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What to Do When a Motion Sensor Light Won’t Turn Off

Updated: 06/26/2024
a motion sensor light is on

A motion sensor light is an inexpensive way to add additional convenience and security to your home. The motion-activated lights will automatically turn on when the motion sensor detects moving objects, visitors, or intruders in its detection zone. Motion sensor lights can also help homeowners illuminate their property without the need to keep the light on the whole night.

But if you’ve ever had one installed, you know that it can be a bit tricky to figure out what’s going on with your motion sensor lights. When an outdoor motion sensor light doesn’t turn off, it can cause light pollution and unnecessary electricity wastage.

If you’re like many homeowners, you might have no idea how to check and fix your motion sensor lights. Fortunately, we’ve got the answers for you.

What Causes a Motion Sensor Light to Turn On?

Before diving into how to solve your motion sensor lights that won’t turn off, let’s find out what can trigger a motion sensor light to turn on in the first place.

Normally, almost all outdoor motion sensor lights utilize PIR motion sensors to detect motion for their ease of use and durability. A PIR motion sensor detects the infrared signal emitted from warm bodies from the environment. When the warm body moves, the PIR motion sensor can notice the differences in temperature and sees there is a valid motion going on, subsequently turning on the light, such as walking people, moving cars, wild animals, or even hot wind.

Additionally, voltage spikes can also trigger the motion sensor to turn on. After storm damage or a power surge, the light might turn on by itself without any motion triggering the sensor.

Age, improper installation and sensor settings might also cause a motion sensor light to stay on.

How Long Does a Motion Sensor Light Stay On?

After the motion sensor light turns on, it will stay on as long as the sensor detects motion in the detection zone. When the light cannot detect any moving object, it will remain on for an additional period of time and will finally turn off if no motion is detected after the timer expires. The extra time is called time delay, timer, or time setting.

Generally, most outdoor motion sensor lights allow users to adjust the timer from 30 seconds to 30 minutes or even up to 1 hour.

Why Won’t a Motion Sensor Light Turn Off

When a motion sensor light does not turn off after the first installation, it’s probably because of the improper installation or a lack of appropriate adjustment to its default setting.

When a motion sensor light is functioning correctly, and out of a sudden it won’t turn off, it’s usually due to a jammed sensor that needs a reset.

Nearby Motion Signals

One direct cause is that there are motion signals near the light that constantly activate the motion sensor, causing the light to always stay on. Besides big movements such as walking people and moving cars that people can actually see, nearby heat sources can also trigger a PIR motion sensor. The heat changes caused by the hot wind, air conditioners, or a coffee machine can all activates the motion sensor light to stay on without noticing.

How to Fix

Look for nearby motion signals and heat sources that can trigger a PIR motion sensor. Remove the distraction signals or reposition the motion detector to avoid receiving such motion signals.

Long Timer Setting

The time setting, timer, or time delay on the motion sensor lights is the time for how long the light keeps on after the motion sensor no longer detects motion. This feature intends to provide stable and consistent illumination for a consistent user experience and prevents the light from falsely shutting off.

When users select a timer such as 1 hour, it may seem like the motion sensor light won’t turn off after the area is empty. Not to mention that, within the one-hour time range, the motion sensor might likely detect a few moments from people passing by or moving cars, which will cause the timer to reset. In the end, it seems the motion sensor light will never turn off.

How to Fix

Change the timer to a small value such as 30 seconds to 5 minutes, to see if the light will turn off after the space is empty.

High Sensitivity

The sensitivity, sometimes called detection range, determines how far or how sensitive the motion sensor can detect. When the sensor sensitivity is set to high, a motion sensor can detect moving objects from very far away up to 30 feet. There might be some moving objects out there, activating the motion sensor that you are not aware of.

When the sensitivity is set too high, it might also capture small and fine motions such as bugs flying by or leaves blowing past in the wind.

How to Fix

Change the sensor sensitivity to low to see if the light will turn off automatically.

Improper Sensor Placement

After the first installation, users might forget to adjust the motion detector before putting it into use. The motion sensor should only point to the direction where you want to detect and not be able to detect motion signals from outside the area.

For example, if you want the light to turn on when people enter your backyard, you should point your motion sensor straight to the entrance. If the motion sensor points a little bit lower, which allows the sensor not only able to detect people at the entrance but also people in the yard, the sensor can always detect people walking, so the light will always keep on and won’t turn off.

How to Fix

Adjust the motion sensor’s position to ensure its detection coverage is limited within your desired detection area.

Motion Sensor Stuck On

If the motion sensor light was working well and suddenly won’t turn off, then it’s probably because the motion sensor is jammed and stuck at the ON position due to power surges, blinks, or a blackout.

How to Fix

Turn off the power to the lights for at least 10 seconds to reset the motion sensor to default and see if the light will return to normal.

Light Is Manually Set On

Some outdoor motion sensor light provides a built-in manual mode to keep the light on or off like a standard light. Similarly, many users choose to add an additional light switch to a motion sensor light to manually keep the light on or off if the light does not have a built-in manual override. There are high chances that users had manually set the light on and forgot to restore it to motion detection mode.

How to Fix

Exit manual mode and choose motion detection mode to see if the light will turn off again.

Dusk to Dawn Enabled

Some motion sensor lights have a dusk to dawn feature that will keep the light on all night, bypassing motion detection. They use a built-in photocell to detect the brightness of the environment. If the photocell is covered with dust or dirt, which prevents the light sensor from effectively detecting ambient light, it might think the environment is dark and turn on the light. This might also cause a motion sensor light to turn on and stay on during the day.

How to Fix

Clean your motion sensor light or disable the dusk to dawn mode to see if the light will return to normal.


When a motion sensor light is able to turn on but suddenly won’t turn off, it’s usually not because of electronic damage. Most of the time, the motion sensor light itself is still functioning, and the problem is easy to fix.

1 thought on “What to Do When a Motion Sensor Light Won’t Turn Off”

  1. How do you fix a jammed sensor? What if you shut the power off for more than 10 sec and it still didn’t fix the problem?


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