Why Does My Motion Detector Stay on all the Time?

Has your motion sensor light stopped working, or is it stuck in the on or off position? A motion detector light is sensitive to power surges and blinks and sometimes will not work correctly following an electrical episode. While you may think the fixture is broken, many times, it just requires a reset. Taking a few minutes to troubleshoot the motion sensor light can save you a lot of hassle and money and requires no special tools or skills.

Motion sensor lights are the ideal solution for lighting specific areas of your home like exterior walkways, driveways, and garage areas. They also serve as outdoor security lights, helping protect your property against intruders or trespassers. While most motion sensor lights will perform well when installed correctly, they can fail from time to time. This guide explains how to reset a motion sensor light on your home.

When Should You Reset a Motion Sensor Light?

Your home’s motion sensor light should turn on when a person, vehicle, or other moving object is within sensor range. With time or after a power blink, the lights may become less responsive or quit working altogether.

Here are some scenarios that may call for a motion sensor light reset:

  • Even large moving objects like people or vehicles are not triggering the light.
  • The light stays on for long periods of time or permanently, rather than turning off once the movement has stopped. A working light will turn off within a few minutes after detecting motion.
  • The light seems less sensitive than usual and does not consistently detect motion.

If one of these situations sounds familiar, troubleshooting the motion sensor light may help you solve the problem.

Understand Why Motion Sensor Lights Stop Working

The exterior of a home illuminated by motion sensor lights

Several things can cause your motion detector to stay on, including age, storm damage, a power surge, improper installation, and improper settings. A few issues are easy to correct without professional help.

  • High Sensitivity Setting – If your light’s sensitivity setting is too high, your light may come on for the smallest triggers, such as a leaf blowing in the wind or a speck of dust that settles on your motion sensor.
  • Long Duration Settings – In most cases, your motion detector light should only stay on for 20 to 30 seconds after it’s triggered. However, you can manipulate the settings so it will stay on longer. For example, many lights come with settings ranging from a few seconds to an hour or more. If your duration setting is too long, it may seem like your motion light never turns off.
  • Stuck in Auto-On – Many lights have an auto setting that causes them to stay on all the time. It’s possible that you’ve triggered this mode without even realizing it. Malfunctions can also cause lights to get stuck in this mode.

How to Reset a Motion Sensor Light

Is it possible to get your motion sensor light “unstuck” and working optimally once again? Before you shell out the cash for a new light, check out these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Turn off the fixture's circuit breaker for at least 30 seconds.
  2. If the fixture has a light switch, turn the switch on for 2 seconds, then off for 2 seconds, and then back on.
  3. If the fixture has a light switch, quickly switch it on and off four or five times, or until the light stays on.
  4. Once the light remains on, turn the switch off for five seconds, and then turn it back on.
  5. If your device has the option to change its sensitivity level, try adjusting it to be less sensitive to motion. After all, you don't need it to turn on every time a chipmunk runs by, but it needs to be sensitive enough to detect someone trespassing on your property.
  6. Replace the light bulbs in the light fixture to ensure it isn’t a bad bulb issue.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you will know if your motion sensor light only needed a reset, new light bulbs, or if your best plan of action is to update your outdoor lighting.

The Breaker Method

An outdoor circuit breaker panel

Motion sensor lights are often easy to reset from your breaker panel. 


  • Turn off the circuit breaker that controls your motion sensor lights. Leave it off for one minute before flipping it on again.
  • Check your motion sensor lights. For some models, resetting the breaker is all that is needed. Check your owner's manual or go online if this procedure doesn't work. Some models need to be disconnected from power for up to an hour to properly reset.

The Light Switch Method

A light switch on a wall

Some motion detector lights are wired to a wall switch, often found in the garage or near an entry point. To reset this type of motion sensor:


  • Turn your light switch to the on position, then flip it off for two to three seconds. Turn the switch on and check your lights. If this does not work, proceed to step two.
  • Turn your light switch on and off quickly, hitting each position four times. When the light comes on, turn the switch to the off position and wait five to seven seconds before turning it on again. The light should remain off and the motion detection unit should be reset.

Motion sensor lights make navigating your property easier while providing essential security benefits. Most models perform as intended, but power outages, inclement weather, and age can cause them to fail. Use these tips to reset your motion sensor lights, and in most cases, they’ll be working correctly again in a matter of minutes. And if all else fails, consult the manufacturer's guide for more detailed information about your specific lights. It might also be time to consider purchasing new motion sensor lights.

Let Mr. Lightsler Help with Home Safety and Security Lighting

Are you ready to upgrade the motion sensors or security lighting on your property? Whether you need lighting repair services or new lighting installation, our electricians can help you find the perfect solutions for all of your exterior lighting needs. Turn to [email protected] for details.