...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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I shared the recently tidied boys’ dresser yesterday but there’s a less obvious tweak going on there, too.

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We installed an occupancy/vacancy sensing switch in the boys’ shared bedroom/playroom. Why? Apparently, turning the light off is difficult to do when you’re flying a Lego rocket out of the room and so, of course, you assume your sibling will turn the light off for you. But your brother/sister doesn’t flip the switch because he/she is also preoccupied with an en route Lego rocket whilst departing the room. In the end, you’re both to blame. WHO LEFT THE LIGHTS ON?!

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I find myself yelling that more than I care to admit. The boys’ room is usually the brunt of my frustration. It’s furthest from our main living space and, all too often, the ceiling light is left on by my older kids who are distracted upon exiting. I only discover the light blazing wastefully on my way to my bedroom or bathroom…long after it should have been turned off. Drives me B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

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Enter this. The Maestro occupancy sensor switch which retails for less than $20. It’s a two-part switch. The bottom is a sensor and the top is a push button to manually turn the light on/off. It can be programmed to automatically turn lights on when someone enters a room and to automatically turn lights off when everyone has left the room. To my kids, it’s magic.

Installation was pretty straightforward and relatively painless. It took HH less than 15 minutes to put in the new sensor switch. I captured the installation on video for your viewing pleasure. But, first, a few things you should know about this riveting video.

*This is my first time sharing a video on the blog. It shows. Next time, I’ll video in the landscape orientation.

*The installation took place after dinner one night – as is the case for most projects around here. The lighting is less than optimal and about halfway through I discover the flash on my phone. Duh.

*HH’s performance is stellar. He just LOVES being on camera. {typed with sarcasm}

*All three kids were home when this video was made. Mabrey is playing blocks, babbling and singing in the background. Initially, the boys are outside playing but they totally videobomb us. Welcome to my world, people.

*There are many “that’s what she said” moments. I’ll let you find them on your own.

*I am a behind-the-camera giggling fool. Feel free to laugh with me.

Go ahead. Watch it. I apologize in advance for any awkwardness.

As you can probably tell, this video was not scripted in any way. We did one take. We just video’d a typical DIY in our house. This is how it really happens. {Minus the music and fast-foward screwing & unscrewing. That would be cool in real life though.} Complete chaos. All. the. time.

A few FYI’s about the DIY:

*Just a friendly reminder to cut power to the outlet before you begin any work. You’re welcome.

*HH wants you to know that you should twist electrical wires in the same direction that you will twist the wire nuts. He said it somewhere during one of the sped up sections of the video but it got cut.

*The sensor switch is customizable so you can set it up for your specific needs. We chose the manual on/auto off {we don’t want the light automatically switching on when we sneak in to check on the boys at night}, low motion sensing and a 5-minute auto off delay. If you opt for the auto on setting, the sensor detects daylight and only turns on when needed. Lutron offers a dimmer switch sensor, too, for dimming needs.

*We had to use a different switch plate cover once the new sensor switch was installed. We needed one with a single decorator hole and a single toggle hole. Luckily, I found one in the garage in the electrical department. Seriously. We could probably open up our own home improvement store.

So far, the new sensor switch is working out great. HH likes adding any kind of technology to the house so this is right up his alley. The boys think it’s awesome. Lazy kids nowadays. I’m excited to see the sensor switch in action more when summer is over and it starts getting darker earlier and our winter days are dreary. Right now the days are long and mostly bright so the ceiling light doesn’t get turned on that much.

What technological advances have you added to your home to make it more convenient, efficient or budget-friendly? HH is dying to know.

This post brought to you in part by Lutron. Stop wasting. Start saving.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



Benny Hill music! I loved the video. The kids were pretty awesome too! Tell Layne the people say hello! So kind of Everett to offer help. Mabrey sounded adorable.


I personally think the best part of this video is Mabrey babbling in the background. I love it!


My husband installed them in all of our “trouble zones” which are primarily in the basement, and I love them! Not sure why we waited so long, honestly.

You win all the points for the Benny Hill music. Just perfect.


Can you manually turn it off too or do you have to wait the 5 minutes? We have these all over our offices in the auto on and off. Which is cool until you are sitting there reading 200 pages of regulation on a Friday afternoon and all the execs are on the golf course and suddenly you are in the dark in your cube. Then you wave your arms around like an idiot and call out to see if anybody? nobody? else is still there with you.

I love Kristin’s idea of putting them in the basement.


Thanks for a great post! I need one of these. My kitchen light switch is on the opposite side of the room from my back stairwell entrance (my primary entrance). I then have to navigate the kitchen usually with bags in the dark. I’ve tried a motion detector outlet but it didn’t put out enough light to be helpful. I can’t wait to get this. I have to update a couple yellowed old outlets and will just add this to that project.


Hey Dana,
I just wanted to say that, unfortunately, the video is unavailable in Germany. Boohoo. I was really thrilled to see some motion action happening. But… The music you used for your clip is apparently copyright-protected and publishing rights aren’t met for the German YouTube. :( This happens due to GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte OR Society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights).
–> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blocking_of_YouTube_videos_in_Germany
Is there any chance that you could cut out the music or use royalty-free tracks? :)
That would be really great! By the way, I love and have been following your home improvement adventures for a couple of years now. Great inspiration for home and life in general! :)

PS: My very first blog comment! :D In English! Yay!


I give it 5 stars for work completed under extremely adverse conditions — both electrical and camera work. Also, I hope someday to see a video house tour. Do you think you will ever attempt that?




Yes, you can push the on/off button to turn off the light manually on your way out of the room. The sensor just automatically turns the light off after 5 minutes of inactivity – it doesn’t override the push button. Hope that helps!


It’s a useful product. Thinking we need on in the playroom. Love the Benny Hill music!


Thank you for your very first comment, Jessica! Sorry about the music not permitting you to view the video. We’ll see what we can do for future videos. We’re definitely learning here!


We have installed similar ones in all our bathrooms… we love them!! Its great when kids needs to go in the middle of the night! I’m now thinking about the kids room.. Ours have a switch below the sensor so they can be turned off completely, left on completely (very practical when you are in the shower) of left in auto mode!


Off to find those now! Way overdue around here! I noticed that its installed just above the dresser…I’m wondering if it “knows” that the kids are playing in the room, or if it overlooks them because they are small?


Off topic… you should TOTALLY do a walk through of your house Dana!! We’d all love to see it :)


Good question! I’ll be posting a one month follow up so we shall determine if it knows or not.


This is actually a bit funny, as I “struggle” with the opposite problem. I have a 4 year old son who turns off the light in the bathroom all the time, when I want it left on so my 2 year old can go pee on the potty on her own.

From my electrician neighbour, turning the light on and off all the time is the best way to wear out a lightbulb. He has his hallwaylight on a dimmer, and has not replaced the bulb in over 5 years. (Regular lightbulb that is)


Also, thank you for proving that AC/DC and DIY do mix.


This has to be one of the most genius things I’ve read in a while. I’d like to put my porch lights on some type of daylight sensor or timer switch. Do you (or HH) know if there’s a such thing as that?


Oooh, I got a peek of the artwork I’m waiting to hear more about!
Good job on your first video!


Hi Melanie,
You’re in luck! They sell both photocells and timers for outdoor lights. The timers replace the switch, very similar to what you see in the video. The photocells are more involved for an existing fixture, but it can be done. Another option is to replace the fixture entirely with one that already has a photocell. Hope that helps.

Aaaaaah, I love it…It’s like watching “this is your life!”, because that is *exactly* what my two boys would be doing ;)


HI LAYNE!! For a first time video, you guys rocked it. Thanks for keeping it real life…very refreshing. If Everett wants to help somebody, I got projects galore I could use him! :P
Cannot wait for you to do a house tour. Seriously. Can. Not. Wait.


I did not know that motion sensor lights could have this combination of automation and manual control. I was imagining that rolling over in bed at night would switch the light on. I still imagine that stitting too still for too long could lead to the bathroom light turning itself off, but that one could be set for a longer time.

I do not have any exciting technological advances to report. Except maybe window film to reduce incoming heat.


Hi Layne!

Love, crazy people


That was awesome. Your family rocks! I can’t believe HH kept it going without totally cracking up. Around here, it’s up to me to do this kind of stuff because my DH (definitely not an HH) hates it. I’ve changed exactly one light fixture so far. I’ve been meaning to do a dimmer in the dining room, I think I’m inspired now!


I loved this so much, all of it. So fun to see your kiddos, who are totally adorable! And I don’t know if it’s the long day of work accompanied by the adult beverage, but the music every time HH was working the screwdriver had me giggling hysterically. What a great little upgrade for the boy’s room! Since he is a gadget nerd, do you foresee a Nest thermostat in the future for your house?? I’m curious to know about YHL’s opinion on it since they added one… seems like one might belong in a DIY lover and engineer’s house, too!

PS. I vote for more videos from here on it, so much fun!


The video was great! I love the idea of putting a motion sensor switch in my kids rooms, they never turn the lights out, it drives me crazy too. Love your blog, I am a new follower but here to stay.

Tammy @ thecoloreddoor.blogspot.com


Looking forward to it! :)


I will definitely be looking into one of these switches for our basement! All of the lights down there are on one switch, so if it doesn’t get turned off there are about fourteen lights blazing away for hours. I wonder how much a switch like this would help our elecric bill? ;)


So glad to see sensors that work with CFL’s at that price point! This is something I have been wanting for a long time. Our entire home is outfitted with CFL’s and I couldn’t find a sensor that would work with them at a decent price point. Now when I drive up to my house I won’t see the boys lights on!


This video seals it – this is my favorite blog. That was hilarious! Anything that starts with Thunderstruck is good in my book.


We put one of these in our laundry room. We have to walk through the laundry room to enter the house from the garage and found ourselves turning on a trail of lights when we came in at night that we then had to go back and turn off once we got settled. Your mud/dining/laundry room may be a good candidate room. We put it on the setting to only turn on when its dark outside and love it when we get in late. You should note that there is a special sensor for use with three-way switches. We had to get it, and I think it was only $2 more- cheap for the security of knowing we didn’t create a fire hazard.


Lutron’s site claims a savings of $10-$25 annually per switch-to-sensor replacement. Of course, it all depends on your specific usage and type of light.

I’m totally stealing this idea for our kids’ bathroom. That said, what really caught my eye is the ceiling light in your boys’ room–it’s really great! Where did you get it?

Ha! Sorry…found your original post about the room with a link. Thanks!


Lamps Plus!

I recently installed timers, after a failed attempt with photocells (they got confused by the big overhangs on the porch and tended not to turn off in the morning; plus the units pushed the light bulbs too far down in the fixtures, so the lights didn’t look right). The timers are GREAT. They have a random mode so they will turn on/off within about 20 minutes of the same time, but not the exact same time, every day, and they are programmed to follow changes in sunrise/sunset. My only regret is not doing it sooner.


I absolutley adore that you posted that video. I love the reality of your blog, I love that you don’t always have picture perfect and that you let us see your real life. Thank You. Apart from making me want to have a beautiful home, you make me want to be a great parent to my kids too.


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