How do Microwave and PIR sensors work?


These motion detectors emit microwave signals and measure the time taken for the signal to be reflected back to the sensor, this is known as the echo time. The echo time is used to calculate the distances from all the stationary objects in the detection zone, to establish a baseline to work from. A person moving into the detection zone causes a disruption in the microwave beam, changing the echo time and triggering the lights.


These sensors detect heat. They do this by measuring the ambient temperature of the room using several detection beams. When a difference in temperature is detected by one of the beams, the sensor is activated, switching on the lights. When all the beams sense the same temperature again, the lights will switch off.

A Comparison

When choosing the best sensor for your application, there are many aspects to take into account.

  PIR Microwave
Sensitivity Under sensitive in higher background temperatures.
Over sensitive in lower temperatures.
Consistent detection over all temperatures.
Coverage 90° 360°
Detection Can be insensitive when walking directly towards the sensor. Can sense movement through walls.



Tri-Sensor PIR

As mentioned above, a standard PIR operates differently at different temperatures, not triggering when it gets hotter but in the colder months triggering for every small, distant, movement.

To combat the PIRs temperature detection fault, Green Lighting developed a PIR sensor with Tri-Sensor Technology. The P-Lux LED Lantern Range, incorporates a sensor that combines a PIR with a thermometer, allowing the lantern to automatically adjust the PIRs sensitivity depending on the ambient temperature.

This, combined with a photocell and the Lux-Up, Lux-Down feature of the P-Lux, makes these lanterns some of the best on the market, functioning perfectly all year round.


Adjustable Microwave Sensors

To combat Microwaves Sensors tendency to be overly sensitive, we have developed a fitting that can be adjusted to suit your personal needs. This Microwave Ceiling Bulkhead has been manufactured so that it can detect movement from any angle from a distance of up to 6m, with a sensitivity which can be adjusted easily with the flick of a switch. This fitting also incorporates a photocell which, thanks to its easily customisable settings, can be altered to react to difference light levels to fit its desired purpose. This fitting has been designed so it is only on when it needs to be, saving energy and, therefore, money for the end user.


  • Hi there hope you can help me,at the moment I have a outside light with a sensor added to it,the sensor is in a ceiling in a porch so no rain can go on keeps going on & off,I’ve adjusted the dusk to dawn to no change.
    All I want is this light to come on when I approach the front door to see the the key hole.
    Can you tell me the best sensor (ceiling one) I need outside please. Thank you Barry

  • I believe I need a Microwave sensor floodlight for the inside of our double garage. The sensor needs to pick up and trigger inside when the up and over door/s start to open, so that they will light the garage to drive into. Previously having tried a PIR sensor light, this would not notice the cold doors opening. Am I correct in my thinking. Also I wish to have the sensor pointed at the doors just inside, but the light shining into the garage in almost opposite direction. I needs to be bright, possibly 50 watt 4-6000 Kelvin, would this work?

    • Hi Malcolm,
      It does sound like a microwave sensor would be the correct choice for you. A microwave sensor should be sensitive enough to pick up the movement of the doors while facing into the garage. You could also use an external microwave sensor and link this to lights in your garage. As for brightness and colour temperature, that will depend entirely on the job itself. I hope this helps.

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