Do Motion Sensor Lights Save on Energy? - Backyard Boss
We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

Do Motion Sensor Lights Save on Energy?

Motion sensor lights are a fantastic solution for outdoor lighting. They light up the area when you’re there, and you don’t have to worry about leaving lights on when you are not using them.

The question is, though, are they actually energy-saving? Does the extra technology necessary for a motion-activated light use up more energy than a normal light? And will you be able to notice a difference in your electricity bill if you use motion sensor lights instead of regular lights?

This post aims to answer all the questions above. It’s part of our mission to give you the information you need to make informed decisions. So read on for everything you need to know about motion sensor lights and energy.

What Are Motion Sensor Lights?

Hanging lights and hanging plants
Image credits: Patrick Schneider via Unsplash

At the risk of stating the obvious, motion sensor lights turn on when movement is detected. They turn off when a certain amount of time has passed with no activity.

For this to work, the light needs a motion sensor. It can come in as a motion sensor light switch, or the sensor can be built into the light. The main benefit of a motion sensor light switch is that multiple lights can be connected to one sensor, which means any light fixture can be motion-controlled.

For the motion sensor to be activated whenever it detects movement, it needs to monitor the area at all times, which uses energy. So does the energy used for this motion sensor negate the energy saved by not leaving the lights on all the time?

Because these sensors are always on standby mode, they’re constantly consuming a small amount of energy. Reports vary, but the amount of energy used by one of these sensors in one day is equivalent to the energy used by a 6o-watt bulb for 14 hours.

With this reference point in mind, we can work out whether or not a motion sensor light will save energy in the application you intend it for.

Motion Sensor Lights Save Energy When…

Multiple cars in large garage
Image credits: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett via Unsplash

Do you have a light that you always forget to turn off? An outside floodlight? The garage light? A motion sensor light will undoubtedly save you energy in areas where you always forget to turn off the light.

It is especially true for large, bright spotlights that you may have outside your home. These outdoor lights use a lot of energy when in use, so forgetting to turn off your spotlight overnight can have a noticeable effect on your energy usage.

These lights also tend not to be necessary for long periods. For example, outside spotlights need to be on when you arrive home in the dark. But once you’re inside, you don’t need them anymore. You’re also more likely to forget to turn this light off since it’s out of sight once you’re in your house.

If this light had a motion sensor, you are likely to save on energy since the sensor uses less energy than the light. You can use this logic to determine where a motion sensor light is appropriate.

Low traffic areas that need light for short amounts of time can benefit from motion sensor lights. Any light that’s in danger of being left on for long periods would benefit from a motion sensor. Take a look at the best outdoor motion sensor lights if you’re ready to take the jump.

Motion Sensor Lights Waste Energy When…

White cottage at dusk
Image credits: Ostap Senyuk via Unsplash

Let’s look at a high-traffic area in your house for this example. Your kitchen is likely to have a lot of movement throughout the day. During a cloudy day, or when the sun goes down, some member of your household will turn the lights on. When the day’s over, the last person to bed will hopefully notice the kitchen lights are on and turn them off.

Putting motion sensor lights in this area doesn’t make sense. The lights will be turning on and off constantly throughout the day when needed. The extra energy used for the motion detector won’t necessarily result in less energy used for the lights. Also, motion sensor lights in a high traffic area are not exactly practical for an indoor light inside a busy home.

Motion sensor lights in high traffic areas that are central to the way you live your life won’t save you much energy at all. They might even cost you more than a regular light.

Uses For Motion Sensor Lights

a driveway leading up to a house lined with solar lights
Image Credit: kaboompics on Pixabay

Motion sensor lights are an excellent choice for a light that often gets left on unnecessarily. Warehouses, factories, office buildings, and retail locations can benefit from motion sensor lights. That way, you don’t have to rely on the last employee to turn off the lights.

At home, motion sensor lights are useful for outdoor lighting. This way, you can be sure that they’ll be on when you need them, and they won’t be drawing energy when you don’t need them. They are also useful for garage or workshop lighting since these lights often get left on when they’re not in use. Motion sensor lights are also excellent for larger storage areas, like pantries, cupboards, or basements.

Alternative Lighting Solutions For Saving Energy

Light bulb with plants inside lying on the green grass
Image Credits: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabays

If you’re determined about using energy efficiently to light your home, you have some options available. The first thing to do would be to make sure all your lightbulbs are CFL or LED, not incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs.

CFL and LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy that incandescent bulbs use. So if all your lights are fitted with energy-efficient bulbs, then it doesn’t matter if you leave a light on overnight. Changing out your bulbs should be your first step in cutting down your energy usage for lighting solutions.

Another alternative is to use solar motion sensor lights. These lights use solar energy to power both the motion sensor and the light. Installing one of these lights won’t add to the energy draw of your house at all.

A solar-powered motion sensor light would be the most energy-efficient lighting solution. If your climate allows, this is the best route to follow.

Lights Out

Since motion sensor lights need their sensor to be active at all times, they are drawing a small amount of energy. Motion sensor lights save energy when they’re used in applications where lights are often left on unnecessarily. Especially when these are high-powered lights or there are a large number of lights.

Motion sensor lights waste energy when used in high traffic areas that see a lot of occupation. Lights in these areas are likely to be controlled manually when they are needed. Therefore, the extra energy used to keep the sensor in standby mode is a waste.

Each product is different, so make sure to read the specifications to determine whether or not a motion sensor will save you energy. If the energy cost of the sensor in standby mode is greater than the energy cost of the light bulb when it’s on, the motion sensor won’t save you energy.