Choosing The Right Motion Sensor Light

There are several reasons to consider motion sensor lights, no matter what kind of property you’re selecting fixtures for. On residential properties, you may see motion sensors attached to interior or exterior fixtures. On commercial properties, motion sensors are a valuable addition to lighting, either for security or productivity purposes.

The challenge is selecting the right motion sensor lights for your needs. There are several types of motion sensor technology available, and they can be paired with a variety of lighting options. That means there are a lot of ways to build out your motion sensor lighting.

What Are Motion Sensors Used For With Lighting Systems?

Motion detectors are among the most popular lighting controls available. That’s partly due to their versatility, as motion sensors can help with a range of applications. For example, you can use them to improve the following:

  • Security – Motion sensors are frequently used to secure an area a bit more tightly. Movement-detecting sensors will automatically trigger any lights they are attached to, hitting would-be intruders with an intense burst of illumination and deterring them. That’s why you’ll normally see home security lighting around entrances, like over a garage door.
    As every property could use a little more security, these lights are popular additions to homes, businesses, medical facilities, warehouses, government facilities, museums, and many more locations.
  • Safety – Better visibility means better safety, and that goes beyond security. For example, it’s common for people to install motion-sensing lighting around a pool, porch or patio. It’s in these spots where someone is most likely to trip up and hurt themselves. If there are young children present, motion sensor lighting can help prevent a serious accident from occurring.
  • Energy efficiency – An overlooked benefit of motion sensors is their ability to control lighting output. If your lighting is tied to motion sensing technology, those lights will only switch on when needed. At all other times, the lamp stays off. This helps minimize lighting waste, especially if your motion sensors are calibrated to ignore animals, blown objects, and other random nuisances.
    In addition to boosting efficiency, reducing waste will also extend the life of any lamps tied to the sensors, improving the return on your lighting investment.
  • Productivity – Worker productivity relies on adequate visibility, especially for tasks involving vision and labor. For example, warehouse workers are required to identify, scan and transport containers around the facility. With motion-detecting lighting, your workers will always have enough illumination to accomplish tasks wherever they go. This keeps visibility-related issues from interfering with business operations.
  • Convenience – Some home and business owners just prefer motion sensor lights for their convenience. With motion sensors, people can move from room to room without fumbling for switches or worrying about seeing.

PIR, Ultrasonic Or Microwave Sensors – Which Is The Best?

There are a few types of motion sensors available for lighting, and they each operate a bit differently. There isn’t a clear winner between them, so the best choice will depend on what areas you’re providing coverage for. Here’s a look at the most common sensor options:

Passive infrared (PIR)

PIR sensors detect the heat that every person and animal gives off. Because these are passive sensors, they do not emit any kind of signal. Instead, they respond when they detect changing levels of infrared energy, which suggests something warm-bodied is moving through the space.

PIR sensors cannot detect people through glass, and they can be triggered by rapid changes in temperature. However, they are an inexpensive and reliable technology.


Ultrasonic sensors are active, which means they emit an audio signal that is captured and analyzed by a receiver on the sensor. If someone or something moves in front of the sensor, this audio signal is disrupted and trips any lights attached to the sensor.

Ultrasonic sensors can detect motion behind walls and around corners, which may or may not be desirable.


Microwave sensors are another form of active motion detection, as they also emit and receive a signal from the sensor. In this case, the sensor uses microwaves that propagate through the area. Microwave-based motion detectors cover a larger area than other sensors and are therefore a standard option for large commercial spaces.

To minimize false detections, some facilities use a combination of motion sensor technologies. For example, you can calibrate the lighting to only switch on when a PIR sensor and ultrasonic sensor both detect motion.

What Type Of Lights Work Best With Motion Sensors?

Motion sensors are only one part of a lighting system – you’ll also need to select the ideal bulbs to pair with those sensors. For most applications, LED lights are the first choice, and here’s why:

  • LED lighting can handle rapid on/off switching – Some forms of lighting cannot handle the constant on/off switching that often accompanies motion detection. Fluorescent lamps in particular are quickly exhausted by frequent cycling.
    LED lighting, though, is not stressed by this. No matter how often the fixtures are switched on and off, they will not decline in output or reliability.
  • LED lighting is control compatible – LED lighting is compatible with every form of lighting control on the market. Whether it’s a photocell for dusk-to-dawn operation or motion sensing technology, LEDs are optimized for precision control.
  • LED lighting provides high quality illumination – LED lighting doesn’t use a lot of power, but it still provides excellent illumination. In fact, LEDs emit lighting that is comparable or superior in quality, compared to other popular lighting technologies.
    LEDs produce bright, even light that isn’t marred by hotspots or dead areas. Further, some LED fixtures come with high CRI (color rendering index) ratings, which means they can accurately represent colors. That’s critical for safety reasons, as we rely on color visibility to detect potential hazards in the environment.

As for what fixtures to use with your motion sensors, floodlights are the most common choice. Floodlights output high levels of brightness and do so over a larger area. Motion-activated floodlights are ideal for outdoor use, where they can provide coverage for a yard, around a house, or in a parking garage.

Bulb Daddy Has The Lighting And Sensor Products For Your Project

No matter where or how you plan on using your motion sensor lights, we have the product for your needs. In addition to our wide selection of LED lights, we stock a variety of lighting controls, including motion sensors. Our team can guide you through the fixture selection process, and help match the perfect lighting solutions for your needs.