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Electrical Question from Skip about Home Automation and Lighting


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Question: I am trying to control my walkway lights with motion sensor.

Electrical Question from Skip about Home Automation and Lighting

Received from Skip a Homeowner in Winston-Salem, NC

Question: I am trying to control my walkway lights with motion sensor.
I am using 3 walkway lights (each 12V / 18 W, bulb model # 1141) powered by Malibu 100 Watt Power Pack (from HomeDepot – http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xnu/R-202025778/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053) controlled by motion sensor from Lowes Hardware (http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xnu/R-100654980/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053).
Motion detector controls 120VAC feeding the transformer.
System works for few days, sometimes weeks, before either transformer burns out or motion detector dies. Something is mismatched. I suspect that load on the motion detector is not big enough and this causes internal triac (or whatever semiconductor is controlling the output ? it is not a relay) to die.
I tried to control instead a 120V AC relay with the motion sensor but load is definitely too small and it never triggers.
Any ideas other than add more lights to the output of the transformer or use bulbs with more wattage?

I am thinking that if I could find a motion detector with relay output then I could either control the primary or secondary part of the transformer without worrying about load being too small.
I have no problem using different parts if this is going to fix the problem permanently.

Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks.

Additional Comments: Great site!

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question.

Hey Skip, if you’re trying to power the lighting circuit through the motion detector then you may be overloading the motion detector components. Keep in mind that the motion detector and its components are designed for the limited wattage of the lights of the fixture.
There is a way to make this work, I just installed basically the same type of system for a 3-way switching system using motion detector heads that trigger one or more relays. The relays then pass the circuit load to the light fixtures. So the only power passing through the motion detector head is the load of the relay coil which is much less than the rated wattage typically permissible for the lamps.
If anyone is interested in my circuit design just let me know. No one has this on the market, they just do not make a 3-way motion detector controlled fixture set, so I designed a circuit and it works very well. The circuit allows any number of remotely located motion controls that will light any given area or multiple areas. This is ideal for stairways and passageways, level or otherwise.

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