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Old 11-30-2010, 09:54 PM   #1
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


We recently bought a home which has set of motion-activated/photoelectric security floodlights on the outside of the house overlooking the deck. Nothing fancy: two floodlights connected to a sensor and hardwired. For the most part, they serve their function well: if anything bigger than a chipmunk walks onto our deck, the lights activate and remain on for about five minutes before shutting off automatically. In the daytime they do not turn on at all.

Inside the house, they are connected to a standard toggle light switch. Flipping the switch down turns off the lights and flipping it up either puts them into motion-activated mode, or stay-on mode. I presume this is a pretty common configuration.

However, if I flip the lights on for a moment to look outside and then want to put them back into motion-sensing mode, I have to flip them off and then back on. Sometimes it isn't clear whether I have put them back into motion-sensing mode, or into stay-on mode, and this can be very frustrating because the only way to tell is to stand around for five minutes to see if they auto-off. To be clear, I realize that this is (my) human error: I just sometimes forget whether I did the double flip thing. But that is easy to do, and it seems like a poor design.

I'm sure I can't be the only one who has found this system to be less than ideal, and it seems impossible that someone doesn't produce, either independently or part of a set including the lights, a switch which has three simple positions labeled ON, OFF, and AUTO. I should think it would be an incredibly simple switch to manufacture and much sought-after by consumers. Despite that, the guys at Home Depot and Lowes looked at me like I was crazy when I asked about this item, and I admit that I cannot find one online.

Do these exist, and if so, can you point me to one online?

Many thanks,

- Guy who gets out of bed twice a week to walk downstairs and flip the security light switch, upon relaizing that it was in ON mode again


Last edited by youngdoc; 11-30-2010 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 11-30-2010, 10:00 PM   #2
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


I find myself doing a lot of service calls in which the homeowner will ask about their motion detector light not working correctly. The toggling between motion detector and always on confuses a lot of people, especially after a power outage. I too wish they made a design like you mentioned.

There is something you can do, tho. You can run a switch leg from a second switch directly to the lights. You would have to wire this internally, and it would "backfeed" the motion detector, I'm not sure if that would damage it or not. But it would give you the desired effect of being able to switch the lights on quickly without changing the motion detector's mode.

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Old 12-01-2010, 02:10 PM   #3
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


Versa,

Thanks for the speedy reply. At least I know that I am not alone. Your solution is probably outside the scope of my abilities. I have no problem wiring new devices to existing wiring, but when it comes to changing/adding to the wiring itself, I stay away. And hiring an electrician for something like this -- especially if it presents some risk of frying the unit -- might not work so well either.

I'm still not convinced that something like this doesn't exist, considering the multitude of different switches on the market for everything from dimming to timed shut off to indoor motion sensors. Is seems impossible that such a solution wouldn't sell, considering the current alternative, even if it were sold only as part of a package.
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Old 12-01-2010, 08:42 PM   #4
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


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I'm still not convinced that something like this doesn't exist, considering the multitude of different switches on the market for everything from dimming to timed shut off to indoor motion sensors.
My suspicion is that design of such a device would be predicated on the switch and motion sensor to communicate with each other. This tends to introduce a whole new level of complication in order to achieve this without adding more wires to your house. This means more money.

But if you are interested, a solution does exist. I have it working in my house as do many others. But it involves the automation side of devices and programmable controllers. I happen to use an automation protocol known as "insteon". Z-wave is another type, as is UPB and X-10.

Basically, the motion sensor senses motion and tells the controller. The controller tells the switch (controlling the light) to turn on and to turn off after a certain time. This can also be set to be active only at certain periods of time. This allows manual control of the light from the switch like any other light.

But it is not for those unwilling to put some effort into it. Once you get started, however, you can't stop. Then you will wonder how you ever lived with dumb switches.
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:38 PM   #5
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


Ah, that makes sense. And I should have figured something like that must exist. When we first moved into the house, the ceiling fan in the master bedroom had no light fixture. I added a light, but I was reluctant to start fishing wire, so I instead installed one of those wired+wireless controllers on the wall that communicates with a sensor placed under the fan's base cup. Worked like am absolute charm.

I will have to so some exploring. Thanks!
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Old 12-02-2010, 02:07 PM   #6
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Indoor switch for outdoor motion activated security lights


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I added a light, but I was reluctant to start fishing wire, so I instead installed one of those wired+wireless controllers on the wall that communicates with a sensor placed under the fan's base cup. Worked like am absolute charm.
Yup. This is an example of these types of devices. There are whole communities of folks doing this stuff, but it is mostly DIY and hobbyist effort if the posts at the forums I follow are accurate. My sense is that most professional electicians are not willing to take the risk. That is not to say that there are not at least a few professional installers of these automation systems.

Control-4 is an example of an automation system that is generally available to the professional. Lutron, I believe, makes some automation devices, but generally caters to the pro, as well, from what I understand.

My advice is always to be careful, however. This stuff is addicting. You will start with motion sensors, but in a year, your whole house will turn itself on and off, your lighting, security, HVAC, and audio will all be integrated together, and you will be opening your garage door from your iPhone. After that you will be poor and in HAA (Home Automation Anonymous).


Last edited by oberkc; 12-02-2010 at 04:34 PM.
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