Installing a motion sensor for your lighting has two main benefits.
Firstly, it means that the light will automatically switch on whenever you’re entering the area where the sensor is pointed.
Perfect for lighting up the driveway and path as you get home or for the back of your home when you need to just take out the trash.
And then the second benefit is that the lights will turn off when you don’t need them, preserving their lifespan and saving you energy (and therefore money).
But what about when you don’t want them to turn off? What if you’ve decided you want the light to stay on, but the sensor keeps switching it off?
You can constantly keep a motion sensor light by wiring it with a double switch or three-position switch set up to bypass the sensor in one position. Alternatively, most motion sensors will keep a light on if you switch the sensor off and then on again quickly.
In this article I’m going to explain:
- Whether motion sensors have a manual switch
- If you’ll need to rewire the circuit
- How you can override your motion sensor light
- How to just make the light stay on a little longer
Does A Motion Sensor Have A Manual Switch?
Each manufacturer is different, so I can’t comment about every motion sensor on the market.
But spend even just a few minutes shopping online for a sensor, and you’ll see that very few, if any, have a manual switch built into the sensor to let you override it.
Which may seem unusual – why not have something so simple built-in?
But remember that this isn’t just adding a switch; that’s wiring a solution that basically bypasses the entire product.
And so, with that comes extra time having to design the components of the sensor and – critically – additional costs.
So, unfortunately, if you’re someone who does want to have the option to keep your motion sensor light switched on constantly, then you’re going to need to look at another option.
Alternatively, you’ll need to just move around in front of it whenever it switches off to reactivate it.
Do I Need To Rewire Motion Sensor Light To Keep It On?
There is one way you can always have your motion sensor light switched on if you want it, but it relies on a little bit of clever wiring.
Some people wonder whether a motion sensor needs a switch built into the circuit.
Generally, it’s a good idea to have one because it means you can choose to disable the circuit at times when you know you don’t need the light or when you just don’t want to use it.
However, if you decide to use a double switch, or a switch with two on positions and a center-off position, you can wire the circuit to either be completely off, controlled by the PIR sensor, or completely on at all times.
Rewiring With Two Switches
If you’re going to use two switches, here’s how to do it:
- From the supply, connect the neutral wire to a terminal which then splits to both the sensor and the light
- Do the same with the earth wire – connect that through a different terminal to the sensor and the light
- The live wire from the supply should run to the common terminal on the first switch
- The live should then split – running from the L1 terminal on the first switch to both the common terminal on the second switch, and the live terminal on the sensor
- You then run another live cable from the L1 terminal on the second switch, splitting it between the light and the switched live terminal on the sensor
If you set up the switches this way, the left switch is the master switch. In the off position, the circuit is completely off, and when switched on, it essentially activates the second switch.
With the first switch on and the second switch off, the lights will only work when the sensor is triggered. If both switches are in the “on” position, the light will be on constantly.
Rewiring With a Single Three-Point Switch
The same principle applies with a single three-position switch:
- Again, the neutral and earth wires from the supply run through separate terminals and are then split between the sensor and light
- The live wire runs to the common terminal in the center of the switch, which is the off position
- You then run a live wire from the L1 terminal on the switch to the live terminal on the sensor
- Finally, split the live wire from the L2 terminal to both the switched live terminal on the sensor and directly to the light
The circuit is off when the switch is in the center position with this setup.
When switched on at the top L1 position, the sensor is powered and so the lights will only come on when motion is detected. In the lower L2 switch position, the light receives constant power and so is always on.
How Can I Override Motion Detector Light To Stay On?
If your motion sensor is already wired into a single switch, you might not feel confident or comfortable rewiring to set it up to work constantly if you want it to.
The good news is you might not have to.
Some motion sensors have a built-in override that leaves the light on. So all you need to do is turn the sensor off at the wall switch, then immediately turn it back on.
You may need to turn it off with others first, leave it for around 10 seconds, and then switch it on-off-on quickly.
It won’t work with every sensor, but it is a common override used, resulting in the light being left on.
If you have a dawn to dusk sensor, it’ll normally reset and start working as normal when the light levels next change; otherwise, to put it back into normal mode, just switch it off, wait 10 seconds, then switch it on again.
How To Make Motion Sensor Light Stay On Longer
Finally, a quick little tip for anyone who just wants their motion sensor light to stay on longer once it’s been triggered.
This won’t keep it on endlessly, but it’s a way to ensure that the light doesn’t switch off too quickly.
While motion sensors don’t generally have an on/off switch built into them, most have a time switch, normally a tiny dial.
Depending on your model, it may be marked with seconds/minutes or unmarked. Still, either way, turning it clockwise will extend the amount of time that the light is switched on.
If you’re wondering what the other switches on a motion sensor are.
Suppose it’s a dusk to dawn sensor. In that case, it’ll have a lux setting, which lets you control how dark it needs to be before the sensor is active. In addition, some motion sensors have a sensitivity dial, which enables you to change how reactive the sensor is.
So, there is no simple button built into your motion sensor that lets you turn it constantly on.
However, a couple of solutions are available – reliable, permanent ones if you wire it into a double switch or three-point switch, and hack methods involving turning it off and on quickly.
If you try one of these options, it should mean you don’t have to worry about dancing or flailing around to reactivate the sensor if you’re enjoying a relaxing evening in your garden.
Have you ever had problems with your motion sensor lights turning off too quickly? How did you solve it?