How to Reset a Motion Sensor Light

Motion sensor lights offer a convenient and energy-conscious solution for lighting the outdoor areas of your property. However, the convenience of these fixtures ends when the light stops responding to motion as it should. Fortunately, most issues with operation can be fixed by resetting the motion sensor light; as we’ll go on to explain, there are a few simple methods you can use to carry this out yourself.

The basic steps that go into resetting a motion sensor light include turning it off at the switch, rapidly flipping its switch, unplugging it from the wall, or disconnecting it at your circuit breaker box. The method you use to reset your motion sensor light will ultimately depend on how it’s connected to your home electrics; as per the steps we explain later in this article, work your way through the reset methods relevant to your situation.  

Best Practices for Using Motion Sensor Lights

Getting your motion sensor lights to work with optimal functionality relies on a few best practices. These are as follows:

  1. You must install the motion sensor light correctly, placing it in the correct position.
  2. You should adjust the motion sensor light’s sensitivity to meet the ideal level for their positioning. If the sensitivity is too high, the lights will be excessively responsive to any motion they detect.
  3. It’s important to remember to reset the motion sensor lights every so often. If the lights stay on a lot of the time, regular resetting will be particularly beneficial for their proper functioning.

Following these tips should keep your lights working correctly from their installation onwards. However, as is the case with all electronic devices, it’s still possible for motion sensor lights to malfunction occasionally. If you’re having issues with your lights, see the advice in the following section.

Why is My Motion Sensor Light Not Working Properly?

Understandably, motion sensor lights rely on their motion sensor to work properly. If the sensor malfunctions, the lights may stay on constantly, or not come on at all. This can happen under a few conditions that we’ve detailed below.

Dirty Lens on Motion Sensor

If your motion sensor light won’t turn off, the first thing to check is the lens on its sensor. A sensor lens clogged with dirt will prevent the light from switching off. 

The sensor in your motion sensor light sits behind a small window on the outside of the fixture. It detects motion by emitting an infrared beam that senses movement and temperature changes within the scope of the sensor. Anything that interrupts the infrared beam will send a signal to the light, directing it to turn on; because of this, if the sensor is covered in a layer of dirt, it will send a constant ‘on’ signal to the light. This prevents the light from turning off even in the absence of motion.

Fix: Locate the sensor on your lighting fixture. Then, use a cloth and some soapy water to gently clean the lens. Test the light to see if that fixes the issue.

Power Cut Caused Motion Sensor to Malfunction

If you’ve recently had a power cut, this could cause your motion sensor light to no longer work properly. Both the initial power cut and the surge of power when it returns can impact the light’s functionality. 

Fix: To fix a motion sensor light malfunctioning after a power cut, resetting is the best option.  Follow the steps to reset your light as per our explanation later in this article.

Motion Sensor is in the Incorrect Position

Of course, your motion sensor light will work best when the sensor is in the correct position for the location of the light. You may simply need to adjust the direction of the sensor if your light is constantly on or off. 

Fix: Loosen the screws on the motion sensor’s housing to access the motion light. Reaim the motion light to a better position, then re-screw the housing and test the light. 

External Temperature is Affecting Motion Sensor

The external temperature can impact the functionality of your motion sensor light. You may therefore run into problems with your lights in overly cool or hot weather. 

As we’ve mentioned, the sensor responds to changes in temperature as part of its motion detection process. Because of this, extreme temperatures may impede how well the sensor detects motion; more specifically, cold temperatures can make it over-sensitive, and warmer temperatures less sensitive. This is to do with the relative temperature of the passing object to the surrounding air temperature.

Fix: Unfortunately, as you can’t control the weather, there isn’t much you can do to fix this issue. Still, at the very least you know that the light will return to normal once the period of extreme weather ends. 

Other Exterior Lights Triggering Motion Sensor

The motion sensor on the light can also respond to any other light sources nearby. If you have another light close to your motion sensor light, this may cause interference; the motion sensor may be detecting the other light as daylight, consequently causing the light to switch on incorrectly.

Fix: Unscrew the housing on the light’s motion sensor, then adjust it to face away from any nearby light sources. 

Bulb in Motion Sensor Light Has Burnt Out

If your motion sensor light isn’t turning on at all, it could be that the bulb has burnt out. Luckily, the process of replacing a burnt-out bulb is relatively simple. 

Fix: Turn off the motion sensor light to avoid any accidental shocks while you replace the bulb. Use a soft cloth to gently grasp the bulb, then twist it anticlockwise until you can remove it from its fitting. Then, use the cloth to twist the new bulb into the socket.

Control Switch for Motion Sensor Light on Lamp Mode

Motion sensor lights typically come with a ‘lamp mode’ switch. When this setting is on, the light will act as a regular static outdoor light. This is a common cause of a motion sensor light not turning off.

Fix: Locate the lamp mode toggle switch in the housing of your light’s motion sensor. If it’s in the wrong position, flip the switch back to sensor mode and your light should respond to motion once again.

How to Reset a Motion Sensor Light

Regardless of the cause, a hard reset will often be enough to fix a malfunctioning motion sensor light. Follow our guidance below to reset your light if it isn’t functioning as expected.

1. Turn Off Motion Sensor Light at Switch

The most straightforward method to reset a motion sensor light is to turn it off at the switch.

Flip the switch to the off position and leave it off for at least 30 seconds up to 5 minutes. The amount of time you should wait will depend on the model of light you have; you’ll find this information in the manual for your specific fixture. If you don’t have a physical manual, you should be able to find one online. Otherwise, leaving the switch off for a full 5 minutes will suffice. 

Flip the switch back on and test whether the light is working correctly. If not, move on to the next step.

2. Flip Switch for Motion Sensor Light Rapidly

An alternative method to reset the motion sensor light is to flip the on/off switch several times in quick succession. 

Starting from the off position, flip the switch on and off, leaving it in each position for roughly 2 to 3 seconds. Repeat this 4 or 5 times before leaving the switch in the off position for a couple of minutes. Finally, flip the switch back on, and test whether the light is working properly. If it still doesn’t work, try the next method.

3. Unplug Motion Sensor Light From Outlet

If your motion sensor light is plugged into an outlet, you can use this as another method to hard reset it.

Leave the on/off switch for the light in the on position before unplugging its power cord from the socket. Leave the light unplugged for up to 5 minutes before replugging it in the socket. This should work to reboot your motion sensor light, but if not, move on to the next method. 

4. Cut Power to Motion Sensor Light at Breaker Box

It may be the case that your motion sensor light has neither a switch nor a plug, but is instead hardwired into your electrics. If this applies to you, or the previous methods fail, the final reset method is to cut power to the light via its circuit breaker. 

First, go to the circuit breaker box for your property’s electrics. If you don’t already know where this is, circuit breaker boxes are typically found in low-traffic areas; it’s likely to be in a garage, closet, or on the outside of your property. In the breaker box, you’ll find lots of switches that control the power to different parts of the electrical system. 

Look for the switch that controls the power to your motion sensor light. If the switches in your breaker box aren’t labelled, flip each switch until you find the correct one. You may need to enlist the help of someone else to monitor the light while you do this.

Once you identify the correct breaker switch, flip it to the off position. Leave it for 5 minutes before flipping it back on. 

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