Motion-activated lighting is perhaps one of the earliest examples of smart home technology.
An enduring staple of sci-fi movies, motion detection first came into play in the 1940s with the first commercial motion sensors brought to market as far back as the 1970s.
Indoor or Outdoor Lighting?
Motion-activated lighting indoors is used for a combination of convenience and energy-efficiency.
You can kiss goodbye to fumbling around in the dark when you’re heading to the bathroom during the night as you get out of bed to dim lights kicking in when the sensors detect you moving around.
If you frequently work late and return home after dark, it’s reassuring to have the lights kick in once you open your lock using your smart phone and enter your brightly illuminated home.
Since lights will only be activated on demand, you can make considerable savings on your electricity bills by investing in motion-activated lighting.
Not only can you save money while making your life easier, motion-activated lighting can also act as a security measure. You can schedule this type of smart lighting to come on and off at pre-set times giving the illusion someone is home even if you’re sunning yourself on a Hawaiian beach.Shop Now
How Does Motion Activated Lighting Work?
Most smart-activated lighting involves motion sensors that connect to your home hub. These sensors then monitor for any movement in the areas you set up.
Sensitivity settings can be tweaked so you won’t get endless false alarms every time the neighbor’s cat skulks across the lawn or a roaming dog scurries up the path.
Various technologies are used and the passive infrared standard of today has come a long way indeed from the early days of unreliable ultrasonic sensors. Check out our detailed guide on motion sensors for more information on these specific forms of motion sensor technology.
The way in which these sensors work depends to a large extent on whether they’re active or passive.
Active or Passive Sensors?
With active sensors, sometimes referred to as radar-based, sound waves are pinged out into the room then the sensor waits for the signal to come back again. The principle is similar to the way in which garage door openers work.
Whenever anyone enters the protected room or moves around inside it, the speed of those sound waves changes and this triggers the switch.
Passive sensors pick out body heat by means of a photodetector. Light is converted into electrical current which in turn triggers the alarm and activates the switch. Slow changes in temperature due to the amount of natural light coming through the windows are disregarded to minimize false positives.
If you’re opting for a dedicated motion sensor switch, these are designed to replace regular switches and the way in which you wire them varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
As with all electrical aspects of your smart home, call for qualified assistance unless you’re absolutely confident you can handle the job yourself.
Some switches will call for a neutral wire, also known as a C wire. This is not present in many older homes so you should do your due diligence to avoid any nasty surprises. If you don’t have a neutral wire in place, there’s plenty of motion-activated lighting that doesn’t demand this.
While there are many variables, most installations have 3 wires coming from the motion detector switch:
- Hot/Power: Black
- Switch leg: Blue
- Ground: Green
Indoor Motion-Activated Lighting
You’ve got plenty of choice when it comes to motion-activated lighting indoors.
You can use motion sensors in combination with other appliances and devices so your lighting operates on demand.
There are also simple, screw-in sockets so you can get started with motion-activated lighting without needing to call in an electrician.
As with every step of creating the smart home of your dreams, you should frankly analyze your needs and understand that there’s no one ideal solution to motion-activated lighting, simply what works best for you.
3 Indoor Motion-Activated Lighting Solutions
We can’t even scratch the surface today of the indoor motion-activated lighting at your disposal so to tempt you and give you a very brief overview of some great bestsellers, here’s a snapshot of 3 great ways to get lighting on demand…
Insteon Motion Sensor II
If you’ve already got plenty of Insteon appliances in your smart home, you can use this nifty and diminutive motion sensor to turn your connected devices on when motion is detected and off again when the rooms becomes unoccupied.
You’ll be able to tweak sensitivity so this sensor meshes with your needs. You can also instruct it to only spring into action during the night so you’ll get ample flexibility in this affordable and capable motion sensor.
The lithium-ion battery delivers plenty of lifespan and you’ll also have the option of using the micro USB included.
You’ll need to invest in an Insteon hub and you’ll then be able to introduce voice control and expand your smart home far beyond simple motion detectors.
- Integrates seamlessly with any Insteon device and activates Insteon-controlled lights whenever motion is detected
- Super-compact design ideal for popping on a desktop or mounting in tight corners
- Occupancy sensing can help bring down your electricity bills so simply pair up your lights with a motion sensor
- You’ll need to have Insteon appliances and a hub for this motion sensor solution
First Alert Screw-In Motion-Sensing Light Socket
If you’re looking for a cost-effective and super-simple entry point to smart home lighting, this screw-in motion-sensing light socket makes the perfect starting point.
Whether you’ve got fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs, this screw-in motion-sensing socket will hit the lights as soon as anyone enters the room. Never again come tripping into the kitchen with your hands full of groceries late in the evening. And watch your power bill plummet as you put paid to wasted energy in your smart home.
Rather than the subtler delivery system of a dimmer, you’ll get instant bright light when you need it without any call for expensive installation.
Motion is picked up all around so you can sleep easier while content in the knowledge you’ll be using less energy and doing your part for the environment while making your home a more convenient haven than ever.
- Exceptional value for money so don’t think smart home appliances cost a fortune
- Adaptable solution working with fluorescent bulbs (50 watts) and incandescent bulbs (100 watts)
- Turns lights on automatically when motion is detected in any direction
- Doesn’t work well located up against a wall so think carefully about your intended usage
Philips Hue Motion Sensor
If you’re a Philips convert with Hue light bulbs throughout your smart home, this motion sensor is tailor-made to build out your system further.
You will need to get yourself a Philips Hue bridge, and you’ll also need Hue smart bulbs in place. With those bases covered, you can enjoy the full automation of your lighting helping to streamline your life while also saving you money.
With the right devices in place, you can take full advantage of Alexa and build things out to incorporate SmartThings with the requisite hub in place.
Do your bit for the environment while paying less each month for electricity and never fumble for the light switch again… What’s not to love with this easy introduction to motion-activated lighting?
- Set up automatic control of all your Philips Hue smart bulbs
- Daylight sensor helps save you even more by automating your electricity usage and minimizing wastage
- Wireless and extremely compact so locate the sensor anywhere and get going pretty much straight out the box
- Requires Philips Hue smart bulbs so ideal if you’re already invested
- You’ll also need a bridge but this comes in handy for multiple applications beyond lighting
Indoor Outdoor Motion Activated Lighting Lighting
You can get a wide range of outdoor motion-activated lighting and we’ll give you a glimpse of 3 great options in due course.
Why Use Outdoor Motion-Activated Lighting?
Lighting in the garden that’s only triggered by movement is energy-efficient and you can expect to notice savings on your utility bills and recoup your investment in no time.
If you come home with your hands full, you’ll appreciate the convenience of your pathway being illuminated as you trip the sensor.
Perhaps the leading advantage of outdoor motion-activated lighting is security. Burglars are playing a numbers game and the more difficult you make things for them, the more likely they are to keep on going in search of a softer target.
You’ve got 2 main choices with outdoor motion-activated lighting:
- Lighting with Integrated Sensor: You won’t need to dig deeper for a separate motion detector with an all-in-one solution. There’s a pretty limited choice of this type of lighting but in return you’ll get a design-driven approach to outdoor lighting with super-simple installation
- Lighting with External Sensor: The other approach to outdoor lighting is to combine a motion sensor with an LED floodlight to achieve the same result of lights in the garden on demand. You’ll get a broader choice, and you’ll also be able to use multiple lamps with a single sensor as long as overall consumption doesn’t exceed 1000 watts
Placement of Sensor
You can get a wide range of outdoor motion-activated lighting and we’ll give you a glimpse of 3 great options in due course.
Make sure that the area you need protecting falls within these parameters.
Don’t become obsessed with sensors that claim to have a 360-degree detection radius. Often, the sensors will not pick up motion through that entire range.
When you’re considering placement, you should think carefully about detection distance as well. Make sure you’ve got all approaches to your property covered and that the outdoor motion-activated lighting you’re considering fits well with your needs.
Some General Tips When Installing Motion Sensors
Motion detectors are pretty easy to install but installation is still to some extent brand-specific.
Call in an electrician unless you’re extremely confident working with electrics and always kill the power before starting any kind of installation.
Here are some general pointers to think about when you’re installing motion-activated lighting in your garden.
- Check that your electrical box an all fixtures are grounded before starting out. If not, you might need a new ground wire
- Make absolutely certain that any equipment you’ll be using outdoors is suitably weatherproofed and won’t end up letting you down in hostile weather conditions
- Think about locating your fixtures under the eaves to minimize any chance of moisture seeping in
- Take the time to manipulate the detection distance and angle so you cut down on false alarms. You can also tweak sensitivity settings to make sure your outdoor lighting works for you
- It’s a smart move to keep bulbs and detectors apart. The heat generated by the bulb is often enough to confuse the sensor so keep them separate if it at all possible
3 Outdoor Motion-Activated Lighting Solutions
The choice is yours whether you want an integrated unit or you’d prefer to hook up a motion sensor to other appliances to get lighting triggered by movement in your garden.
If you’re still not sure what kind of security lighting would work well, here are 3 great ways to uprate the intelligence of your outdoor lighting for far less than you might imagine.
Heath Zenith Charleston Motion Security Light
Outdoor motion-activated lighting takes on many forms. This Heath Zenith Charleston looks like a classic lantern but gives you 21st century performance in that traditional form.
While most decorative lights look great, they’re energy vampires costing you more each month when your power bills comes through. Using as much as 80% less energy, this motion security light will see you recouping your investment in no time.
Installation is straightforward enough but don’t hesitate to call in an electrician.
Finished in rugged weather-resistant metal and glass, you can keep your garden protected without worrying about the state of your motion sensor.
- Commanding, utilitarian design that looks great while keeping your garden safe and secure from intruders
- Override feature if you want to assume manual control and keep the lights always on
- Uses 80% less energy than conventional decorative lighting
- Installation hardware supplied but you might need to call in an electrician unless you’re extremely confident or qualified yourself
Steinel Night GUARDIAN Halogen Motion Sensor Floodlight
If you want your garden bathed in floodlights every time motion is detected, the Steinel America NightGUARDIAN cuts right back on those annoying false triggers with a pioneering lens shaped to maximize accuracy while covering a wide range.
Both the fixture and fitting are fully weatherproofed so you’ll have no concerns about your security system letting you down.
The circuit board is robust and built to withstand extremes of temperatures so you’ll have all your outdoor security needs handled with no worries about that state of your equipment.
A highly flexible unit, this sensor works admirably even if you need to mount it higher than 12 feet.
- Curved and molded lens enhances field of detection and increases accuracy while lessening chance of false alarms
- No restrictions on mounting height so make this motion sensor floodlight work whatever the configuration of your garden
- Lifetime warranty so buy with complete confidence
- Stark design will not be to everyone’s taste
URPOWER LED Solar Motion Sensor Lights
Solar energy continues to be a powerful part of smart home technology and with this solar/LED combo from URPOWER, a specialist in the field, you can ramp up the security in your garden with relatively little effort or investment.
Not only are these motion-activated security lights budget-friendly, you’ll get a set of 4 so you’re getting fantastic value from a brand you can trust.
Completely weatherproofed and capable of performing even in harsh conditions, these lights are built to stay the distance without letting you down. Not only are these motion-activated security lights budget-friendly, you’ll get a set of 4 so you’re getting fantastic value from a brand you can trust.
Activation range is a little disappointing at 10 feet so you should be aware of this before committing to purchase. Coverage angle is a more impressive 120 degrees so you shouldn’t have any blind spots left exposed. Not only are these motion-activated security lights budget-friendly, you’ll get a set of 4 so you’re getting fantastic value from a brand you can trust.
If you want to take all the convenience of automatic, motion-activated lighting outside without needing to take out a bank loan, these solar-powered LEDs make perfect sense.
- 4-pack delivering incredible value for money without compromising performance
- IP64 waterproof and heatproof and built to cope with any weather conditions, however hostile
- Solar lifespan of 5 years with LED lights rated for 50,000 hours so exceptional value for money
- Relatively limited range so works best in smaller yards without too much coverage area
Whatever form you want your motion-activated lighting to take, indoors or out in the garden, you’ve got plenty of scope to build out a security system that works for you all the while slashing your energy consumption.
From soft lighting guiding your way as you creep out of bed in the night to floodlights illuminating any visitors or intruders as soon as they trigger the sensor, motion-activated lighting is a central component of any worthwhile smart home.