In this security-focused society, motion sensor lights offer an extra degree of protection to your property at night. In the dark, they automatically activate the connected lights as soon as someone walks into the sensor area. After some time, the light goes out again.

However, sometimes it is desirable to be able to switch the lights on or off. And while some sensors do have manual overrides that allow you to do just that, others are hardwired to remain active unless removed from your property. That’s why you might need to rely on makeshift methods to make the light stay on or off. But before you learn how to do these tricks, it’s important to understand how your motion sensor lights work. So let’s get started!

How Do Motion Sensors Work?

It might come as a surprise that most motion sensors are not actually triggered by motion. As a matter of fact, residential motion sensor lights rely on a passive motion sensor that detects temperature variations. These changes often occur when a person or animal walks across the covered area.

There are also active motion sensors, which use radar or LIDAR technology to cover an assigned area. A disturbance in the radar continuity will trigger an alarm or turn on the lights. One of the most common active sensors is the photosensor. It works by sending out a beam of light that, when interrupted, triggers the sensor. Actually, your garage door’s safety mechanism prevents the door from closing using a similar photosensor.

Furthermore, photosensors rely on passive sensors when used to command light fixtures. They use them to disable the power source during daylight hours in order for the sensor to only work at night and save energy.

What Happens When the Sensor Is Tripped?

When a motion sensor detects motion, what happens next depends on your specific setup. For starters, it might switch on the primary light fixture. Or, it could also turn on other secondary lights, like porch lights, patio lights, and lights inside your house or garage.

Other homeowners like to install audible alarms to warn them about unwanted guests. These consist of buzzers, electronic sound effects, sirens, or bells. In some cases, people use human voice recordings to fend off people that get on their property.

Some complex motion sensor systems can also send you text alerts or make phone calls to local law enforcement. In other words, the range of reactions that a tripped sensor can have is limitless, with dozens of practical and useful ways to alert you of potential invaders.

Why Would You Want the Motion Sensor Light to Stay On or Off?

Now that you know how motion sensors work, you might ask — why would I want the lights to stay on or off permanently? However, there are a couple of situations where that may be the better option.

For instance, motion sensor lights are great for covering the garden or backyard. But sometimes, you want to keep your lights on during the night even if there is no motion present. That’s especially true if you like to have nightly barbecue parties or just want to trick people into believing that someone is at home even when you are far away.

The same applies to indoor usage, as some people want to constantly provide light in their study room or stairway. In fact, if you would like to read during the night in a room with a motion sensor, turning pages could continuously switch the lights on and off depending on the sensor’s sensitivity. Therefore, you’ll need a way to keep your lights off or on at any time.

Keeping Your Motion Sensor Lights On

First, you need to understand that the following methods should only be used on your own sensors. So you shouldn’t go around and mess with your neighbor’s motion sensor lights, even as a prank. Additionally, while most sensors use the same principles, some higher-end products are harder to trick. As a result, you might have to contact your manufacturer if any of these methods don’t work.

Without further ado, let’s see how you can keep your motion sensor lights on at all times.

Sensor Override

With most standard motion sensor light systems, the lights stay on for anywhere between 2 and 20 minutes when tripped. If you want the light to stay on far beyond the preset duration, you’ll need to override the sensor. Even though some motion sensors work differently,  the override procedure is almost always the same. To do it, you need to flip the switch twice in quick succession. That will take the system out of its loop and keep the lights on until you flip the switch again.

If you want to return the system to its regular behavior, just flip the switch on. Doing so will turn the light on for your set duration and then shut it off to reset the system.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is not only great for cooking but it can also be used to keep your motion sensor light on. Start by taking a piece of foil and creating a small pocket in its middle. Then, wrap your sensor using the foil. Depending on what type of sensor you have, it should reflect its own heat signature and stay on permanently. This is a great way to fend off potential burglars when you are not at home.

Glow-in-the-Dark Balls

The light from glow-in-the-dark balls can make your motion sensor believe that there is a person nearby. All you need to do is place the ball near your sensor. That should prevent it from turning the lights off. Not only is this method effective, but it is also inexpensive, as most glow-in-the-dark balls cost less than $10.


While it might sound funny, you can actually use a spoon to trick your sensor and keep the lights on permanently. That’s because spoons are reflective, so placing one in front of the sensor should reflect the light emitted from it.

Bypass the Circuit

The fuse box is responsible for all the electricity going in and out of your home. As a result, it should also contain wires connected to your motion sensor. If you want to keep the light on, just find that wire and cut it. That way, you can provide permanent light in a specific area of your home. However, this method is risky and should only be used if you never want to turn your sensor light off again in the future.

CD Spindles

Similar to a spoon, CDs have reflective properties that can fool your motion sensor. By placing a couple of CDs on a spindle, then leaving it in front of your sensor, you will create a glowing ball that looks like people are walking back and forth. This low-cost method is great for consumer-grade sensors but will rarely work with more expensive products.

Security Light

Security lights are a great way to keep your outdoor motion sensors active at all times. By installing one above or near the sensor, you will make it believe that someone is outside, keeping the lights on. This is a useful method for those who leave their back door open at night.

Remote Controlled Toy

Last but not least, some people have recommended using a remote-controlled toy, such as a car or a fake pet, to trick your motion sensor when you are away. While this method can work, especially if you can find a programmable RC toy that has a patrol setting, it’s important to remember that these toys have a short command range. So you’ll need to be nearby to activate the RC toy and move it around a few times every couple of minutes to fool the sensor.

Keeping Your Motion Sensor Lights Off

When it comes to keeping your motion sensor lights off, you need to focus on preventing the sensor from detecting motion. The easiest way to do that is to turn off your sensor using the included switch. But if it doesn’t have one, you’ll need to rely on one of these methods:

Sensitivity Adjustment

Motion sensor lights are often equipped with a sensitivity setting. This should be expressed as a range, which causes a bit of confusion. To put it simply, people believe that at its highest setting, the sensor will detect motion that occurs farther away.

In reality, a motion sensor doesn’t have the notion of distance. It only knows about heat and light. So, when you set it to the greatest range, you actually adjust its sensitivity to one of these elements. As a result, when set to max, anything will trigger the system. That includes birds, small animals, and even the heat waves rising from the pavement during warm summer nights.

In contrast, when set to a minimum, almost nothing will trigger the system. Therefore, if you want your motion sensor light to stay off permanently, you’ll need to adjust the sensitivity range. Just remember that the dial is often right next to the light, so you might have to climb up a ladder to reach it.


If your sensor doesn’t feature a sensitivity setting, the only way to prevent the light from turning on is to place some tape on the sensor. Then, you can just remove it once you want the sensor to work as intended. Yet, you’ll need to use electrical tape, as regular alternatives can still allow infrared lights to pass through.

To Sum It Up

Motion sensor lights are extremely useful, which is why they are so popular among homeowners and businesses. However, there are many situations when you would want the lights to stay on or off regardless of motion. But don’t worry, there are multiple methods you can use. Such methods include aluminum foil, security lights, or even tape. And remember that you can always call your manufacturer and request their aid if none of these methods work.

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