News & Events, Applications & Solutions, Product Highlights, Energy Efficiency, Videos

Applications & Solutions : How to Choose the Right Occupancy Sensors for Your Project

Sensors, Applications, Design

How to Choose the Right Occupancy Sensors for Your Project

A Simple Guide to Finding the Right Fit

choosing occupancy sensors 

Outfitting a shared space with occupancy sensors is a simple and easy way to lower monthly utility bills and improve occupant comfort. They offer hands-free convenience while ensuring lights are never left on by accident.

However, deciding which type of occupancy or vacancy sensor to install for a given application isn’t always straightforward. With a variety of specifications, sensor technologies and styles, it’s important to take time to find a solution that’s tailored to your unique project needs.

Use these guidelines when selecting your next occupancy sensor from Intermatic.

Staying Up to Code

Though occupancy sensors can be a useful addition to almost any environment, municipal codes typically dictate commercial buildings greater than 5,000 square feet are required to include an automatic off switch in specific areas.

Before breaking ground or beginning a remodel, verify state and local building codes to be sure you purchase both the right quantity and type of occupancy sensors for your locale.You may even find that an occupancy sensor can serve as a substitute for more complex lighting systems. ASHRAE is an excellent reference when reviewing current standards.

Choosing the Right Sensor Type

Sensors fall into two primary categories: Passive Infrared (PIR) and Dual-Technology. Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors work by detecting the presence of heat energy in confined spaces whereas Dual Technology sensors use a combination of passive infrared and ultrasonic technology. As a rule of thumb, PIR sensors are best in smaller areas that don’t have obstructions or partitions to block the infrared signal. For example, PIR sensors are great for single-use bathrooms and small storage closets.

On the other hand, Dual-Technology sensors are appropriate for large spaces that have limited sight lines – open office, libraries, common areas, etc.

Depending on the environment, you may need a mix of both types of sensors (in their respective areas) to provide ample coverage. You’ll also want to confirm whether or not your current wiring setup includes a neutral wire since some solutions require a neutral for installation.

choosing occupancy sensors

Ceiling Mount Versus In-Wall

Another aspect to consider before installation is whether you prefer to have sensors installed in-wall or mounted to the ceiling.

If you’re replacing an existing light switch, an in-wall occupancy sensor can be a smart upgrade that regulates ON/OFF switching while still providing occupants a level of control. However, because in-wall switches are fixed to the wall, their reach and responsiveness can be limited if multiple barriers are present.

Conversely, ceiling mount sensors typically provide full 360-degree coverage within a given area. They also don’t allow for manual switching, which can make them a better fit for communal spaces, such as lobbies and shared public bathrooms.

Related: How to Adjust Commercial In-Wall Occupancy and Vacancy Sensors

Understanding LED compatibility, lastly, it’s crucial to match your lighting controls (sensors) with the type of lighting fixtures they’ll be connected to.

It’s all too common for installers to invest time and resources into a project only to be called back for maintenance when the lighting control breaks down due to a lack of compatibility.

Severe high inrush current events triggered by LED switching can quickly destroy lighting controls that aren’t explicitly designed to handle the transients; however, solutions that integrate zero-crossing technology are LED compatible and highly reliable in commercial settings.

Contact an Intermatic sales representative today to talk through your unique lighting control needs and find the perfect occupancy sensor for your next project.

Related Products


Commercial Self-Adaptive In-Wall PIR Sensor, No Neutral Required, Ivory

Where to Buy

Commercial Self-Adaptive In-Wall PIR Occupancy Sensor, Ivory

Where to Buy

Commercial Low-Voltage Ceiling Mount PIR Sensor, White

Where to Buy

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Sign-up for email alerts for products and software updates, new product releases and information about upcoming events.

This website uses cookies to provide a better user experience.