Picture of Stairway LED lighting with IR trip sensor
Ever get up in the middle of the night and go stumbling towards the hallway light only to trip over your cat and fall down your stairway and bash your head on the wall at the bottom? Neither have I! But if you're afraid of this happening, or you just want to make your friends jealous of your awesome electronics prowess, you can build this IR light trip sensor to light up your stairway (or any room in the house you'd like) when you walk past it so that you'll see that pesky cat waiting for you to trip on it.

The sensor uses a directional infrared LED beamed at a sensor that shoots past where you'll walk. When you interrupt the light from the LED, the LEDs turn on for a period of time that you can adjust. There are a lot of advantages to using IR LEDs over lasers; they're safer to work with since lasers can damage your retina if you stare at them, they're a lot easier to aim since you're pointing them at a small sensor usually across a hallway, they use really low power, and of course they emit no visible light which makes them stealthy and therefore cooler. The biggest drawback? Sunlight or incandescent lights generate infrared light, so if you put them in an area where they get hit by this light they won't turn on. I actually feel that this is an advantage as well, since it keeps them off during the day when you don't need them.

Please note: this project is designed to assume that you have at least a basic knowledge of electronics, electronic schematics, and know how to handle and mount static sensitive devices. You need to know how to solder, and more importantly how to solder on tiny chip leads that can only handle a brief hit of heat before they fry and turn into slingshot ammo.

Play the high def video. I'm a terrible cameraman so sorry if it's shaky!
jboby4 years ago
hi ... f.y.i.
if you're considering doing this project, beware that 7 and 14 on the HEF4071B are flipped. if you follow the schematic included in this instructable to the letter, you'll have a fried chip.
ElJefeUno (author)  jboby7 months ago

True, oops! Hopefully not too many people cooked chips!

iwe_941 year ago

hello sir..just want to ask..what is the uses of cable PS2 and 555 timer? the green colour one.. how about it connection to the circuit? can you explain more how to inst

Smtty093 years ago
Why are you using a 2.5 A relay would a 1A not work for this case?
The company I work for is about to hire a deaf person. I need to rig something up so a light goes off when the door opens. I understand your circuit up until the plug for the leds. can you explain how that green plug wires in. Or a file we can download so I can see a bigger schematic? Thanks for this great instructable.
Kamiana84 years ago
I'm very enthusiastic about your project's success and have gone ahead and ordered the necessary materials. However, I'd greatly appreciate a comprehensive, instructional video to help me reference my progress. thanks
Why not just wire the photodiodes together and use 1 timer?
abbtech4 years ago
Cool project. Almost like these http://alan-parekh.vstore.ca/project-kits-stair-light-c-1_2.html
XOIIO5 years ago
lol "trip" wire... hmmm
Very nice. Thanks for sharing this, I think I may try something similar. Ta.
jsummerlin5 years ago
you could take a putty knife and hide the wire underneath the carpet.
I just orderd 2 free sample wall mounted enclosures should be here in a week or so
ElJefeUno (author)  albylovesscience5 years ago
Sweet, post some pics when you get it set up!
rakuyo6 years ago
mr. author what programming language did you use in this project? can i use tasm (turbo assembly language) ? if i can, can you give me the codes pls... i just want to try this one on how it works... i'm just curious and also a fan of your project hope you understand... thanks!
MicroKID6 years ago
Would it be possible to rig this up from a motion sensor of house alarms instead of making the circuit? Thanks.
ElJefeUno (author)  MicroKID6 years ago
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is if you wanted the lights to stay on while you go up the stairs you'd need a timer circuit of some sort. You could substitute an Arduino, but you'd still need a relay or a transistor circuit to drive the LEDs since the Arduino outputs don't put out enough current. You'd also have to program the Arduino to trigger off whatever signal your motion sensor puts out... easy enough to code if you're familiar with it but possibly difficult for the newcomer.
aronsta6 years ago
Nice job ElJefeUno!
XxZombiexX6 years ago
Nicely done--I had thought about stair lighting that would activate individual stairs as you walked (stepping on 1st stair triggers 2nd and so on so that the lights selectively 'lead' you up/down) but it seemed too ambitious at the time...this is pretty great.
This can be done too. You would need a small microcontroller and a counter program. Basically, once the motion sensor is tripped, the controller starts to count up to the number of steps that you have. Each count lights up a step until all steps are lit when you reach the top. This can be further modified to also have a sensor at the top of the stairs and reverse the count. Or a ON delay could be set so that as you go up the stair, the steps ahead will light up, whilst the steps behind will turn off.
ElJefeUno (author)  TLLCUK6 years ago
True, you definitely could do it with a micro (an arduino would work fine), but I think that the idea of using a timer would be a bit disappointing... even annoying, since we found that the time it takes people to go up stairs can vary quite a bit depending on how fast they walk. I'd say a more affective, although more time consuming (and expensive) route would be to mount a sensor on each step with a corresponding led on the step above. When your foot hit each step, the light above that step could come on, and the one below would turn off after you lifted your foot. You'd need either a bunch of my circuits (one for each step), or an micro, and a really high-density cable for all the signals from the sensors. I'm a bit too lazy to take all that on though, so I was satisfied with my setup.
stevesigma6 years ago
To avoid this, use "Milling drill" instead ordinary drill bit.
nanonano586 years ago