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Mike, Master Electrician
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Can ceiling lights with dual switches be changed to dual

Customer Question

Can ceiling lights with dual switches be changed to dual motion activated switches
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Wayne Roberts replied 12 months ago.

Yes, this is easily done. You will need a flat head and Philips head screwdriver, volt meter, wire nuts and a healthy respect for electricity. First you have to consider a few things, look at the position within the room where the switches are located. This plays into how you will wire your lights. You need to locate the "hot" wire that feeds you lighting circuit, this will be critical to your success. To do this you must turn off the circuit breaker that feeds the lighting circuit you wish to upgrade. This is easily done by going to your electrical panel and looking at the label list inside. You should find the area you wish to turn off there. If not, you will have to check each breaker one by one.( FYI: Most of the time lighting circuits are on 15 or 20 amp breakers. Try those first.) Next, you must unscrew each face plate off the two switch boxes that control the lighting circuit you have turned off at the panel.( FYI: You may want to lock the panel closed or label the off circuit "do not touch" if there is a chance someone else may turn it on. This may save your life. Do it.) Once the plates are off look inside and consider a few things, Does this box have more than one switch? (FYI: Ive personally seen 10 switches to one box) If not, count your blessings and continue. (If so i would like to personally guide you in what to do.) Next, unscrew the switches carefully, have volt meter ready, once the terminals that hold the wires are exposed enough to take a reading, take the voltage reading. This ensures that you will not be working with live electricity, do it. (FYI: Test your volt meter on a known voltage source. Like a receptical that you know works i.e. where you charge your phone, microwave. ect. if your volt meter reads between 110 and 120 volt congratulations, it works. You should do this every time you use it to ensure you wont get a false reading. It will save your life. Do it.) Once you know its dead take the switches out of the box and take a picture. This way you have a reference to how they were wired before you take all the wires off the switches and put wire nuts at the end making sure that there is no exposed wire showing. Make sure you have no exposed wires anywhere and turn the circuit back on. You put one probe on any surface bonded to ground, this usually comes in the form of a green or white wire (FYI: just because a wire is a certain color doesn't mean a thing. It is a guide, that is all. Copper is colorblind) and another probe on what could be a black,red,or blue wire for 120v and Brown orange yellow for 277 volt) Test each wire one at a time slowly and carefully, placing the wire nut securely back on after you take the reading. Keep going until your volt meter shows either around 115 volts or around 277 volts. After this feed wire is located label it, turn the circuit back off taking note of the details like the colors of the wires and what side of the switch they connected to ect. remember that picture.This should be done after you have decided if you need one or two censors and have all materials ready to install. Then we can begin to assemble your motion activated circuit. You may only need one motion sensor. Determine if only one switch is in the traffic area that you wish for the lights to come on. Like say, the front door. You want them on when you come in, they come on as soon as the door opens and can be programmed, usually; to stay on for different lengths of time. If you need two motion censors to cover multiple traffic paths like say a hall and back door then you will need to buy two "3-way single gang motion censors" and two "decor" plates. If only one is needed you will need one "single pole single gang motion sensor", one "decor" plate, and one "blank" plate. You have to make a few decisions and get the new switches and plates to move forward. I can assist you further with the wiring if need be once you have everything.

Expert:  Wayne Roberts replied 12 months ago.

I also wanted to mention that depending on what type of lights you are using for this application it will affect the type of motion sensor you need to get. Make sure it is rated to handle either incandescent Florescent or LED. whatever the type of lights they will be controlling will determine this.

Expert:  Kevin replied 11 months ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) What type of wall switches do you have in place? A combination single pole switch where each switch controls separate lights or do you have 3-way switches where either of the 3-ways can control the lights?

2) You mention "dual switches"...........I'm not sure what that means and need more details on what is currently installed? Dual switches can have many different meanings:)

3) Are you looking for a wall controlled Occupancy Sensor or a Ceiling Controlled Occupancy Sensor?

4) Does the wall switch box contain a group of white neutral wires spliced together?