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Make a stairwell safer with automated lighting



Several houses have a certain feeling – which reflects a sense of prestige and class. Many new homes thus have several levels, and the upper floors with most bedrooms and bathrooms can see a lot of traffic across the stairs. This can provide a dangerous passage, especially in the dark at night. The top landing of a staircase is often in a dark area anyway, often robbed of a window and depends strictly on a lighting fixture for lighting. And carrying a tray with a counter, or a hammer wash, can make it difficult to turn a simple light switch.

Enter into motion detection light systems. These may seem futuristic or complex, but the truth is that they are easy to install yourself.

What you need to start

Most household stairs are equipped with a light fixture that can be switched on or off at any level of the stairs with two two-way switches. The wiring for these usually involves a three-wire NM cable running from the ground floor up to the upper landing. Then it is usually a 1

20 volt supply that goes to one of the two-way switches, and usually from the upper landing switch's electrical box, another cable is fed to the lamp. From such an installation it is very easy to replace both switches with a motion sensor at the upper landing and a timer at the lower level.

When you're done, the motion sensor at the top will turn on and turn on the light fixture as someone moves within its range. It is usually equipped with an adjustable sensor so that it will be disconnected when there is enough sunlight.

A timer at the bottom of the stairs, connected in parallel with the sensor, will probably fulfill the necessary task of turning on the lights better than another sensor. Since it is located on the ground floor where there is much more traffic in general, a sensor would probably trigger with unnecessary frequency. With that said, you can go both ways with this part of the design.

How to make the change

  exposed light switch wires

Safety warning: The first thing you need to do is go to the main electrical panel and CLOSE THE SWITCH THAT Affects the particular circuit. Never work with power cables! Before opening the electrical boxes, the lack of power should be confirmed by trying to turn on the light.

Having done this, the next goal is to identify the cable that takes in 120 kilos of source. Even if you have turned off the power, you need to know that the light bulb in the fixture in question is working, or that you are not getting a proper reading of the circuit.

Remove the decor plates from both switches – unscrew both switch plates and pull them out of their electrical boxes to reveal their cables.

A multimeter or Ohmmeter with the setting of resistance (Ω) or continuity should be checked for functionality by shorting the wires and confirming readings at 0 ohms (Ω). If it says "∞" or "open circuit", you may need to replace the batteries in the meter.

First possibility

  motion detecting light switching scheme

If you find an electrical box containing a three-wire cable and two two-wire cables with black wires connected to the switch, this is the one you should work with first, but only if the second The electric box only has a three-wire cable. If the other box has more than one cable, this is an unusual circuit and you should consult a certified electrician (or send the question to our DIY forum). That said, this is a very unlikely configuration.

After finding one of the 14/2 cables connected to the circuit, remove the wire connections from the black wire and the white wire to reveal the copper tips. Then remove a black wire from the 14/2 cable and isolate it from the cluster.

Place the multimeter wires over the isolated black wire and the white exposed wires to confirm very low resistance if the light bulb is connected to these specific wires. If so, the other 14/2 cable would carry the 120 volt supply.

If the meter in the previous step reads "∞" or "open circuit", this cable is probably the 120 volt supply, in which if the following check should be performed:

Remove the black wire originating from the other two -wire cable and do the same continuity test over the isolated black wire and its white wire, it will confirm the low resistance reading of the bulb on the meter or screen.

Schematic Figure 2 can then be used to switch the circuit.

Second possibility

  motion detecting light switching scheme

If both electrical boxes contain a three-wire cable and a two-wire cable with the black wires connected to the switch, the 120 volt supply is in one of the boxes while the light fixture is connected to the other electric the drawer, and it will probably be at the top landing of the stairs. This is the box to begin with to confirm your results.

After removing the cable connections from the black and white wire clusters, revealing their copper tips, separate the black wire from the 14/2 cable from the cluster.

Use the multimeter on the same setting and place the wires over the isolated black wire and the exposed white wires to confirm very low resistance if the bulb is connected to the specific wires. If the meter reads "∞" or "open circuit", this cable is probably 120 volts supply, in which case there is a good possibility that the light fixture is located halfway up the stairs, either on the wall or ceiling.

However, if it worked with two-way switches, it will still work with the sensor and timer. At this point, the two cable in the second box should be tested to confirm a low resistance reading on the multimeter. The wiring to install your new timer and motion detector can then be done according to the diagram in Figure 3.

The completed project will look quite like a regular light switch, but now it will be on guard to help you cross the stairs when anything, from weak days to dark nights!

 motion detecting light switch


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