Have you ever been driving home at night, and the motion sensor light turns on as you enter your driveway? You drive in, and the light turns off, then a few minutes later, it turns back on and off again. The flickering lights can be annoying at best and worrying at worst; luckily, the issue might be simpler than you think.
A motion sensor light turning on and off repeatedly can be due to a faulty sensor, poor electrical connections, or incompatible LED bulbs. Solutions include adjusting motion sensor sensitivity and settings, swapping for a LED-compatible sensor, and checking and replacing loose wires.
In this article, I’ll discuss the leading causes of motion sensor lights turning on and off repeatedly. I’ll also elaborate on how to fix each of these issues. So if you want to learn more, make sure to keep reading!
The sensor is responsible for detecting any movement in the area and triggering the light. A faulty sensor is the leading cause of motion sensor lights turning on and off repeatedly.
A faulty sensor should, however, not be confused with motion sensor light flickering. Although a defective sensor triggers lights on too frequently, it doesn’t switch it off fast enough to qualify as flickering. Thus, a faulty sensor is not the issue if your light is flickering.
A quick check will help you determine whether the culprit is a faulty sensor. You can have a person pass by the light while you observe from a distance. If it turns on, then off immediately after they leave the sensor’s range, the problem is with your sensor.
You can fix a faulty sensor using the following three approaches:
The sensitivity of a motion sensor light determines how far the light senses motion signals. It also determines the sensitivity with which the light reacts to these signals.
Faulty sensor sensitivity affects the frequency at which the light turns on and off in the following ways:
- Too high sensitivity: The light captures motion signals outside the stipulated range. In this case, the light will capture people outside your compound or non-human objects like insects and animals. Such objects will initiate repeated turning on and off.
- Too low sensitivity: The light will have an impaired sensitivity that doesn’t capture motion signals within the stipulated zone appropriately. Therefore, the light turns on and off, repeatedly confusing the absence and presence of a human being within the vicinity.
You can usually find the sensitivity settings on the side or back of the motion sensor light. The process of adjusting these settings, however, differs from one model to another.
Some models have a single switch that you can use to adjust between two different sensitivities: low and high. Others have three switches that you can use to set the light to low, medium, or high sensitivity.
The best way to know how to adjust your motion sensor light’s sensitivity is by reading the user manual. If you no longer have the manual, you can look up your model online and find out how to change the settings.
You should adjust the sensitivity in the following ways:
- Set a low sensitivity: Setting a low sensitivity reduces the false on which the light turns. Thus, this is necessary if your light is turning on too frequently. You can then confirm if the issue is solved by checking if the light only turns on when someone stands close to it.
- Set a high sensitivity: If your light is not turning on at all, you should set it on high sensitivity to solve the false off. This will enable the light to capture motion signals within the stipulated range and turn on appropriately.
The position of the sensor is crucial in how often the light turns on and off. It’s essential to adjust the sensor’s position after installation for accurate detection and to avoid repeated turning on and off of the light.
When adjusting the position of your sensor, you should consider the following:
- The angle at which the sensor is installed: The angle affects how far the sensor can detect motion. A sensor that’s not level will have a reduced detection range, thus triggering the light too infrequently. You should position the sensor so that it’s level, allowing it to have an extensive detection range.
- The distance between the sensor and heat sources: Thermal signals and temperature changes affect PIR motion sensor lights due to the emission of infrared signals. You should place your PIR motion sensor away from heat sources like air conditioners to prevent constant heat changes that can activate or deactivate it.
- The pointing direction: You should ensure that the motion sensor points within close vicinity. This is the area you want the light to illuminate. The detecting range is between 20 and 75 feet (240 and 900 inches), so you should ensure that the sensor covers this area.
The on-time duration refers to the time the light stays on once it’s turned on. The duration is usually between 20 and 30 seconds. You can change this setting to ensure that your light only stays on for as long as you want.
A shorter on-time duration will cause the light to turn off too soon, thus triggering it frequently. On the other hand, a longer on-time duration will keep the light on even when there’s no more motion in the vicinity. This wastes energy and may cause you to change the batteries frequently.
Adjusting the on-time duration to a medium time setting like 25 seconds can solve the problem for good.
Most people forget to clean their light sensors, especially on outdoor security lights. These sensors are exposed to dirt, spider webs, dusks, and other debris. All these substances can cause the sensor to malfunction by clogging or covering it.
It’s worth mentioning that a spider is large enough to activate your motion sensor light when it crawls over it. Therefore, you’ll notice your lights turning on and off repeatedly without knowing the cause. As a result, it’s necessary to keep the sensor free of spider webs for efficient operation.
To clean your motion sensor light, you should:
- Remove the cover of the sensor using a screwdriver. The cover is usually round or oval-shaped.
- Wipe away any dirt using a cloth soaked in soapy water.
- Use a cotton swab to remove any debris in the crevices.
- Replace the cover and screw it back on.
Motion sensor lights are usually connected to the main electrical supply of your house. A problem with these connections can cause the light to turn on and off frequently.
Some of the causes of poor electrical connection in your motion sensor light are:
- Loose wire: Wires can become loose over time due to expansion and contraction. This usually happens in cold weather.
- Faulty switch: A faulty switch will cause an interruption in the flow of electricity, thus affecting the light.
- Tripped circuit breaker: A tripped circuit breaker is usually caused by too much current flowing through the wires. This excessive current will cause the breaker to trip, thus interrupting the power supply.
Here’s how you can fix the issue:
- Inspect the wires: Check for any loose, frayed, or damaged wires. If you find any, cut off the damaged part and twist the wire together.
- Replace the switch: You can replace the switch yourself if you’re comfortable doing it. Otherwise, you should call an electrician to do it for you.
- Reset the circuit breaker: To reset the circuit breaker, you should turn off all the lights and appliances in your house. Once everything is turned off, flip the switch back on.
Motion sensor lights with electronic switches are incompatible with some LED bulbs. This is because these sensors are constant power draw devices, while LED bulbs are low draw devices. As a result, you’ll experience flickering or unreliable light output.
Weak power output to the motion sensor light will cause it to turn on and off frequently.
There are a few things you can do:
- Replace the LED bulbs with compatible ones. You can check the website or the light bulb packaging to see if it’s compatible with your motion sensor.
- Use a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) instead of an LED bulb. These bulbs are compatible with most motion sensor lights and are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs.
- Swap for a LED-compatible sensor. These are becoming increasingly popular and are compatible with most LED bulbs.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should always use the same type and number of bulbs in your motion sensor light. Mixing different kinds of bulbs will cause flickering and may damage the sensor.
Bad weather conditions like heavy rain, snow, or ice can also cause your motion sensor light to turn on and off repeatedly. This is because the moisture can seep into the sensor and affect its operation by either shorting it out or corroding it.
In this case, you can:
- Install weatherproof housing around the sensor. This will protect the sensor from the elements and prolong its lifespan.
- Seal the gaps around the sensor. You can use silicone caulk or weatherstripping to do this.
- Buy a motion sensor light specifically designed for outdoor use. These lights are weather-resistant and can withstand extreme conditions.
A motion sensor light that turns on and off repeatedly doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to change the sensor. The issue can result from something simple like loose wires or incompatible bulbs. Bad weather conditions can also cause motion sensor lights to malfunction. You can fix the problem by installing weatherproof housing or by using a weather-resistant light.
If the problem persists after trying these solutions, you should consult an expert. An electrician will promptly diagnose the problem and find a lasting solution.