Motion sensors; Choosing the best Plug In Outlets

Posted by

Before the advent of motion sensors, some of us had the most dramatic experiences. We were dawdling and stumbling over stuff late at night just to answer calls of nature. There were groping in the dark, up the stairs as our hands slid along the wall hoping to touch the light switch and not trip over while doing it. What about germs being spread around so easily through the most simple and unnoticeable manner? The touch of a light switch. Dad, mum, you and even kid brother were susceptible to this.

These days, it does not have to be that way. With motion sensors, the days of wandering along shadowed corners of the room in search of flip switches are over. And if you seek a health reason for having a motion sensor, there it is that too! This is because, with motion sensors, you do not need to switch on the light with your hands. In fact, you may not even remember where the switch is located.

Bear in mind that motion sensors are broadly classified into two, viz: wireless motion sensors that make use of batteries and plug-in motion sensors that are powered directly through electrical outlets. We have previously reviewed some of the best wireless motion sensors such as the Aqara motion sensor, Philips Hue motion sensor, Ecobee SmartSensor and the Samsung Smartthings motion sensor.

In this present article, we discuss plug-in motion sensors that are combined with cords to their sensor outlets and others that are plug and play (wireless) — alternatives to battery-powered wireless motion sensors. With several sub-standard and scrap level devices in the market space, getting your hands on the most suitable motion sensor is a tricky task. Our review will help you to select the motion sensor best suited to your needs. 

Motion Sensor Plug-in Outlets; Making the Right Choice

Having a clear and basic grasp of what best suits your home or office with regard to security and comfort is always the start in choosing the right motion sensor. Once you have identified your preference — based on your peculiarity or need —, the next step is to try as much as you can to be sure you can manage or avoid unexpected occurrences that could accompany the choice that you have made. Practically, this means that you should consider carefully, where the sensor will be placed, how frequently the sensor is likely to be used, and the sort of gadgets or devices that the sensor will be connected with. We consider these below:

Compatible Wattage

People commonly use motion sensor plugs and other indoor motion detectors for basic functions, such as to turn the bathroom, bedroom, hallway or kitchen lights on automatically. On the other hand, you can also switch on your smart TV, tea kettle and even a radio device automatically with the right plug-in motion sensor.

If the only thing you are intending to power is a few light bulbs, you do not have to bother yourself about the overall wattage that your motion sensor plug supports. However, if your intention is to connect larger devices to your motion sensor, then it is different. In that case, you must make sure that the plug’s capacity can comfortably handle large amounts of current.

From the higher level, you are likely to have plugs that support wattage for up to and around 360W. This is the cap at least for most domestic usages, except you seek higher power capacity plugs for use on specialized technical equipment.

Also, you have wattage, which is supported at, in and around 250W, when your sensor installations do not have to consider hard wiring.

Performance and Position of Sensor

Your sensor may have to be wired into an outlet, it might also be wired away from the outlet, or it could be run with a wireless connection to the outlet. This all depends on the device that you want to use it with.

In the market, the top wireless sensor outlets can stretch over 100ft of connectivity. At the other end of the market, the units of lower capacity can reach up to 50 feet of connectivity. To make the right choice, you will have to consider two things.

First, you will have to think about where movement will take place, and second, the location from where the sensor can be positioned to pick up motion.

Building sensors into wall sockets are a great way of preventing theft. However, this purpose is totally defeated in a situation where the wall socket is not placed or located in a good position where it can properly detect motion.

A range of around 30 feet detection of motion is what most motion sensors can cover. A motion sensor device’s sensitivity can sometimes be over or a little under, depending on the way it is built. 

In most cases, it is preferable to have a sensor being a tad under-sensitive. The idea is the line between a switch taking an additional second before activating and a needless activation when there is no one actually entering the motion space.

Off-time Adjustability 

Several motion sensor plug-ins do not provide the user with the leisure to make changes to the switch timer. The question then is, “What happens when there is no motion?” If you cannot adjust this timer, the motion sensor off-time ceiling is probably on the high, say, 10 minutes. Moreover, if you can make any changes to this, it might be for power saving – a minute or two minutes timer. Thus, having an option to adjust the sensor off-timer is very important.

Installation Difficulty

We have sensors that are plug and play devices. All you have to do is plug them into an available outlet, and you are all set. Some other motion sensors need to be properly installed on a wall replacing an electrical power socket.

Overall, not one of these kinds of installations are particularly hard to perform, in comparison, some installation difficulties outweigh others. It becomes worse if the instructions available to you are not adequate.

Sensor Build and Appearance

If you are one of those conscious about home decorations, aesthetics are usually one of the things you might consider before purchasing anything to set in your home. However, if your sensor is going to be hung in a closet or shed, the style of the sensor may not influence your choice.

Traditionally, motion sensors are typically manufactured from white matte plastic. This colour, however, can be changed easily by painting or any form of recolouring. In some cases though, they are made of well designed plastic mixed with glass. The colour of these plastics is harder to alter. So, when you want to choose wall socket-based motion sensor plugs, this is one thing you need to put into consideration.

The structural design and size of your motion sensor plug can cause a blockage to other wall sockets. Though this might be caused by both the socket position plus the sensor device, plugging some gadgets into electrical sockets will one way or the other restrict their availability of use by other devices. Have this in mind when choosing a motion sensor.

Plug-in Motion Sensor Versus Wireless Motion Sensors: Which is better?

The main difference between a wireless motion sensor and a plug-in motion sensor is that the plug-in motion sensor has to be connected to a motion sensor outlet whereas batteries power wireless motion sensors.

This would mean that a plug-in motion sensor would have to be mounted close to the motion you want it to detect.

Take note

  • Generally, the plug-in motion sensor is not different from the wireless motion sensor in terms of its basic function, which is to detect motion
  • Plug-in motion sensors generally last longer and are more durable than the wireless motion sensor. They are usually fixated at one spot for a longer period
  • The longest duration that a wireless motion sensor battery will last is 3 years. In some cases, not as long as that due to several technological and scientific reasons. When it comes to plug-in motion sensors, you don’t have to bother about the duration because as long as power is available, your motion sensor will work
  • Plug-in motion sensors are preferred for commercial purposes compared to wireless motion sensors because of their durability, the fact that their pictures are generally sharper and they reach wider ranges than the wireless motion sensors


  • The motion sensor outlet, which the plug-in motion sensor needs, limits their flexibility. This limitation prevents you from mounting the motion sensor just anywhere. It has to be a place where the outlet is located
  • It also means that you will not be able to change the position of the motion sensor at will without considering whether you have another suitable outlet. Time, the motion sensor outlet and the work of repositioning the plug-in motion sensor are some of the things you need to consider should you wish to change the location of a plug-in motion sensor

Whichever way you look at it, plug-in motion sensors are as good as wireless motion sensors. If you want portability and flexibility, wireless motion sensors can serve you. However, for overall performance, durability and longevity, plug-in motion sensors would be your best bet.

Motion Sensor Plug-ins Outlets Examples

1. General Electric (GE) 12751

This is the GE 12751 Wireless Motion-Sensing Light Control Transmitter.

That General Electric makes motion sensors and similar lighting equipment should not be something that will catch anyone off guard. For up to 30 feet, the GE 12751 sensor can detect motion and will be activated with the lights on. When there is no motion after initial detection, the lights will be turned off after ten minutes. Simple.

Further, compared to other plug-in sensor options listed here, the GE 12751 has a provision for greater wattage support and amperage. That is more advantageous to those who want to run several lights.

Structure and Appearance

This is a grounded outlet with the same measurements as that of a standard-sized outlet switch cover.

It requires a standard installation process, which is quite similar to regular wall sockets made by GE.

Take note of the fact that on the receiver, there is only one wall plug. For people who might need double sockets, that is a disadvantage.

Device Performance

You can run a culmination of 360 watts bulbs not above 12A. This simply means that aside from heavy machinery, you will be able to run any device on it.

The motion sensor is battery operated while the receiver is wired. Because of the combination of the two, no extra wiring is required.

When the receiver is plugged into an outlet, its wireless reach can be up to a maximum of 100 feet.

This is a range between the sensor and the power switch. Indoor bulbs and lighting is the ideal use for this.

Extra capabilities

When using the motion sensor outdoors, the GE 12751 is really good. A small matter here though is that the sensor unit is not waterproofed. You can decide to enclose it in some sort of a transparent bag to protect the transmitter from liquid when it is used outside.

Not wanting to use the device outdoors due to its vulnerability to wet weather is an option. However, with a basic protective cover, it would be very good for outdoor use.

2. Westek MLC4BC

The Westek MLC4BC Plug-in Motion Activated Light Control is a combination of a sensor and an outlet in a single device.

Positionally, the sensor can be fixed into a top wall socket and still have a lead to the lower socket. The sensor can perform its function of switching the room lights on from that position.

The Westek MLC4BCis a fairly sized sensor and has the capability of detecting motion within 25 feet in a 100-degree radius.

Structure and Appearance

The dimensions of the MLC4BC are 3.8 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches. It weighs approximately two ounces.

As it were, a classy design is not one of the strengths of the external features of the MLC4BC. Therefore, if you are particular about décor, you may be a little hesitant about using this sensor. On the bright side, you should be able to blend the white texture into a contemporary home. Also, recolouring is an available option.

Among the sensor options listed here, the MLC4BC ranks as the most simple to install. It is a plug-and-play motion sensor. You have no need to fix and wire manually, just plug it into a suitable outlet and you are good to go. However, this also means that the device can be easily carted away if the location it is set up is not secure. Also note that most, if not all portable quick setup devices, unfortunately, have this characteristic of ‘Can be stolen’ easily.

Another beneficial feature of the Westek MLC4BC is that it has a flexible timer setting. Instead of sticking to a one-way setting, the shut-off timer is adjustable to as quick as 1 minute and more if you please.

Extra capabilities

Westek MLC4BC can work easily with incandescent and LED bulbs. Just plug it in and it starts working with these bulbs. However, to use this feature, you must have a wall socket placed in an appropriate position to detect the motion you want it to detect.

Inasmuch as you would not need sensor batteries because the sensor is already attached to a power source (making it more cost-effective), the Westek MLC4BC’s repositioning is also limited.

Overall, the Westek MLC4BC is a very good plug-in motion sensor. Irrespective of the time of day, this sensor is up to it.

3. Westek MLC12BC-4

This is a tweak on the initial MLC4BC.

The concept of Westek MLC12BC-4 Indoor Plug-in Corded Motion Activated Light Control, just as the name suggests, is to turn on or turn off light switches automatically. Its timer’s adjustments are the same as for the MLC4BC. Similarly, there exists at least a 100-degree view radius, and a 25 feet motion detection range. One difference is that the cord of the sensor is 6 feet long. Its length allows it to be plugged into an outlet while positioning it on any flat surface such as a table or shelf.

Structure and Appearance

The dimensions are 3.8 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches. With a bright white style, its design is more aesthetic-pleasing when compared to the original MLC4BC. At 3 inches in height, it has a smaller build, structured around a flat piece making it easier to stand.

The sensor comes with a couple of screw holes situated at the back end, which you can use to mount it. These are the only mounting pieces that come with the sensor. It is light and designed to stand without the need for the screws alternated with taping.

Extra capabilities

The 240W may seem low, especially when directly compared to the General Electric sensor plug. However, 240W is regularly adequate in most domestic scenarios.

It is LED, incandescent and fluorescent bulb compatible and it comes with a one-year warranty, the same as for the MLC4BC.

Comparison and Contrast: Choices of Motion Sensor Plug-in Outlets

For the General Electric 12751 Wireless Motion-Sensing Light Control Transmitter, a wall socket set up is needed. It is not so much work to install this, though to some it is just unwanted stress.

Being a grounded connection, it has a higher electrical current wattage capability than the other sensors listed in these reviews. For those interested in outdoor sensor usage or the need for a greater pull of wattage for their plug, the wide wireless reach of the GE12751 and watt level is a perfect match.

For the Westek MLC4BC, its simple style, build, features and low cost covers its absolute description of a plug and play device. If your outlet is in a good place for a sensor to be placed without the need to detach it, the MLC4BC answers your need.

The MLC12BC-4 is similar to the MLC4BC. Though a notch costlier, its 72 inches cord avails more versatility in the positioning of the sensor. Anyone interested in saving him or herself from wall socket installation and who may not have an appropriately placed socket for motion sensor can tow this tilt.