Making Sense: How to Install a Motion-Sensing Light Switch

Carley Knobloch installs a motion sensor switch

A little light in the right place at the right time can mean the difference between a safe trip to the garage and a visit to the hospital. And when it comes to our parents, we all want to ensure that their home is safe and takes care of them like we would. Little changes and additions from the world of Universal Design make this possible.

In this episode of Smart Simple Solved, I swap my parents’ garage light switch with a motion occupancy sensing switch: Simply put, if you enter a dark room, the lights come on, and even if you’re standing still (or sitting on the couch, reading) it knows you’re there and doesn’t shut off until you’ve left. This is a great solution for rooms where the switch is tough to find in the dark, or rooms like the laundry room where hands are often full when you enter, and it means that rooms are always well lit, and arthritic hands don’t have to mess with switches.

Best of all, this is an easy DIY— in 15 minutes, you’ll have a smarter home, and a cheaper energy bill too.

Side note: My switch was a Single Poll Switch (that means only one switch turns this light off and on), so if yours is too, these instructions will work. If yours is a 3-way Switch (two switches turn the same light on and off) then the instructions are only slightly different, and you’ll want to watch this great video for extra help.


Step 1

 Open GalleryCircuit Breaker

Be safe! Turn power OFF at circuit breaker before swapping out switches or any electrical work! Test the switch to make sure you turned off the right breaker.

Step 2

 Open GalleryRemoving the old switch Carley KnoblochRemove the front and back switch plate, and then the switch itself.

Step 3

 Open GalleryShowing WiresDisconnect all the wires. This Single Poll Switch has one bare copper wire (your ground wire) and two insulated wires on the other side.

Step 4

 Open GalleryChecking the wires Carley KnoblochNow connect the new switch to the wires in the wall: The green and bare wire get connected to the copper wire in the wall. The black wires get connected to the insulated wires in the wall.


Step 5

 Open GalleryConnecting the wires Carley Knobloch Smart Simple SolvedWhenever you’re making connections, use a wire connector (those little plastic hats) so that no wire connections are exposed. If you have other wires you don’t need, cap them off with a wire connector as well.

Step 6

 Open GalleryPush back into wallPush all the wires back into the wall box and mount the sensor switch to the wall with screws that came with it. Now’s a good time to customize the settings, before the wall plate is on. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to tell the switch how long to leave the lights after the last person leaves (the “time out”), and get the motion sensitivity just right.

Step 7

 Open GalleryPop on the new cover of your sensor switch Carley Knobloch Smart Simple SolvedPop on the new switch plate, power back up at the circuit breaker, and you’re done!


  • Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor Switch
  • Electrical tape
  • Mounting hardware
  • Wire capper


  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver (if you need that to remove your existing switch)
  • Wire cutters


About Carley Knobloch 


I'm all about smart, simple solutions to managing life, work and family. I blog about the intersection of tech and living at and delve into smart home technology ...

More About Carley Knobloch

2 Responses

  1. Mike Dubin says:

    If it is a dimming switch, you would need to look for dimmable fluorescent or LED bulbs. Regular fluorescent bulbs cannot dim

  2. Beverly Russell says:

    will this work with the eco friendly light bulbs?

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