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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Aaron Toumazou

Best indoor motion sensor lights to auto-illuminate your space

Whether lighting up the route to the loo in the middle of the night, making messy wardrobes easier to navigate or providing an ambient glow under kitchen counters, you can find a use for sensor lights in every room of the house.

Though not a new concept, a fresh wave of TikTok interior content has illuminated the masses to the benefits of motion sensor lights and how best to use them. In turn, they’ve given rise to a growing number of brands that now offer switch-free, rechargeable or battery-operated lighting, available in strips or spotlights, in white or warm glows.

Before we get into the best sensor lights to incorporate into your home, first let us enlighten you to some key things to know before you buy.

Are motion sensor lights easy to install?

Most motion sensor lights take the form of easy-to-install strips that can be stuck into place via magnetic brackets with adhesive backings. That means the most important part of the installation process is finding the right position for your needs – somewhere where the motion sensor will easily pick up movement while still casting light in the right area.

All brands work differently, so remember to read instructions carefully as there may be specific requirements or recommendations for your particular model. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution for wardrobes or kitchen cabinetry (i.e. one that won’t need to be charged every fortnight or so) it may be worth employing the expertise of an electrician.

Where are the best places to install indoor motion sensor lights?

There are several spots within every home where sensor lights come into their own, many of which can be found in the kitchen. Struggle to see your groceries in a poorly lit pantry? A well-positioned sensor light at the top of a cabinet will brighten up your food prep and could save you from uncovering forgotten tins and packets long after their best before date.

Sensor lights also enhance visibility over workstations when mounted to the underside of wall cabinets, or placed over high-traffic zones such as sinks or ovens. By using sensor lights that only turn on as you use them, you’ll save energy compared to lights that have to be controlled by a switch. For a more aesthetic upshot in kitchens, they can create ambient mood lighting when placed on the underside of a breakfast bar or table.

Next up: the bedroom, where sensor lights can be especially useful inside wardrobes to get a better view of its contents. This is particularly handy if you live with a partner who goes by a different schedule to your own, negating the need for one of you to turn on bigger, brighter lights while the other sleeps. On that note, they can also be attached beneath bed frames for convenient illumination that shouldn’t dramatically disturb anyone else in the room.

Lastly, placing sensor lights in entry halls and landings is a great way to ensure you’ll be greeted by hassle-free luminosity when arriving home in the dark, or for wayfaring your route to the kitchen for a midnight snack.

Can’t all lights be hooked up to a sensor?

In theory, any light can be hooked up to a sensor. In practice, it depends on a number of factors. Some bulbs aren’t quite as compatible with sensors as others, such as incandescent bulbs which have longer warm-up times and thus interfere with a sensor’s accuracy. If looking to hook bulbs up to a sensor, you’ll also have to think about the type of sensor you buy, with different sensors designed for purposes beyond motion, such as light and occupancy.

Some bulbs, such as Hive’s range of smart lighting, are much easier to hook up to sensors and come with options to detect both light and motion or even set your lights to specific timers, all simply pre-set via a smartphone app.

How often do motion sensor lights need to be charged?

The frequency you’ll need to charge a sensor light will vary depending on factors including its battery capacity and usage patterns. Most of the options in our edit provide continuous light on a single charge for anywhere between three and eight hours, depending on the model. This  translates to one to three weeks in frequently used placements such as kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, or, if you’re using them in lower-trafic areas, such as sheds or loft storage, that time can be prolonged to months.

Shop the best sensor lights below

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Illuminate 2.0

Best for: overall

Illuminate’s broad range of motion sensor lights spans lots of easily installed indoor and outdoor options. The Illuminate 2.0 model improves on its original strip lighting by raising the stakes on motion detection technology, now boasting a 120-degree sensing range two meter distances. As well as being more accurate and responsive than many we’ve tried, a built-in daylight sensor helps to preserve energy and battery life when not needed.

It’s also available in a range of sizes, in warm or white light, and has a range of customisable settings that allow you to adjust the sensitivity and duration of motion detection, giving you the ability to tailor the lights to your specific preferences. To adjust its brightness, all you have to do is hold your hand over the sensors. So simple, so effective.

Buy now £34.99, Illuminate

Hive Lighting Bundle 2

Best for: smart homes

If you’re looking to sensor-enable exisitng lamps and light fittings, Hive’s smart bulbs streamline the process thanks to an easy-to-use ecosystem. Available in a bundle that comprises two dimmable B22 smart bulbs and one sensor, it’s easy to customise your set-up to turn on as you enter a room, at the brightness level of your choice and for the exact amount of time you desire.

A must for the “house of the future”, this bundle allows for a highly customisable set-up that offers more control than any other option in our round-up, but you will be restricted to existing fixtures that are connected to mains power.

Buy now £59.00, Tool Station

IKEA STÖTTA LED cabinet lighting strip

Best for: kitchen cabinets

IKEA-hacking – the art of tweaking the Swedish retailer’s flatpack furniture into something more unique and high-end – is an interior trend going nowhere. Adding sensor lights to the inside of cabinets and drawers is IKEA-hacking 101, and you can kill two birds with one stone on your next trip to the Scandi-sanctuary with the brand’s own STÖTTA LEDs.

The versatile strip lighting is easily installed in kitchens, bathrooms, wardrobes and on bookshelves, boasting an intuitive sensor that switches on and off as you open and close doors. Unlike others in our edit, this one is operated using two AA batteries, which while saving you the hassle of unmounting to recharge, will add extra costs when it comes to replacing.

Buy now £10.00, IKEA

HIBOITEC Motion Sensor LED Closet Light

Best for: Amazon Prime members

You’ll find plenty of sensor light strips available on Amazon, and our pick of the bunch comes care of HIBOITEC. Easy to install and extra bright (with 54 LEDs offering up to 360 lumens), it also comes with impressive sensor sensitivity, scanning a 120-degree radius up to five metres away. The battery life is stronger than other Amazon models we’ve tried, and it reaches a full charge in only two hours with the USB cable provided.

Buy now £17.99, Amazon

Shein Induction Cabinet Light

Best for: tight budgets

If you’re looking to spend a little less on your sensor light set-up, affordable go-to, Shein, has gotten in on the action with a considerably cheaper alternative to others we’ve tried. Despite its humble price tag, Shein’s sensor light makes a valiant effort at rising to the competition, as its many reviews will vouch.

Coming in around 30cm, the aluminium strip has a reliable hand-sweeping sensor and gives out an effective bright light. The compromise? It’s not rechargeable, so you’ll have to position it within 2m range of a power source and find a way to disguise the wire.

Buy now £3.75, Shein

Cleo 300 ceiling light

Best for: ceilings

Not all sensor lights come in the form of cupboard and under-counter friendly strips. The Cleo 300 ceiling light closer resembles a contemporary spotlight, making it a solid choice for entry halls by providing switch-free illumination when arriving home in the dark.

We love the slick design of the Cleo 300 – pictured here in black but also available in luxe finishes such as grey, gold and copper. Beyond its appearance, it’s infinitely more practical for ceiling mounting than strip lights thanks to its 360-degree range of detection, scanning distances up to eight metres.

Buy now £64.90, Lights

Revive LED Cabinet Rail Light

Best for: wardrobes

While most sensor strip lights will offer an instant upgrade to wardrobes, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll still likely have a clothing rail standing between the glow of your light and the clothes you want lit. Enter Revive’s rail light.

A hanging rail that just so happens to be fitted with LED lights, this innovative addition to any wardrobe will shine down on shirts, tees, trousers et al without obstruction, giving a clearer view of outfit possibilities. At 962mm long, it’s worth nothing that you’ll need to cut it down to size to fit existing wardrobes and will also require a driver and mains power to hook it up to – so you’ll likely need to factor in the cost of an electrician.

Buy now £44.95, Victorian Plumbing

Shopfrex Rechargeable Motion LED cabinet light

Best for: cosy accent lighting

Doing away with a single LED strip in favour of four downlights, this Shopfrex choice is a perfect option for anyone seeking to reap the more aesthetic rewards of sensor lighting. Primed for placement underneath kitchen or bathroom wall units and counters, it provides a cosier, more ambient feel than others.

Though it sits on the slightly more expensive side, Shopfrex justifies its pricepoint by offering several easy-to-use modes, plus the ability to switch between warm, natural and cool white glows to create different moods. There’s even the option to tailor to your interior by choosing between slick “space silver” and “piano black” colourways, both in an ultra-thin build of less than a centimetre.

Buy now £50.00, Etsy

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