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How to Reset Outdoor Motion Sensor Light

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I rely on my outdoor motion sensor lights. When they are not working properly, it can be frustrating to figure out how to fix them. Luckily, resetting the outdoor motion sensor light is simple.

The quickest and easiest way to reset an outdoor motion sensing light is to turn it off and back on. 

This is the simplest way to reset a motion light. But it’s not the only way. Here are some other easy ways to reset outdoor motion sensor lights.

How to Reset an Outdoor Motion Sensor Light

sensor lights

There are a few ways to reset the motion detector on an outdoor sensor light. Here are some basic steps. If one doesn’t work, the next might.

  • Turn the motion light off at the lightswitch
  • Flip the lightswitch quickly a few times
  • Unplug the motion sensor light 
  • Turn the breaker off to the motion sensor light

Turn it Off at the Switch

light switch

Turning the motion sensor light off at the switch is the easiest. Simply turn it off for about 30 seconds to 5 minutes, then turn it back on. 

The amount of time you wait depends on the types of outdoor sensor light you have. If you have an owner’s manual, it should tell you how long it takes for the light to be reset.

If you do not have the owner’s manual but know the brand name and style of the light, you can usually find a manual online. Otherwise, just leave it off for the full 5 minutes.

After the allotted time, turn the switch back to the on position. The sensor light should turn on.

To check the light, wait for it to turn off, then walk in front of it. If the light turns on, then it has been reset.

Flip the Switch Quickly

If turning the light off for 5 minutes did not work, try flipping the switch, in quick succession.

Start in the off position and quickly turn the light on and off four times in a row.  Let it rest in the off position for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and then turn it on.  

Test the light by walking in front of it. 

Try Unplugging The Light

If your motion light is plugged into an outlet, you can try unplugging the light. While the light is in the on position,  unplug the cord from the outlet. 

Let it rest for at least ten seconds to 5 minutes before plugging it back in. 

Doing this should reboot your outdoor motion sensing light. It will also turn off the light if it was stuck in the on position continuously. 

Turn the Light off at the Breaker Box

breaker box

Not all motion lights are installed to an outlet switch or plugged into an outlet. Some are hardwired in the wall. If this is the case, the only way to reset the light is at the breaker box.

The breaker box can often be found outside, in the garage, or in a bedroom closet. There are switches inside the breaker box. These control the power to different areas in your home. 

There will often be a diagram of your home’s electrical system inside the breaker box. For example, you might see next to the first switch: Kitchen 1 written next to it.

If you do not have a diagram or notes explaining what switches control power to different rooms, you can use a sharpie to pen them in yourself as you search for the one that controls the outdoor motion sensor light.

Locate the correct breaker switch to the sensor light by turning off different switches, until you find the correct one. Having someone else watching the sensor light, to tell you when it is out, can be helpful.

Once you have located the correct breaker switch, leave it in the off position for about 5 minutes. The flip the breaker back to the on position. 

This should reset your motion sensor light.

Issues and Answers to the Improperly Working Motion Sensor Light

Turning the light off and on didn’t work no matter what technique you tried? Before you give up let’s see if we can hunt down the problem and fix it. 

Here are some issues that affect the performance of outdoor motion sensor lights.

  • Power Outage
  • Outdoor Temperature, 
  • Dirty Lens, 
  • Re-aim the Sensor
  • Bulb Needs Replaced
  • Check the Lamp Mode Control Switch

Power Outage and the Motion Detector.

Sometimes having the power go out will stop your light from working properly. This, mingled with the surge of electricity when it comes back on, might require resetting the motion detector using the methods mentioned in the beginning of this post.

Clean the Motion Sensor Lens 

First, check the sensor on the light. The sensor is a small window on the outside of the light fixture. This sensor is emitting an infrared beam to detect heat and motion. When the beam is interrupted, the sensor sends a signal to the light, and it turns on.

The lens of the sensor may be dirty and render the detector to be blind. Using a soft cloth and soapy water try gently cleaning the sensor. Test the light after cleaning.

Re-adjust the Motion Sensor on the Light Fixture

You can readjust the sensor if your motion light is not coming on, or not turning off. This can be done by loosening screws that hold the sensor in place on the motion light and then reaiming the light. 

Many outdoor motion sensor lights have a series of knobs and switches behind or under the sensor as seen in this video. Manually adjusting the switches may help.

The Temperature Outside Plays a Role

Because the motion detector catches movement and temperature, it may become overly sensitive when it is colder outside and less sensitive when it is hot. This is due to the heat the passing object is emitting compared to the outside temperature. 

If the object is much warmer than the surrounding air, the automatic sensor will pick it up. If the object is cooler than the surrounding air, it may not turn on at all.

Other Exterior Lights May Cause Interference 

Light can also affect the outdoor motion sensing light. Is there a light on nearby that the sensor is picking up? If this is the case the other light may be tricking the sensor to think it is day time. Adjust your sensor away from the light source.

The Bulb in the Light Fixture Burnt Out

Another common reason for the outdoor motion sensor light to stop working is a burnt out bulb. These are easy to replace. 

Make sure your sensor light is turned off. Using a soft cloth gently grip the bulb in the socket and twist it to the left until it is loose from the fitting. Discard the bulb according to manufacturer recommendations. Using the same cloth, pick up the new bulb and twist it into the light socket.

Check the Lamp Mode Control Switch

The lamp mode control switch allows the light to become a regular porch light while turning off the motion detection function. If this has been re-adjusted to permit constant light, just flick the switch back to sensor mode.

The Security Of the Outdoor Motion Sensor Light

Having a light magically turn on just when you need it is important. Motion sensor lights allow you to see where you are walking, or to unlock a door. They also alert you to dangers such as large animals or unknown people lurking near your home. If you’re interested in floodlights, be sure to check out our article about how you can install them, so you get your backyard looking bright.

It is important to periodically check or test  your motion sensing light and do any maintenance required. For other lighting ideas be sure to check out our 8 outdoor rope light ideas.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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