How to Install an Occupancy Sensor Light Switch

This tutorial explains how to install a Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch that is compatible with any light, including Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) and incandescent light bulbs.

Lighting Automation

The back room in my basement storage area has a light switch at the far side next to the exterior doors. The only way to reach the light switch was to stumble in the dark while holding my arms out zombie-style to avoid running into something. My first improvement was to replace the wall switch with one that had an illuminated handle that glowed when the light switch was Off, so I could at least have a point of reference. This helped, but was unsatisfactory because I would still trip over the lawn mower and other stuff.

Basement Storage Room Light Switch

What I needed was an occupancy sensor light switch to sense motion in the room and automatically turn On/Off the overhead CFL lights:

Compact Fluorescent Lights

CFL Compatible Occupancy Sensor Light Switch

I purchased a Leviton Occupancy Sensor Light Switch Model PR180 at the local home improvement store, only to learn upon reading the product specifications in detail that it won’t work with Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL). The problem is the PR180 isn’t compatible with the “electronic ballast” in a CFL. The electronic ballast is the miniaturized circuitry in the base of a CFL bulb that provides the high frequency voltage to power the lamp. The PR180 will operate a traditional incandescent light bulb or older style fluorescent lights that use a magnetic ballast. Magnetic ballasts are characterized by the bulky coil windings.

After further research, I found the Leviton Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch model ODS10 is compatible with all types of lights, including Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL).

Leviton Occupancy Sensor Switch: Model ODS10 versus PR180

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch Overview

The Leviton ODS10 has several nice features:

  • Wide 180 degree sensing zone.
  • Passive infrared (PIR) sensing technology.
    This means it senses body heat to detect motion.
  • Red LED indicator flashes when motion is sensed.
  • Adjustable Off time delay from 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Push-button manual On and Auto-Off mode for energy savings.
  • Presentation mode: If the lights are On, pressing the push-button with turn
    the lights off and ignore motion events until the time delay expires.
  • Adjustable ambient light level to prevent the light from turning on
    when there’s natural sufficient light. Or the you can adjust the switch
    to turn on the lights unconditionally, even in full daylight.
  • Adjustable detection range.
  • Two independent adjustable blinders such that motion in adjacent areas
    doesn’t turn on the light. For example, so that people walking in the
    hallway don’t cause the light in the room to turn On.
  • 5 year warranty.

The ODS10 is available in several colors (white, ivory, light almond and gray) to match your home decor.

The Leviton ODS10 timer, range and light adjustment dials are located behind a snap-on cover:

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch: Adjustment Dials

Rear view of the ODS10 wall switch. Obviously, electrical wiring should never be performed on a live circuit for personal safety; always turn off the electricity before installing.

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch: Rear View

The Leviton ODS10 switch is a bit bulky and requires an electrical switch box at least 2-3/4 inches deep:

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch: Side View

The Leviton ODS10 has three wires:

  1. Black – (hot) line side wire.
  2. Blue – load side wire.
  3. Green – ground wire.

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Switch: Wire Connections

Leviton ODS10 Occupancy Sensor Wall Switch Installation

These installation steps show how to install the ODS10 in a single control light switch application. See the Leviton ODS10 installation instructions if you’re replacing a 3-way light switch controlled from two locations – this will require two (2) ODS10 wall switches.

If you’re uncomfortable with electrical wiring or lack the proper tools, care and attention, please hire a licensed electrician to install the occupancy sensor switch.

I began by shutting off the electricity to the basement lights at the main circuit breaker panel, then removing the old light switch mounting screws to release the switch from the wall box. There are two screws – top and bottom. I’m working by the light of a battery power lantern.

Unscrew the Old Toggle Light Switch from the Electrical Box

Identify the Line Side Electrical Wire

With the circuit breaker Off and having removed the toggle switch mounting screws, I gently pulled the switch out of the electrical box unfolding the wires (see below).

I installed this Leviton illuminated light switch and know for a fact the bottom black wire is the “line side” or “hot” wire that receives power from the circuit breaker panel.

For a single light switch control, the lower black wire is the line side if the switch is Off when the handle is in the down position. However, in a new situation you can’t trust the electrician (or maybe the previous homeowner) wired the switch correctly, so it’s best to verify which black wire is the hot or line side circuit connection.

Toggle Light Switch Pulled Out of the Electrical Box

Be extra careful in these next steps; keep the family, kids, dogs, cats and all distractions away! Remove all necklaces, watches and bracelets.

To identify the line side (hot) wire:

  • Make sure nothing is touching the electrical switch or wires.
  • Turn on the power at the electrical circuit break panel.
  • Notice the illuminated switch is now glowing in the Off position.
    This immediately tells me the lower black wire is the line side, otherwise the switch handle wouldn’t illuminate.
  • Verify the lower black wire is energized with a non-contact voltage detector.
    The detector will flash and beep to indicate the wire is energized (live).

Take care not to touch the exposed side screws or bare wires to avoid an electrical shock!

Toggle Light Switch: Line Side (Hot) Wire Identification

A secondary check against faulty wiring is to verify the upper black wire is the load side with no power when the toggle switch is in the Off position. The non-contact voltage detector is silent indicating the wire is not energized (no electricity):

Toggle Light Switch: Load Side Wire Verification

Moving the light switch to the On position completes the circuit and powers the load side black wire, turning on the lights. The load side wire is now energized with electricity as indicated by the flashing and beeping voltage detector:

Toggle Light Switch Operation: Load Side Wire Energized

The lower black wire is now confirmed as being the line side (hot) wire and the upper black wire as the load side wire going to the lights.

Tag the Line Side Hot Wire

Turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker panel before proceeding!

After shutting off the electricity to the light switch and double checking the circuit is dead with the voltage detector, I tagged the line side (hot) black wire with a small piece of blue tape so I won’t mix up the wires when I remove the light switch.

Toggle Light Switch: Line Side Hot Wire Tagged with Blue Tape

As Sgt. Esterhaus says in Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there!”

This project is continued in How to Install an Occupancy Sensor Light Switch – Part 2.

Take care,

Bob Jackson

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