“The Surprising Downsides to Installing Motion Sensor Lighting in Your Business”


Installing motion sensor lighting can seem like an easy way to save energy and money in your business. The lights turn on when motion is detected and turn off when movement stops. This means you don't have to worry about people forgetting to turn off lights in unused rooms or hallways. However, there are some surprising downsides to relying solely on motion sensor lighting that you should consider before installing these fixtures throughout your business.

Frequent False Triggers Waste Energy

One of the biggest downsides of motion sensor lights is that they can be triggered when no one is actually there. Air currents from HVAC systems, small animals moving around, shifting or creaking building materials can all trigger the motion sensor. This leads to the lights turning on when they are not actually needed, wasting energy.

While sensitivity settings can sometimes be adjusted, reducing sensitivity comes with its own drawbacks like lights not turning on when people are present or turning off too quickly. Finding the right sensitivity balance can take some trial and error and tweaking. Even once adjusted, there may still be frequent false triggers.

Motion Sensors Can Create Confusing, Disorienting Lighting

Because motion sensor lights are constantly turning on and off instead of providing continuous illumination, they can create lighting conditions that many find disorienting or even alarming.

Rooms and hallways that unexpectedly plunge into darkness when no movement is detected can be surprising and uncomfortable for building occupants. Having lighting levels constantly shifting as people move around or pause in an area can be distracting and make it difficult to focus on tasks.

Unlike overhead or other lighting that provides a constant and predictable level of illumination, the lighting levels from motion sensors are in flux based on intermittent movement patterns. For many people, these shifting and unreliable lighting conditions are seen as suboptimal.

Intermittent Lighting Can Cause Safety Hazards

Sudden darkness caused by motion sensors turning off can actually cause safety hazards in some situations. Areas where people transit like hallways, stairwells, and entries should generally have a minimum level of illumination at all times for safety.

Motion sensors may turn off unexpectedly in these transition areas as people pause or linger, leaving stairs or other hazards shrouded in darkness and posing a tripping risk. For high traffic public spaces like retail stores or hospitals, unpredictable darkness can also pose risks for falls or collisions.

Motion sensors should not be relied upon for primary lighting in areas where illumination needs to be more constant. Auxiliary or accent lighting should be used in combination with motion sensors for these spaces.

Motion Lighting Can be Problematic in Offices & Workspaces

For offices and workspaces, motion sensor lighting may cause discomfort or difficulties for employees. As mentioned previously, the constantly shifting light levels can be distracting and make it hard to focus on work tasks.

Sudden darkness caused by brief pauses in movement can also disrupt workflows, forcing employees to wave arms to reactivate the lights and interrupting their train of thought. This can lead to frustration and reduced productivity.

Prolonged stillness common during tasks like reading, writing or computer work may also cause the lights to turn off entirely until movement resumes. Remembering to frequently shift positions to re-trigger the sensors places an unnecessary burden on workers.

Working Around Limitations Can Be Inconvenient

There are often ways to work around the limitations of motion sensor lighting, however these can require inconvenient changes in behavior. Having to consciously remember to move around frequently to re-trigger the lights is an irritating disruption for many people.

Strategically leaving doors ajar or items in motion to spoof the sensors can workaround false triggers or sudden darkness but looks cluttered and unprofessional. Rigging up elaborate motion simulations may keep the lights on but wastes other resources. Changing habits to accommodate finicky motion sensors rather than having lighting work for you can be a major annoyance.

More Frequent Bulb Replacements Drive Up Costs

Because motion sensor lights cycle on and off more frequently than lights used for continuous illumination, the bulbs tend to burn out more quickly. The increased switching cycles and electrical surges shorten overall bulb lifespan.

Having to replace bulbs two or three times more often than traditional lighting adds maintenance costs that can quickly negate any savings from the motion activation. Factor in the expense of more frequent bulb replacements when calculating costs and savings.

Motion Sensors May Not Work Well With All Bulb Types

Motion sensors sometimes do not work optimally with energy saving LED or CFL bulb options. The type of bulb can impact motion detection reliability. And many LED and CFL bulbs cannot be cycled on and off rapidly without negatively impacting the components.

This can mean shorter bulb lifespan or function issues. Using inexpensive incandescent bulbs may be required for optimal motion sensor performance, eliminating much of the potential cost savings. Check for bulb compatibility issues before installation.

Troubleshooting & Fixing Issues Can Be Difficult

Troubleshooting motion sensor activation issues can also prove challenging after installation. If lights fail to turn on, turn off unexpectedly, or never turn off it can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause.

There are many variables like positioning, sensitivity settings, bulb types, and dust or obstructions that could impact function. Pinpointing and fixing the specific problem requires hands-on adjustments and testing. Professional maintenance service may be needed, eliminating DIY cost savings.

Key Takeaways on Motion Sensor Lighting Downsides

While motion sensing lights may seem like an easy way to improve energy efficiency, there are some key downsides to consider:

Carefully weigh these drawbacks before committing to motion sensors for primary lighting. Supplement with other smart lighting strategies for best results. Proper planning and placement is key to realizing benefits while avoiding pitfalls.