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Published on
April 26th, 2021

Increase Safety and Convenience with Automatic Light Switches in Your Property

If you own or manage a property, whether a single-family home, a large apartment building, or an office space, you should look into automatic light switches. These handy and affordable switches are ideal for increasing safety, and they make tenants’ lives easier while saving you money.

What Are Automatic Light Switches?

Hands-free convenience and security

Automatic light switches are exactly what they sound like: lights that come on automatically, without having to manually flip the switch with your hand. You’ve probably seen these motion sensor switches in public bathrooms or storage facilities where traffic tends to be sporadic. They’re similar to the photocell light switches you might see used outside, except they don’t necessarily depend on solar charging or changes in ambient light to work.

How Do Different Types of Automatic Light Switches Work?

Active sensor

These are radar-based switches that emit sound waves, waiting for the signal to be returned. Motion inside the room, including someone entering, changes the speed of the sound waves, and the switch is triggered on.

Passive sensor

Also known as passive infrared sensors (PIR) or pyroelectric detectors, passive sensor light switches work by detecting body heat radiating off of a human or animal. A photodetector in the switch converts light into electrical current, which then activates the switch.

Occupancy switches

Occupancy switches are activated by someone entering a room. You can set the switch to go off once the person has exited after a specific amount of time. You’ve probably been in at least one public restroom that uses this type of switch.

Vacancy switches

These switches require that you turn them on manually. However, when you leave the room, they go off automatically. Again, this is a switch often used in bathrooms because you don’t really need to be reminded to turn on the light, but it’s easy to forget to turn it out.

What Are Some Common Uses for Automatic Light Switches?

Residential and commercial safety, convenience, and energy efficiency

There are multiple scenarios where automatic light switches can be very handy. Some people like them for safety, others for convenience. And, as we’ll discuss below, automatic light switches can also save you money. Some situations where motion sensor switches are helpful include:

  • For energy efficiency and money-saving when people in your household or building forget to turn out lights (bathroom, bedroom, etc.)
  • To offer convenience in rooms where people typically have their hands full, such as the laundry, storage, or trash rooms
  • For both energy savings and safety in public or private spaces that don’t get steady occupancy, like washrooms, basements, attics, and hallways
  • For convenience inside closets and pantries
  • For security and handiness at the entrance to the home, just inside the front door

How Do Automatic Light Switches Save Property Owners Money?

No wasted energy

As you can imagine, using automatic light switches can save on your electric bill by eliminating wasted energy due to lights being left on when no one is in the room. This can really add up if you own a large rental property where you pay all the electrical charges (on that’s not submetered) or where public space lighting is draining your budget. Even single-family homeowners can benefit, for example, if they have kids who never remember to turn off the bathroom light or the lights in their room.

What Should You Consider When Installing Automatic Light Switches?

Your unique needs

Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to lighting, whether for security or convenience. You have to think about your one-of-a-kind home or property when installing automatic light switches.

Most automatic light switches will go off after a time when they perceive no one is in the space. Therefore, they aren’t made to stay on by themselves for quiet activity, like sitting and reading or watching television. You want to make sure any motion sensor switches you install have a manual override if you want them to do double duty as regular light switches.

You don’t want to penny-pinch at the expense of your tenants’ safety. If walking into a dark laundry room and waiting a second for the lights to come on makes some people nervous, that might be the place to leave the lights on. You can economize in other ways, such as by switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. Alternatively, use passive sensor automatic light switches that should detect the body heat of someone in the room, so no one could hide there in the dark.

Like dimmer switches, most automatic switches are based on how many switches you intend to control at once (e.g., single-pole, three-way, or four-way). You want to purchase your automatic switches accordingly. They also need to be rated for the wattage of the circuit powering them, and you should make sure any switches you buy are meant to match your LED or fluorescent bulbs, if you use those. You can purchase automatic light switches that also work as dimmers too, which makes using them easier and more customized.

For the ultimate in light control, there are also smart automatic light switches. These let you adjust the settings remotely with a mobile device, and they also work with hubs like Alexa and Google Assistant.

Want to learn more about installing automatic light switches in your property? Have questions about the best type of switches to use? We’re happy to consult with you. We can help you select switches and assist with your installation, so you know the wiring is safe. This might also be a good time to make sure you’re using the most energy-conscious light bulbs in your property too. Call Bolt Electric at 212-434-0098, or simply use our online form to schedule an appointment at a time that works for you.

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