Motion-Detecting Stair Lights: Simple




About: Be limited only by your imagination.

Objective: Create an inexpensive motion-detecting LED light system for the stairs that uses A.C. power so that batteries never wear out.

As you can see in the video, the LED units are individually triggered by infrared detection as you cross their sensor path. This provides ample light to navigate the steps in complete darkness. This is handy when bringing packages in and having your hands full.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

  • Tools used
    • wire strippers
    • soldering iron
    • heat gun
    • drill
    • 1/8" bit
    • 1/4" bit
    • Phillips Head Driver
  • Components
    • Radio Shack 4.5V 150 mA DC transformer (but any transformer from 4.5V to 5.1V (like a USB transformer) at about 150 mA will work. I had this in my box of used transformers.
    • Three-pack of ADX Wireless Motion Sensor LED Light (size 3"X5"). I ordered it from Amazon ($17.14)
    • 18-Gauge 12V wire
    • Shrink tubing
    • Solder
    • Cable staples
    • Screws to hang the boxes

Step 2: Prepare the LED Boxes

  1. Open the cover
  2. Drill a 1/8" hole in the back of the cover
  3. Solder 5" leads onto the positive and negative terminals. Make sure to use RED for POSITIVE.
  4. Pass the leads out of the back of the cover and replace

Step 3: Mount the Boxes on the Stairs and Wire Them in Parallel

  1. Drill 1/4" holes for the wires to pass thru the stairs
  2. Mount the LED boxes with the 5" lead passed thru the hole using the SCREWS and the PHILLIPS HEAD DRIVER
  3. Solder wire connecting the leads and be sure to OBSERVE POLARITY (RED WITH RED)
  4. Use shrink tubing over the soldered sections and use a heat gun to shrink it
  5. Use CABLE STAPLES to affix the wires under the stairs and be sure not to pierce the power supply wires!
  6. Attach the wires to the transformer leads and test operation before soldering and shrink tubing it.

Note: This system has been in operation for a year. The transformer does not get hot. The current draw is quite minimal.

The LED's will illuminate for about 30 seconds before automatically shutting off.

I hope you enjoy this simple project and can use it or modify it as you would see fit. Although it is really quite simple, it's been a rewarding project in that I see it and use it every day, several times a day. It's really been handy for laundry or package transport.

The entire project cost only $17.14 because I had all the other material on hand.



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    4 Discussions


    1 year ago

    If you used some rechargeable batteries in the LED fixtures, then they would even work if power was cut off. And the transformer and little regulator circuit can do a constant low current charge on them to keep them picked. Just an idea as a possible update for version two.

    1 reply
    Maker Saga

    1 year ago

    I had made something like this years ago with an ultrasonic distance sensor and individually addressable LEDs along a hallway. The lamp nearest to the user would light up and shut off once the user passed it. The downside was that the distance sensor was not accurate past 17 feet or so, and the person had to be of average height in order for the sensor to detect them.

    Your idea is so much more effective.

    1 reply
    GrunambulaxMaker Saga

    Reply 1 year ago

    That sounds like a great idea. I've seen them also with Arduinos. This little project just kind of evolved from needing a quick solution. I had all the parts on hand and thought the design up while running and then literally completed it while in my running clothes.