Do LED Lights Work With Motion Sensors?

Incandescent lights are a thing of the past. Today, who wouldn’t prefer going for an environment-friendly and cost-effective solution to lighting? Although LED lights are great their integration with home security solutions like a motion sensor might concern you. 

Say you’ve been planning to switch your lights to LED. If you’ve been wondering whether the LED lights will sync along with the motion sensors or not – this is where you get an answer. Let’s jump straight into our discussion.

Do LED Lights Work with Motion Sensors?

LED lights work with motion sensors just as any other type of lighting would. Though it requires a bit of configuration to get the two devices working together, it is definitely possible. Once the motion sensor picks up heat signals, the lights illuminate the area.

If we talk about incandescent lights; once the motion sensor triggers the switch, they need several minutes to light up. Since the motion sensor only keeps the bulbs lightened up for 30 seconds or so, the bulb might not even light up to its maximum power. This makes these lights quite ineffective for motion sensors.

Not to mention, these light bulbs have very few switching cycles. Switching cycles indicate a bulb’s lifespan i.e. the number of times a bulb is able to switch on-off. 

LED lights, on the other hand, are perfect for a motion sensor since the mean time to full brightness is very short. They light up instantly which serves the sensor’s purpose. Not to mention the switching cycles for an LED light range in between 20,000 and 100,000 which is far more than an incandescent light. 

However, there is one thing:

We previously talked about configurations required to get the LED lights to work with motion sensors. These configurations are, however, oriented towards the motion sensor and not so much towards the lights.

Let’s switch our discussion to whether all motion sensors can work with LEDs or not. 

Do All Motion Sensors Work with LED Lights?

Motion detectors generally use electronic switches to switch on the lights. That’s why using an LED light or an incandescent bulb doesn’t matter but the construction of the sensor does. Not every motion sensor can handle lighting up the LED bulb perfectly. 

Types of Switches

Motion sensors use either of the two types of switches: 

  1. Electromechanical relays
  2. Semiconductor relays (or electronic switches)

Electromechanical relays work just as a regular switch does. As soon as the motion sensor detects heat signals, it triggers the switch. Consequently, all terminals are connected and the voltage is passed along to the bulb connected with the sensor. 

Now, when we talk about electronic switches – these require a minimum load to function properly. You might be wondering: what is a minimum load?

Types of Loads

Before we discuss minimum loads, you should know the two main types of loads available:

  1. Resistive loads (also called Ohmic)
  2. Capacitive loads (also called Inductive)

For the LED lights to work with motion sensors, the loads need to be compatible as well. LED lights have a capacitive load due to an integrated power supply within them. Incandescent or CFL bulbs have a resistive load.

So one thing’s for sure – the motion detector you choose should be capable of handling capacitive loads for it to work with LED lights. 

Now, let’s switch (pun intended) back to minimum loads.

Say you’ve purchased a motion detector with a minimum load specification of 60 watts. Now, if you were to use it with an LED light of 10 watts, it won’t be suitable at all.

The motion sensor expects a load of at least 60 watts. If the power of the LED bulb isn’t as much or higher, it won’t trigger the sensor’s switch at all. It’s why you’d see most modern motion sensors have a fairly low minimum load requirement so they can work well with all LED lights.

Common Issues with LED Lights and Motion Sensors

Motion sensors aren’t the easiest devices to install and engineer. It’s why you might come across several problems as you try to make LED lights work with your motion sensor. Here’s a short section on two of the most common problems you might be able to debug by yourself: 

Why are my LED lights always powered on?

If your LED lights are triggered despite the sensor detecting anything, this might be a high sensitivity or a load distribution issue. Try lowering the sensitivity to resolve the issue. Also make sure the minimum load and load type of the bulb and sensor match.

If your sensor is on a high sensitivity setting, something close to the sensor might be setting it off. Make sure to properly clean the sensor and any surroundings so no insects or small beings capable of emitting radiation might trigger it. 

Secondly, motion sensors with an electronic switch require a minimum load for the LED bulb to operate properly. Otherwise, the behavior is going to be unpredictable. It is very likely that the switch isn’t playing a role at all and the light bulb is powered directly. Also make sure to review the load type of the sensor and the bulb to make sure they’re compatible.   

Why does my motion sensor not trigger the LED lights?

If the motion sensor doesn’t trigger at all, the electronic switch might not be receiving the desired load. Review the LED bulb and make sure the motion sensor is capable of handling capacitive loads for it to work with them. Otherwise, try a resistive load, incandescent bulb with your sensor. 

FAQs on Do LED Lights Work with Motion Sensors

Let’s quickly hop on to our answers on some of the most intriguing questions on whether LED lights work with motion sensors. Here’s it: 

Can you put a motion sensor on any light?

Motion sensors can be configured to work with any new or existing light fixture. You can either use a motion sensor light bulb or configure the sensor to work with the fixture by wiring the two together. Using a screw-in motion sensor is also an excellent option.
Wiring the motion sensor with the fixture is fairly technical work. If you’re not great with wirings or understanding circuits, it’s better you stick to light bulbs with a pre-installed sensor. But if you’d like to keep your bulb and fixture, simply use a screw-in sensor which is first mounted on the fixture and the bulb is then installed on top of it. 

Do you need special bulbs for motion sensor lights?

You don’t need special bulbs since motion sensors can work with any type of light. This includes incandescent, CFL, or LED light bulbs. However, you should be aware of the type of load and minimum load your motion detector is capable of handling for the bulb to work properly.
Most motion sensors have a detailed specification for you to install it properly. Pay attention to the minimum load and type specification. If it handles both inductive and resistive loads, you’re good to go with LED lights. Otherwise, you might want to rewire the sensor or pick a different type of light bulb. 

How do you fit a PIR sensor to an existing light?

To retrofit a motion sensor to an existing LED light, turn off the lights and remove the cover off of the fixture. Wire the motion sensor with the fixtures – hot wire from house to the black, red to the hot wire of the light, and neutrals are tied together. Cover the fixture and provide power to test it out. 
Wiring the motion sensor to work with LED lights does need some testing. Electrical standards might vary in your country – make sure to review any manuals which might’ve come with the sensor. Secondly, before covering the sensor back up, you might also want to adjust its sensitivity.

How do you turn an outdoor light into a motion light?

To connect an existing outdoor light into a motion light, you can install a motion sensor on top of it. Unscrew the bulb, uncover the fixture, and plug the motion sensor in by wiring it. Once wired, the motion sensor should be capable of lighting up the bulb as voltage is provided to it. 
Modern light fixtures also have USB sockets in them. It’s why many motion sensors are also equipped with USB power adapters to connect any light fixture to the sensor. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to use a sensor while powering it using an already powered fixture. 

So, do LED lights work with motion sensors? Majority of them work with modern motion sensors and you won’t face an issue. If you have old fixtures or sensors, you might want to review their load specifications to see if they’re compatible with LED lights. We hope we’ve nudged you along the right way to have the LED lights work with your motion sensor.