What the Heck is an Occupancy Sensor Switch? and Why You May Need One

Occupancy Sensor Switch
Occupancy Sensor Switch

Looking for a way to make midnight snack and bathroom visits a bit easier? When you are half asleep, the last thing you want to do is fumble around trying to find the light switch. Occupancy sensors are the solution. The devices use infrared, ultrasonic or microwave technology to sense when someone enters the room and it turns the lights on or off automatically.  



Title 24 LogoTitle 24 of The California Building Code requires occupancy sensor switches be used in bathrooms if you are using incandescent light bulbs to light the room.  The occupancy sensor switch replaces the existing manual switch you may already have and normally can be  wired using the existing electrical box in the wall.  However, you should be aware that sometimes the occupancy switch doesn’t fit in the existing  electrical box and if there is not a ground wire in the electrical box you will need to do some additional electrical work.  Some building departments, like the City of Palo Alto require that the occupancy sensor has the ability to be manually turned on and that it will automatically shut off when the room is vacant.

City of Palo Alto Electrical billNot only do occupancy sensors make life easier, but they are also great for saving power. If the kids are constantly running through the house, switching the lights on and then going back out, it’s going to really drive up the electricity bill. Occupancy sensors can fix the problem and saving electricity is not only good for your wallet, but great for the environment.

Motion sensors can be mounted to walls or ceilings and are great for convenience and security for use indoors and outdoors. There are two types of sensor, occupancy sensors and vacancy sensors. They are pretty self-explanatory, as the occupancy sensors turn lights on when someone walks into a room, while the vacancy sensors turn them off once they leave. More advanced occupancy sensors can be adjusted to turn on or off by the number of occupants and their direction of motion. The sensors can also be set with a delay timer, so that they don’t deactivate the lights if you don’t move for a while.