How to Program Motion Sensor Light Switch – Detailed Answer

A motion sensor light is turned on/off via a switch, which is usually mounted on the wall of a building. Although the installation process is not all that easy, we have simplified everything for you. In this article, you will learn how to program motion sensor light switch and how it works.

How to Program Motion Sensor Light Switch

What is a Motion Sensor Light Switch?

A motion sensor light switch is a switch that automatically turns on when someone enters the room. These switches are equipped with motion sensors, infrared, and ultrasound technology that detect motion from a distance and light them faster than flipping a regular switch. Since many homes do not operate the smart home system, the motion sensor lights are not too popular.

However, if you want to know more about how these switches work, you have no cause to look further. Allow us to take you through everything you need to know about motion sensor light switches.

There is every possibility that a bulb in your home is excessively wasting electricity right now. You may not consider this a big deal for a moment, but if you pay close attention, you will discover that it contributes to the increase in the power bill. So how do you cut down excesses?

It is no longer news the advancement technology has made over the years. Equipment and tools are designed continuously to help man manage his needs.

Buy the Lutron Maestro Motion Sensor Switch on Amazon

What to Consider When Picking a Motion Sensing Switch

Before purchasing a product, you have to put many things into consideration. How convenient will it be? Will it serve its purpose? Do you have what it takes to get that product in place? Considering how many products are on the market, you would have to make a wise pick.

While many motion sensor switches cannot work without the attachment of a neutral wire, others can. And for motion sensor switches that require a neutral wire attachment, there is certainly no replacement. So how do you know the type of switch to get?

We recommend that before purchasing a switch, you disengage your current switch to see if a neutral wire is attached. Stretch it far enough to get a view of the attachments behind it. Neutral wires are not necessarily connected to the switch. They are white wires that provide light to the switch even while they are off.  However, they do not manage the lights.

Dealing with old wiring can be difficult.  Before the National Electric code made the use of neutral wires mandatory, neutral wires were only an option. So, if your house was built or renovated after 2011, then it is very likely that all your switches have neutral wires.

The good news is, you can use any motion sensor switch with an old switch that has a neutral wire. If not, make sure that you purchase a motion sensor switch that does not need a neutral wire.

Next, you will need to understand the kind of switch you have. Is it a two-way (single pole) switch or a three-way gang switch? These circuit configurations are connected in entirely different ways, and if you mistake one for the other, the entire connection may be disrupted.

Once you can identify the switch configuration, you will need to purchase a motion-sensing switch in that same configuration. On the other hand, if the former switch is in a 4-way configuration, there is no substitute.

Asides these considerations, motion sensing switches are chosen based on features and aesthetics. Some of the features include dinner light (a dimmable setting), motion-detecting alarm and a delay setting.

Installing the Motion Sensor Switch

First things first, unbox your motion-sensing switch, pull out the manufacturer’s manual, and familiarize yourself with it. Next, gather the tools you will need. These tools include wire connectors accompanied by the sensing switch, screwdrivers, wire cutters, insulating tape and other hardware.

Then turn off power to the switch you wish to replace at the breaker. Make sure you test the switch to ensure that there is a power cut off before continuing.

Carefully pull the wall pieces of motion sensing switch apart. Afterward, attach the back piece to the sensor before installing it.

Unscrew the old switch on the wall and pay close attention to the wires attached to the switch. Take note of the following tricks that will help your installation.

If the switch is a single-pole switch, it will have one bare copper wire (ground wire) and two insulated wires connected to it. If it is a 3-way switch, it will have one ground wire and three insulated wires. This means that you can control the light from more than one location.

If you are working with a 3-way switch, cut out a piece of insulating tape and attach it to the wire connected to the screw terminal. Generally, the screw is always different in color from the rest of the screws. This terminal may be labeled “common” on the switch.

Now, gently disconnect all the wires from the switch. Then you will attach the motion sensor to the wall box wires. If you are installing a single-pole sensor, you will notice four wires attached behind the sensor.

They are two black wires, one bare wire and a green insulated wire. Take out your wire connector and use it to connect the wires to the bare copper wire in the wall box.

However, if you are installing a 3-way motion sensor, then the configuration is different. You will notice that the 3-way motion sensor has four wires behind it, and instead of green insulated wire, it has a blue insulated wire. Connect your wires, inspect them to be sure that no bare wire is left exposed.

Push back the connected wires into the walls and try placing the motion sensor over it. Use screws and a screwdriver to tighten the center against the wall.

Now, you can go ahead to switch on the power at the breaker.  Additionally, if you want to customize your settings instead of using the default settings, make sure you change them before attaching the wall plate.

How to Remove an Existing Motion Sensor Light Switch?

Simple tricks like turning off breakers and removing fuses can go a long way in ensuring your safety. Before starting, you can use a voltmeter or a multimeter to ascertain that there’s no power in the switch.

If you cannot carry out this installation, call your local electrician to do the job. This will save you a lot of time and stress.

Since you want to install your motion-sensing switch quickly, you must understand some basic rules. Remember that you are dealing with an old switch, and dealing with such kinds of switches can be tricky. You need to be gentle while disengaging, tagging and taping them.

Buy the TOPGREENER Motion Sensor Light Switch on Amazon

How to Mount a Two-Way Sensor Switch?

A two-way switch is the simplest type of switch. It has two terminals and a ground connection. One terminal is for the wire that connects the power source and switch, while the other screw terminal is for the wire that runs between the light fitting and the switch (the switch leg). 

Inside the switch is a track that carries electricity. You can flip the toggle to break or make the flow of electricity. In simple terms, the toggle controls the circuit.

The color code for all the wires differs from country to country. However, there is always a green ground wire. Some motion-sensing switches can have either one red wire and one black wire, or just two black wires. So how do you go about wiring it?

Firstly, get your tools ready. Connect one hot wire to the bottom terminal of the switch. Now, we run another wire over the switch box into the light fixture.

Then insert your neutral wire into the switch box and connect it to a wire nut. Connect another neutral wire to the same wire nut and run it through to the light fixture. 

To avoid electrical hazards, run a ground wire through the switch box and into a wire nut. Then, connect another ground wire from the ground terminal of the switch into the ground wire nut. To complete the wiring, connect a ground wire from the ceiling box into the ground wire also.

Buy the Sensky BS033C Motion Sensor Light Switch on Amazon

How to Mount a Three-Way Sensor Switch?

To mount a three-way sensor, do the following:

i. Turn off your breaker to stop power from flowing.

ii. For the incoming power supply, take one wire and connect it to the common terminal of switch one.

iii. Then take another cable, run it from the first left traveler terminal of switch one and connect it to the second left traveler terminal of switch two.

iv. Next, run another wire from the common terminal of switch two into the ceiling box and the light fitting.

v. Afterwards, take a red wire and run it from the right traveler terminal of switch one and into the right traveler terminal of switch two.

vi. For the incoming neutral wire, run it into the wire connector inside switch one. Run another neutral wire from the same wire connector over the red wire and into the wire nut of switch two.

vii. Then you run another neutral wire from the same wire nut over the ceiling box and into the light fitting. This completes the circuit. However, you will need to run a ground wire through the loop to provide some safety.

viii. Run an incoming copper wire into a wire nut within switch one. Then run a ground wire from the ground terminal of switch one into the ground wire connector.

ix. Then we run another copper wire from the same wire nut into another wire nut in switch two. Next, run another copper wire from the ground terminal of switch two into the ground wire nut in the same switch box.

x. Lastly, since the ceiling box is metal, you will need to run a ground wire from the ground screw in the ceiling box into the last ground wire connector in switch two.

A three-way switch (multiway switch) is an interconnection between two or more switches. This means that an electrical fixture can be controlled from two or three locations. The three-way switch is a variant of the single pole switch.

Wire colors vary depending on the type of cable and conduit you use. The NM cable has black and red traveler cables, while the wire colors for the conduit could be any color. However, most traveler wires have a blue color.

Also, the first and second motion-sensing switches are connected by a wire to a common terminal. Sometimes, the common wire can be a single wire located at one end of the switch. The entire circuit is wired such that the electrical fixture is connected to the second switch via a common terminal.It is advisable to tape or tag each common wire before you take out the existing switch. This way, you get to know what you are working with. The neutral wires are connected in each box, and if the system is wired wrongly, the circuit may not work correctly.

However, it does not pose any dangerous threat. Whichever configuration you choose, bear in mind that the switching circuit will have four terminals. The four terminals include the ground terminal, the common terminal, and two traveler terminals. Inside the switch is a track through which electricity flows.

The track is connected to the switch handle or toggle, and when the toggle is flipped, the track flips between the two traveler terminals. Invariably, this track inter-switching controls the path the electricity takes.

Some of the materials you would be needing are wore connectors, ceiling fittings, two-wire, and three-wire cables, light fitting, wire connectors, two three-way switches, and two switching boxes.

Buy the ELEGRP Occupancy Sensor Light Switch on Amazon

How Does a 3-Way Motion Sensor Switch Work?

Identifying the terminal screws in a switch box is essential. Once you can locate them, you can tag the important ones and then go on with your wiring.

A switch has three terminal screws, one on each side and the last one at the end of the switch. The green terminal screw at the boundary of the switch is regarded as the ground terminal. The ground terminal screw has a green color.

However, if you are viewing the switch in a picture, you may not notice the color. The ground screw is not sheathed from the other metallic parts as it is considered a part of the entire metal framework.

It is essential to note that ground screw terminals did not accompany older switches. However, with the recent release of the National Electric Code, it is now considered illegal for switches without ground screw terminals. The recommendation is, all switches must be accompanied by a ground screw terminal to connect the ground or copper wire.

Another terminal to recognize is the common terminal. The common terminal screw is black, and it is connected both electrically and mechanically to the traveler terminals. The traveler terminal screws are made of brass.

Once the toggle is flipped in a particular direction, the connection between these terminals is broken. This will give room for the common terminal to be connected to the traveler terminal on the other side. Traveler terminals are usually connected to the common terminal.

Finally, it is effortless to interchange the traveler terminals. Since each traveler terminal has a traveler conductor connected to it, wherever you decide to attach your traveler wires is of little importance.

What are the Components of a 3-Way Light Switch

The components of a 3-way motion sensor light switch include:

i. Cable

ii. Power-in

iii. Neutral

iv. Ground

v. Hot wire

vi. Circuit breakers

vi. Two ropes

vii. Three ropes

Let’s take a closer look at these components…


A cable is a collection of insulated wires. A cable is usually a part of a permanent installation, and a cord is much more flexible than a cable. All the wires in a cable are insulated separately; however, the ground wire may be an exception.

It is also very possible to find a ground wire that is sheathed. And if the wire is insulated, it is wrapped with a green plastic sheath.


The cable that powers the electrical system is known as the power-in cable. They are run from one of the switch boxes into the panel box.


Basically, the neutral wire is a wire connected with other neutral wires to the earth such that electricity flows from the lighting system and back into the wire. Since they are usually connected to the ground, it is expected that you experience no shock at all should you come in contact with them. The neutral wires are often white.


The term ground refers to the common base point for the voltages of all the electrical appliances in a home. Usually, all the neutral wires in a circuit are grounded, but a separate grounding is created for all the metallic parts of the electrical system.

This will keep all the metallic parts of appliances, fixtures and devices from getting charged and causing harm. If an electrical system was not grounded, the bodies of people would act as a conductor for current passing through a hot wire. The ground wire is either insulated or left naked.

Hot Wire

A hot wire is otherwise called a live wire. A live wire usually has an electrical force relating to that of the earth. In most cases, the wire can carry up to 120 volts.

The term hot is used to describe anything that is slightly connected to the ground and can be used as a path for electrical force. The hot wire is always hot until the circuit breaker is flipped off.

Circuit Breakers

A circuit breaker is either called a panel box or fuse box. It is a combination of smaller fuses and breakers. In simplest terms, a circuit breaker is an automatic electronic switching device used to cut off power from going into a circuit or entire building. The circuit breaker is designed with three handle positions: off, tripped and on.

Two Ropes

This is the term used to describe a cable with two separate wires and a ground wire. They can be colored black, red, white, with the ground wire having a green sheath.

Three Ropes

A term used to describe a cable with three individual wires and a ground wire. A three-wire cable also has the same colors as that of a two-wire cable.

Buy the Westek MLC4BC Indoor Plug-In Motion Activated Light Control on Amazon

Installing a Remote-controlled Motion Detector Light

The primary function of a motion sensor is to sense motion and act on the movement. Electrically and mechanically, sounds are resonated into the sensor’s system, such that it works on the pre-programmed order to light up.

You can use a motion sensor with any electrical fixture and applications. Below is how to install a motion sensor.

Getting Started

Before installing a motion sensor, you need to first know the area you would be installing it. You can either install it on your front porch, the stairway, or in your garage. However, before installing, check the sensor’s manual to see the recommended distance range for the product.

It is best to fix it where you can conveniently see intruders or visitors approach your home.  Whichever location you choose, be rest assured it will do its job.

After mapping out the areas, apply for building inspection and certification. Immediately you apply for the permit, an inspector is sent over to inspect your building to see how safe it is for wiring.

Next, choose the type of lighting fixtures. Large, unattractive lights may not suit the overall look of your porch. You want to go for something that complements the aesthetics of your environment.

Install the Junction Box

You can either choose to work with old switch boxes or install new ones entirely. If you are working with old switch boxes, you will need to rewire the entire circuit.

There are many box shapes available on the market; you can either go for a rectangular switch box or a round switch box. You can buy clamp-on fixtures if you do not want to go through the stress of boring holes and wiring.

Wiring Options

Choose your wiring configuration. You can decide to place your light fitting at the end of your circuit or place your sensor at the end of the circuit. Whichever method you choose, make sure cabling is easy for you on that path.

You can also connect more than one light fitting to a motion sensor so far the wattage reading is not exceeded. Additionally, know the minimum size of a switch box. For a switch box to contain all the wires for a circuit, it has to be about

Run the Cables

The next thing you want to do is wire your junction boxes. Carefully examine the old cable you will use for wiring. On the cable’s sheathing, you will find a list of numbers with the larger numbers indicating the measurement of the wires.

It is usually written as 12/3 or 14/3. The smaller numbers indicate the number of wires in the cable, including the ground wire.

Ensure you buy cables that are of the same measurement with the old cable. You can also purchase two-wire or three-wire cables, depending on the type of configuration you are working with. Then, map out your wiring route.

It is not always good to go for the shortest wiring route. Avoid a route that requires you drilling holes through heavy frameworks.

Regarding the drilling tool to use, you can purchase a spade of 5/8 inches. However, if your drilling job is hectic, you should settle for an auger drill bit.

Connect the Sensor and Lights

Once you are done wiring, you can now connect your sensor and light fittings. Do not rush past this stage; you must take a moment to ensure that everything is in order.

Use a cutter to cut off old ends of existing wires and then open up the insulation so you can use fresh copper wires to connect. When your connection is complete, switch on your breaker and test your sensor.

Check out these interesting articles from our previous posts…

Final Words

Motion sensor light switches are designed to power on/off motion sensor lights. If you follow the steps above, you will not break a sweat when installing and programming your motion sensor light switch.

How to Program Motion Sensor Light Switch – Related FAQs

Can Motion Sensors be Wired in Series?

Motion sensors can be wired in series or Normally Closed wiring system. Only multiple motion sensors in the same zone can be wired in series. When several motion sensors are connected in series, an end of line resistor (EOLR) let’s the user know if an intruder attempts to disconnect them. However, just high-end motion sensors are equipped with an EOLR.

Apart from Normally Closed wiring system, motion sensors may use Normally Open wiring system. Motion sensors that use either of these systems are known as Form C motion sensors.

What Happens if a Light Switch is Not Grounded?

A light switch will work regardless of whether or not the box is grounded. This is because the light switch will still be in contact with the box when it is screwed. If an old light switch has no ground switch, but has a ground wire, it will be best to get a new switch to avoid minor shocks.

Ensure that a light switch metal frame is in contact with the ground by connecting it to the electric box for your safety and that of others.

Which Type of Sensor is Used for Door Installations?

There are four types of motion sensors used for door installation. They include optical sensors, active infrared sensors, radar movement sensors, and pressure sensors. An optical sensor is the most commonly used for door and gate installation. This sensor is installed on both sides of a gate or door and allows for automatic opening and closing when it notices any motion.

A radar movement sensor can notice movements in a certain direction. This is why it is also used for designing automatic doors and gates. Pressure sensors detect variations in pressure of a certain area  (control mat), so they useful in automatic doors and gates.

How Do Door Security Sensors Work?

A door security sensor uses a reed switch in determining when there is an intrusion in a certain area. A reed switch has been in existence since 1936 and it’s used in not just doors and gates, but also pedal keyboards, laptops and phones. Door sensors are equipped with a magnet and a reed switch, which forms a closed circuit.

When the door is opened, the magnet is separated from the switch, thereby opening the circuit and triggering the alarm, text, or a chime alert, depending on the user’s configuration.

How Do You Test if a Motion Sensor Switch is Working?

To test if a motion sensor switch is working, an Ohm Meter is needed. Verify if the Ohm meter is working properly and then switch on the multimeter. The resistance range of the Ohm meter should be set to “x1” or “autorange”. After that, probe the touching of the Ohm meter to see if it is displaying a high or no reading. If the latter is the case, then the device is not working properly.

The next step is to put ON the motion sensor switch and check if the meter is displaying 1 Ohm or less. Toggle the switch OFF and see if the Ohm meter is displaying “OL”, which means a high resistance. If the switch does not change when toggled, it means it is not working properly.

Can a Light Switch Cause Fire?

A light switch can cause fire if the wire nuts are loosed, resulting to a resistance at the connection point. Once this happens, the light switch is heated up and a fire can break out. Also, if the internal connection of a light switch is degraded after using it for some time, it might lead to a fire.

If a light fixture is worn out or corroded after about 20 years of use, the entire internal connection is also affected. So, this may result in a fire.

Why Do I Get a Shock from My Light Switch?

A light switch may start to shock anyone that touches it if there is a static discharge of electricity. This occurs when static electric charges are accumulated on the surface of an object. The shock experienced when there is a static discharge is not fatal, but, nonetheless, it is not palatable.

Touching the metal screws of a light switch is the only part that shocks, so try to avoid it. Use a humidifier to prevent shocks, since static discharge happens only in an area with dry air.