Considering using occupancy switches for my basement. I have not worked with these before but they sound appealing as hands are often full with laundry baskets, etc.

There is an existing conventional single pole switch at the top of the stairs. It does not seem adequate to just replace this with an occupancy switch, as once you pass it on the way down, if you're down there long enough, even if configured for a long timeout, the switch will eventually time out and you'll be in the dark down there.

So maybe a 3-way occupancy circuit, using one in the existing position at the top of the stairs, and adding another down in the basement?

However, thinking about it, wouldn't this be a problem? You go past the switch at the top of the stairs, and that throws that switch, turning the basement lights on. But then, as you descend the stairs, you enter the range of the basement switch, which throws it. Now, wouldn't this then turn the lights off? And further, since no one is at the top of the stairs any longer, once that switch times out, wouldn't it throw the switch again, this time turning the lights on? If you then go upstairs, the basement switch will time out first, turning the lights off, but then the switch at the top of the stairs will time out, turning the lights back on?!

I must be missing something here, it seems this would never work. Or must you always use a conventional 3-way switch with a 3-way occupancy to avoid these situations?

1 Answer 1


The occupancy sensors that are commercially available, are not designed to work in this situation.

You could install the sensor in a location that covers both the door, and the rest of the basement. This way the sensor would "see" you the whole time you're in the basement.

The other option is to roll your own solution, which would likely include multiple sensors and some form of central processor. Maybe some motion sensors and an arduino or raspberry pi.

  • To note, if you roll your own solution, good luck getting insurance coverage if there is ever an issue. Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 15:56
  • Another option would be a wire-ORed occupancy sensor configuration as discussed here. Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 23:19

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