presentation that we do around the country called the “ABC’s of Green”.  In it we share our tips on how to save energy around the home and hopefully in the process put a little more “green” back into your pocket.   I’m talking cash which I think everyone could use a lot more of right now considering our economic situation.

Well, I thought I was doing everything I should; recycling, turning off the faucet while I brush my teeth, and using CFLs in all my lamps.  At least I thought I was doing my best, until I went to Florida to visit and work with Shari. (Don’t say it, I know, jet, jet fuel…I didn’t tell the girl to move to Florida!)  When I arrived home and opened my garage door, yikes, I left the garage lights on! That must have wasted 1.21 jigawatts of power, (please refer to the movie “Back to the Future”) enough energy to light…my garage for a week!

So, I was off to the hardware store (I didn’t walk, it’s too far, but I coasted a lot) to purchase a motion sensor switch (cost about 13 green backs) to replace the light switch in my garage.  The switch will automatically turn on the lights whenever someone walks into the garage.  The beauty of the device is that it has a time-delay feature, so that when you leave the room, the lights will turn themselves off after a pre-set time interval.  The switch can also be adjusted to the degree of motion sensitivity, and there are several fields of view that you can purchase, for my situation I purchased the 180 degree type.  I also purchased a control that works with single pole (one switch) or 3-Way (two locations).  It is a very simple do it yourself project that takes very little time.

Materials List:

Sensor switch
Circuit tester
Screwdriver, (slotted and Phillips)
Wire strippers
Wire connectors
Electricians tape

Even though this is a simple task, working with electricity is dangerous and you should take all precautions. If you are concerned about doing the electrical install yourself, contact a licensed electrician in your area.


1.  No messing around here, always turn off the power at the circuit box or fuse box.  First, identify the circuit to the light switch that you will be replacing and turn off the circuit breaker.


I also place a note on the box to tell folks in the house to not touch the box until I’m finished.

By the way, I used a worklight that I ran from the other room with a extension cord so that I could see my work and to take photo.


2. At the switch, remove the wall plate cover and with the power turned off, remove the screws that hold the old switch in place.


3. Test the wires using a circuit tester, just to be sure that the switch is not receiving any power.

You will find four wires connected to the back of the motion-sensor; a black, red and yellow (lead) wire and a green ground wire.  The black and red wire will be used to connect the new motion-sensor to the wires coming from the wall outlet, but the yellow and ground will not be used.  (This procedure is for a single light switch, for a three way, the yellow will be used.)


4. To remove the switch, cut the wires at the back of the old switch using wire cutters.  Or, as in my case in an older home, I removed the wires by loosening the screws the wires were secured to.  Then I had to cut the curved ends off the wires to make attaching the new wires easier.


5. After cutting the wires, strip the plastic insulation off the ends of the black and white wires using the wire strippers.


6. Twist the end of the black wire from the motion-sensor (lead) around the black (line-Hot) wire coming from the wall and secure with a wire-connector.


7. Repeat the same step with the red (lead) wire from the sensor, this will attach to white wire (load).  The yellow wire will not attach to any other wire in a single connection, make sure this wire is capped off with a wire connector or electricians tape.  The green wire will also not be used.


As an extra precaution, wrap the connections with electrical tape, to keep the wires from pulling apart.

Make sure you read the manufacturer’s wiring instructions on the switch that you purchase.  Most instructions have a wiring diagram to follow, thank goodness!


8. Gently tuck the wires back into the switch box as far towards the back as possible and position the motion-sensor into the switch box as well.


9. Secure the motion-sensor using the mounting screws provided with the switch.  I use the Phillips screw driver for securing these longer screws.


10. Before attaching the switch plate cover, read the directions on how to program the motion-sensor.  The one I purchased had two dials on the left hand side.  One for time (the time the light will stay on after leaving the room) and one for light level (motion sensitivity) adjustment.  Use your fingers or a screwdriver to adjust the settings. Then, replace the switch cover.

This procedure took me just about 15 minutes and really was a snap to do.  The cool thing about this switch is that there is an on/off slide so that you can use the switch manually if you will not be near the sensor.  I have a two car garage and my work bench is away from the door where the motion-sensor is installed.  The lights will go off while I’m working because to the switch, no one is in the garage, so in that situation, I use the on/off slide.

So, now that you have successfully installed a motion/sensor, no longer will you hear these words in your house, “WHO LEFT THIS LIGHT ON?”   Consider placing a motion switch in your laundry, kids bath, any where in the house where remembering to turn off the lights is a problem.

That’s it for now, hit the lights Shari!


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