First project - motion detector in the light switch

I'm jumping on to the Hubitat automation bandwagon, and I am ready to start planning my first project - the basement stairs lighting. It currently has a 4-way switch (2 switches at the top of the stairs, and one switch at the bottom of the stairs. It is a dark stairway, so lighting is always needed when going up/down the stairs, regardless of time of day. There is a door at the top of the stairs, but open to the basement at the bottom of the stairs.

I'm thinking of putting in a smart light switch at the top of the stairs that has a motion sensor built into it. The switch would be at the top of the stairwell, on the inside of the stairs. I'm not sure if the motion detection would be able to see anyone at the bottom of the stairs to turn on the lights when they start to ascend the stairs from the basement up to the top level. The door at the top of the stairs is sometimes partially opened (cracked) so the dog can open the door if needed, so I don't think a contact sensor on the door would work.

Any suggestions on what smart light switch with built-in motion sensor may work? The lights in the stairs are non-smart LED bulbs. This is the first project, so I am not tied to any kind of switch, but would prefer to start with Z-wave or Zigbee based on what I have read here on the forums.


I have a fairly similar configuration. I used a SmartThings contact sensor on the door. I made sure to put the unit on the door and the magnet on the frame. Those sensors also sense angular changes in all three dimensions - so I just trigger on a change (because some people in my house never close a door all the way). Then near the bottom of the stairwell I have a Nyce motion sensor that picks up motion on the bottom step but not in the surrounding room.

The door sensor

The Nyce motion sensor

(Please excuse the grandkids toys strewn about in the basement)

This is the rule (very simple)

(Rule Machine 2.5)

There are a few things to consider with this first but not simple project.

  1. Where is the neutral of your wiring circuit? Knowing where the neutral is crucial for the selection of your smart switches since majority of them need neutral.
  2. Maybe with location and position you will need just one wireless motion sensor for both top and bottom.
  3. Zigbee, z-wave or Lutron Caseta?
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Good points. Mine are Lutron Caseta. One is a real dimmer the other is a Pico. Not sure without looking which is which.

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Wow, I like the contact sensor with the ability to use it even if the door is not fully closed. I was not aware of those. But since I have to replace all 3 switches with smart switches, I figured the best option would be just to have one of the switches include a motion detector too. Based on the distance of the motion detection to see the bottom of the stairway from the top of the stairs, I still may have to also install a separate motion detector at the bottom of the stairs too - based on the angle and the distance to the bottom of the stairs, I really don't think it would reach all the way to the bottom and turn on it time to start going up the stairs.

Thanks for including the rule information. I know I will need it once I get everything installed.

  1. I know my home has neutral wiring, but I just assumed that all the switches would have the neutral wire. I'll have to check all three switches that control the stair lighting and see if they all have the neutral wire, or just one of them. I was not aware that a 3-way/4-way circuit may only have the neutral wire at just one of the switches in the circuit. Good point!

  2. I hope to only use one motion sensor, but based on the position of the light switch at the top of the stairs, I don't think it will reach to the bottom of the stairs. I will see if one will work, but if not, I will have to add a separate motion sensor at the bottom of the stairs.

  3. For now, my plan is to stay with either Z-wave or Zigbee, but since it is my first set of devices, I'm pretty open to all options that work well with the Hubitat hub.

I lit my stairwell with Lightify strips. We have a ranch style home, so it's fairly well lit, but just wanted something to make it more fun. Since I don't have neutrals I chose to put a motion sensor at the top and bottom of the steps. Then I have it pick a random color when each one is triggered during daylight hours. At night, it lights blue so it's not blinding. Makes it kind've fun. The bottom sensor also triggers on the basement living room lights, so it has two purposes. I have switched outlets, so I choose to use smart bulbs instead so that I can power two off if we're watching a movie.

  1. You don't need neutral at all the switch boxes or no neutral at all depending on the brand of switch you are buying. Just having neutral at least to one box will give you many more buying options.

  2. The only smart switch I know of with motion sensor is GE/Jasco. You can get some pretty decent Zigbee sensors for very reasonable price such as Smartthings, Iris V2 or V3 on eBay.

  3. You sure can stay with z-wave, Zigbee or Lutron Caseta (with the pro hub). They are all working great on Hubitat. I would consider Caseta switches if you have many 3/4 ways circuits in your house because Zigbee and z-wave add on switches are not cheap and a little more complicate on wiring.
    Or you can have smart bulb like @april.brandt.

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Did you come up with a game plan for your steps? Curious what you decided. I always love to read what others are do to overcome obstacles.

Love the strips! Just too fancy for some basement stairs. The actual cost of turning on just one light with motion is starting to become a reality! :grimacing:

I hope I can convince myself that my finger needs a break from manually turning off the lights!

Well here is what I have planned so far...

  1. GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Motion Light Switch, Repeater/Range Extender, 3-Way Compatible, 26931 - $49.50

  2. GE Enbrighten Add On Toggle Z-Wave Zigbee Smart Lighting Controls Switch, 12728 - need 2 at $19.98 each - $39.96

  3. Z-wave Plus Motion Detector, Easy to install with PET Immunity, White (PIRZWAVE2.5-ECO) - extra motion sensor for bottom of the stairs if the GE one at the top of the stairs does not reach motion at the bottom of the stairs - $35.82

  4. The Hubitat hub since this is my first install - $79.99

So, with all the above, I am looking at $205.27 for my first project.
Now I just have to pull the trigger, unless someone else here has some better ideas, prices, devices, etc.


I use the GE/Jasco paddles. I like them. Are you set on Z-wave? There are iris motion sensors, which are zigbee on ebay. You can get 10 of them for 55$. They're very responsive. I have a bunch of them for motion as I use motion in every room for lighting. They've been solid since I added them. They are small enough that they won't draw a lot of attention. I have one on the step at the top of my steps and the second at the bottom stuck to the bottom of the rail pointed down at the step and they work great. They're only like an inch tall. Very small footprint. They have a good detection range as well. Just a thought. the other 8 or 9 could be used in future projects.

Thanks for the suggestion and the link. I will check it out.

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I worry you may not be happy with the Ecolink PIRZWAVE2.5-ECO - I think it's kind of slow. I have one over my carport - it's OK for sensing the car but it doesn't have to react very quickly for that use case. For what you are trying to do you need a quick reacting sensor so someone is not on the staircase in the dark waiting . . .

Also, that Ecolink is kind of large and . . . chunky.

I went with a non smart approach. I set up a 12V motion sensor just above the door at the top of the stairs pointing down. The motion sensor is powered by the same power supply that powers the LED light strip that runs just under the handrail. As soon as the motion detector sees an eyelash, the lights come on as I start down stairs. From the bottom of the stairs, the single motion sensor at the top of the stairs picks up any movement as I get to the stairwell. The lights go off almost immediately I am out of the stairwell. Total cost was about $15.
I have other automations that light up the basement, but the stairwell didn't seem to warrant an HE solution and I wouldn't have had the same instant response for on and off.


Yeah, I think I like April's idea in her post above about using the Iris sensor instead.

I am starting to think I need to take a non-smart approach too, and find another "smart" project to tackle with Hubitat. I really don't need anything special for the stairs, just think a sensor approach to turn on/off the lights in the stairs would be a good idea.

Do you happen to remember the LED light strip and motion sensor that you used?

Here is what I used. A little more than what I paid at the time. I only needed half the led strip but found a few other locations for what was left over. The strip is a white light. I had tried some warm white strips but it just didn't suit lighting a stairwell.