Motion Detecting Lights

From w.mfi

I hope to make a video of this some day, but I am very proud that we can walk all through our big house at night - from one farthest end to the other - never needing to touch a light switch. The choices are cheap LEDs that only stay lit some 60 seconds and ultimately use almost no energy, given their low watt rating and short light time.

I looked at a lot of possible choices here ranging from expensive vertical solutions to smart home motion-detecting switches to "dumb" motion detecting lights. What I settled on was cheap and easy for anyone to use.

No fan of batteries

While batteries are great in their way, they are also a supremely inefficient use of resources. A lot was spent to make some little thing that will die in a matter of months. Of course, they have their places. But whenever possible, it's much better to use something that doesn't waste resources being made, or, even more important, your time in replacing it, or it dying on you, when we all have much cheaper electricity on tap all the time.

Consider how hard it is to mail somebody a meal, compared to hosting them in your kitchen. House electricity is right in front of you. Try not to package practically-free energy in something expensive you have to throw away in time.

Questions and Problems with Consumer Motion-Activated Lights

For the brass tacks of motion detectors, important questions come to the fore, rarely mentioned in ads:

  • Do you want them to come on only in the dark? Bad ones turn on for anything less than direct sunlight. Almost no consumer brands let you choose sensitivity, ARG.
  • Do you want batteries or house power? I focus on house power, but it's your choice. If you search, many results are battery based. Good luck to you who are energy wise.
  • Important motion detector questions:
    • How far can it see? Usually just 10 to 15 feet.
    • How wide an angle? Usually less than 180 degrees. But sometimes you'd like even more than that.
    • How sensitive to motion within range? Can it be adjusted? Rarely very sensitive. Almost none are adjustable.
    • Can its view be redirected or given blinds? (Answer: no and no)
  • How long does it stay on when triggered? And,
  • Does it keep registering motion and extending the period, or will it go out x seconds after it started, leaving you in the dark coming down stairs? (Don't worry, it will come on again when you fall.)

You will find that few of these issues are addressed in the advertising. Almost none of them are adjustable; you get what you get. Thanks for your time, ma'am.

PIR (passive infrared) always means that it can't detect something coming straight at it very well. It uses a little heat map. Also, they can be triggered by stealth heat changes such as HVAC vents.

Low-light solution: The Maxxima MLN-55W

The Maxxima MLN-55W. Among other praises: Thanks for putting the model number right up front, Maxxima.

I highly recommend the Maxxima MLN-55W LED Motion Activated Night Light ($20 for two on Amazon).

These guys check off most of the right boxes:

  • Quite bright; specs say 15 lumens. I'd say it's like a 10-watt incandescent equivalent.
  • Specs say 0.8 watts.
  • Wide motion-detecting angle.
  • They don't come on unless it's pretty dark.
  • Range is 15 to 20 feet.
  • They stay on about 90 seconds. They continually reset the 90-s clock based on motion.
  • They have a little timestamp on them for month and year of manufacture.

We have about 8 around our house, plus about five of 110V 220V 5W LED PIR Infrared Sensor Motion Detector Lamps for places that need more light.

A few are mounted on Gear Tie twist sticks, so they can be in a more logical place than in a wall socket. Sockets aren't always the best place for perceiving motion or projecting light, in a particular place in your house.

We can walk all around our house at night, top to bottom, MBR to garage, without needing to touch a light switch.

Suggestions to Manufacturers

  • Adjustable light sensitivity
  • Adjustable angle of motion detection
    • Motion detector separate from light
  • Flexible options for power (house, battery, or both)
    • Chirp if batteries are low.