Episode 21 – Installing A Residential Occupancy Sensor, And Changing It’s Settings

In my house we have an issue with some people leaving lights on, specifically in the garage. After hounding on the issue, I decided to get a cheap occupancy sensor and install it in the garage to take care of the problem.

What is an occupancy sensor?

As the term indicates, an occupancy sensor is a devices that “senses occupancy” or movement. It is able to, through using forward facing infrared technology, “see” a static room and notice if any movement occurs. Once it detects movement it closes the circuit and turns the lights in that room on, rather than relying on the manual action of a human to flip a light switch. There are many types of Occupancy Sensors on the market, some commercial grade for shops and warehouses, others for typical residential use. The one I’m using in this video is a standard residential model that most electricians are familiar with.

Prep Work

First things first, since this device is a direct replacement for a decor switch, I removed the existing switch from the wall box in my garage. The wiring I found in the wall was sub-par so I had to address this issue first. Whatever electrician wired this place back in the late 60’s, did not pigtail the hots – instead daisy-chaining them together. This is not inherently bad, it’s just a lazy wiring method that causes anyone doing work later to have to address both switches rather than just working on the one in need.

How I like to wire switches is by installing independent hot pigtails so that each device has its own wire, not shared by another device. So this is the first thing I redid. A professional electrician who cares about quality and craftsmanship will always look at everything surrounding what he/she is repairing or replacing. It is a great habit to get into, as a lot of times you’ll find other problems that can save your customers money and system efficiency down the road. In doing so I was able to find another issue. Neither of the existing switches had ground wires (equipment grounding conductors) attached to the ground terminals on the devices. This is a big code no-no. Any metal parts around electrical equipment must be bonded to the equipment grounding system, as well as the devices and equipment themselves needing to be grounded.

My fix for this was to cut 2 small ground wires and add them into the mix as pigtails – one for each device. This way each device is properly grounded, and has it’s own independent wires for installing devices in the future, if anything needs to be changed out.

Installing The Device

Once all of your wires are in place, you need to connect the device(s). First I re-installed the decor switch that I took out and neatly fold all the wires in place so the device has plenty of room to fit in the box. Next I install the new occupancy sensor using the pigtails I just made. I first connect the bonding and grounding wires to the existing equipment grounding conductor in the wall box. Next I connect the hot wire in the wall to one of the black wires on the sensor, and finally I hook the switch leg in the wall box to the remaining black wire on the sensor.

Fitting It All In

The last thing we need to do is push the devices back into the box. There will be less room now because we’re adding extra wirenuts to make our termination. Once we push all of the wires, and wire-nuts, back in the box we can secure each device back to the wall box. Make sure when mounting the devices on the wall, that you space the switches out correctly or the plate won’t fit back on the wall. If you push both devices to the same side of the box, paying attention to where the head of the screw is on both devices (and making them look the same), the plate will fit on perfectly. Lastly, put the plate on and program the device for your desired settings.

Programming

Open the box/package that came with the occupancy sensor and pull out the instruction manual. In this document is all the information you need to program your specific device. This Lutron Maestro device has 3 different functions that can be programmed. You can program the occupancy mode, the time-out, and the sensitivity. I want my occupancy mode to be automatic on/off. I don’t want to rely on pushing any buttons, so this allows the device to control the ON and OFF functions equally. The other options are “Manual On, and Automatic Off” or “Daylight On/Off.” Read the instructions thoroughly as sometimes these devices will not work automatically for the first 2 minutes or so, but it will mention that in the documentation.

Products Used In This Video:

3-amp Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor

Dewalt 20v Brushless Cordless Impact Drill

Klein 6-in-1 Multi-bit Screwdriver

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**Disclaimer – These videos are for training purposes alone, all work done on electrical systems should be done by a licensed and insured electrical contractor.  If you are not an electrician, do not attempt any of the work you are seeing in these videos.**

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