Installing A Motion Sensing Light Switch In Your Home


If you've ever walked into a room in your home with your hands full and couldn't get to the light switch, this DIY project is for you. You can install motion sensing light switches in any room where you would like the lights to come on whenever you walk into the room. This project requires simple tools and less than an hour of your time. You'll no longer have to fumble around for a light switch when your hands are full.

Supplies You'll Need

  • flat-blade screwdriver
  • wire cutters/strippers

From the home improvement store:

  • motion sensing light switch
  • cover plate for the new switch (the existing cover plate on the old light switch won't work)

Installing the New Motion Sensing Light Switch

  1. Turn the power off to the switch at the circuit panel for the house.
  2. Remove the cover plate from the old light switch.
  3. Remove the two screws holding the switch in the electrical junction box.
  4. Pull the switch out of the junction box along with the three wires attached to it.
  5. Remove the copper or green ground wire from the screw on the side of the old switch.
  6. Cut the black and white wires as close to the back of the switch as possible.
  7. Strip about a half inch of insulation from the ends of the black and white wires.
  8. Push the bare end of the black wire into the hole on the back of the new switch labeled "Black" or "Hot."
  9. Push the bare end of the white wire into the hole on the back of the new switch labeled "White" or "Neutral."
  10. Secure the copper or green wire to the ground screw on the side of the new switch.
  11. Push the wires into the junction box followed by the new switch.
  12. Secure the switch in the junction box with the screws at top and bottom of the switch.
  13. Turn the power back on to the switch at the circuit panel.
  14. Before placing the cover plate over the switch, adjust the two controls on the bottom of the motion sensor switch. These control the following:
    • The amount of time after someone has entered the room that the lights come on.
    • The amount of time after all people have left the room that the lights are turned off.
    • Refer to the instructions that came with your particular switch to find the exact location of these controls and how to make adjustments.
  15. Place the cover plate over the new switch and secure with the screws provided.

Problems You May Encounter

You'll need the help of a residential electrician should you have any of the following problems:

  • There are only two wires going to the old light switch. You are likely missing a ground wire, which an electrician will need to run to the junction box before you install the new switch.
  • The wires in the junction box don't conform to the black/white/green coding conventions. The electrician will need to sort out the wiring and replace them with the proper colors for future maintenance.

If you run into any problems, or if you feel you cannot do this alone at all, call a residential electrician, like those at Sun Coast Electric & Networking Inc, and they can help you.

About Me

updating electrical work in an older home

I knew before I bought an older home that it would require a lot of work. What I didn't expect was to find the the entire second floor of the home had inadequate electrical work and that it would all have to be updated to keep my family safe and conserve some energy. I created this blog as I worked to overhaul my house and redo the electrical mess that I uncovered. You will find out what should be and what should never be done when working with electricity in older homes and what you can do to ensure the safety of your family while living in your home.

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