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How to Adjust Commercial In-Wall Occupancy and Vacancy Sensors

Are your occupancy and vacancy sensors firing on all cylinders?

Occupancy Sensor Adjustments

Installing occupancy or vacancy sensors is a quick way to give your office, commercial building or retail space an energy savings boost. The handy controls offer occupants an added level of convenience when entering or exiting a limited-use space while giving facilities managers one less thing to worry about – shutting off the lights.

But what happens when newly-installed occupancy sensors don’t trigger exactly as intended?

Though not always necessary, sometimes it's helpful to tweak occupancy and vacancy sensors settings after installation to ensure they’re at their peak performance. In just a few minutes, you can fine-tune sensors in your office, restroom, storage closet or other limited-use space with these simple tips:

Be Mindful of Initial Setup

Depending on the occupancy sensor you’ve installed, you may need to wait a couple minutes after installation before the unit is fully functional. For example, Intermatic DSR Series Occupancy Sensors take about three minutes to calibrate the first time each sensor is activated. This helps the sensor optimize performance within the space it’s installed. So, if you’re wondering why your device isn’t working straight out of the gate, go grab a cup of coffee or take a short walk. It should be ready to go by the time you’re back.

Next, you’ll want to adjust your sensor to the setting or mode that’s most appropriate for your space and individual needs, if applicable. Many sensors make it easy to switch between occupancy, vacancy and walk-through modes simply by flipping a switch.

Occupancy vs. Vacancy Settings

Adjusting your sensor to occupancy mode means that the load (often a ceiling light) will turn ON as soon as motion is detected within the room, and then turn OFF after a pre-set period once the space is no longer occupied.

Certain models also include an Auto or walk-through setting, which only triggers the load after a short but sustained period of activity. This keeps lights OFF and conserves energy when individuals are simply passing through an area, such as a kitchen or hallway.

Conversely, vacancy mode requires users to manually turn a load ON by pressing a button on the in-wall sensor. Once the space has been vacated, the light automatically switches OFF after a given time interval. This setting is commonly used for storage closets and single-person washrooms, as it’s natural for individuals to turn the lights on upon entering the space.

Finding the Right Range

Depending on the size of your space and the type of activity your sensors are monitoring, you may need to make a few small manual adjustments to your controls range and time settings to properly tailor it to your environment.

To do this, grab a flathead screwdriver (if necessary) and locate the range setting on your control. If your sensor is triggering too frequently or if it’s installed in a small space, turn the dial to the left to decrease the unit’s sensitivity level. If your sensor is not triggering when occupants are present or it’s being used to cover a large area, try turning the dial to the right to increase sensitivity. It may take a bit of trial and error, but after a minute or so you should be able to find the right balance of responsiveness and efficiency.

Once you’ve set the range, find the device’s time dial and set the OFF interval to a period that’s appropriate for your use. A large common area or cubicle plot may benefit from an OFF period of several minutes, whereas a small closet may only need an OFF time of 15 or 30 seconds to provide the right level of comfort to users. Intermatic sensors typically include a range of settings between 15 seconds and 30 minutes, so there’s plenty of room for customization.

After you’ve made your final adjustments, close up the unit’s cover if necessary and be on your way – that’s it. Remember that you can always go back to make tweaks if occupant needs or activities change in the future.

Want to learn more about occupancy and vacancy sensors? Check out our recent article about the Difference Between PIR and Dual Technology Occupancy Sensors.

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