What is the Difference Between Occupancy and Vacancy Sensor

The vacancy and Occupancy detectors function as motion sensor detectors, which turn on the light when someone is in the room and turn it off when no one is present to conserve energy and to provide convenience. They are among the most widely used and important lighting control systems.

What Are Vacancy And Occupancy Sensors?

Vacancy Sensor

Vacancy sensors require people to turn on the lights manually, and they will turn them off automatically the moment they detect there is nobody in the room.  

Due to their features, vacancy sensors are often referred to as manual-on, auto-off sensors. In comparison with occupancy sensors, vacancy sensors are more energy-efficient since an individual must manually turn on the light, which means the light will remain off for most of the day and there will be no false-ons caused by motion.

Features Of Vacancy Sensors:

  • There is a 20/30-minute maximum time delay.
  • A visible signal to indicate occupancy detection and the sensors are working properly.
  • If the sensor times out, automatic lighting will begin to turn on after a 15–30 second grace period
  • After the time delay, allow a 20-30 second window to confirm the vacancy, and then turn on the lights automatically, this prevents false-OFFs due to time delays that expire.

Occupancy Sensor

It automatically turns on the lights when it detects the presence of a person in its field of detection and turns the lights off when no person is present. A feature of occupancy sensors is that they automatically turn on and turn off when occupancy is detected. It can be programmed to turn on or off only part of the lights during occupancy. Lighting guidelines call this strategy Partial ON/Partial OFF control.

Features Of Occupancy Sensor:

  • There is a maximum time delay of 20~30 minutes.
  • There will be a visible indication when the sensor is functioning correctly and capturing movements.
  • An override button allows the light to be turned off regardless of motion detection.

What Are The Difference Between Occupancy And Vacancy sensor?


  • An occupancy sensor’s greatest advantage is its capability of automatically turning on the lights when motion is detected within its range. It is a very useful tool in lighting exteriors for increased security, as well as many other useful purposes inside the house.
  • Occupancy sensors also have the advantage of being energy-efficient. You can install such low voltage devices in on-wall junction boxes or mounted on ceilings, and this can be very effective in reducing energy consumption because lights can be automatically turned off as soon as occupancy is no longer detected for a period of time.
  • Occupancy sensors are ideal for basements, garages, rec rooms, bathrooms, and sometimes even kitchens. The problem with these types of spaces is that people are prone to walking into these areas with lots of things on their hands, which makes turning on the lights difficult, and when they exit the room, the dilemma is the same. As well as being active spaces, these spaces are also interactive ones. In this way, if you present in the room, the lights won’t switch off.
  •  As there are so many benefits, installing occupancy detectors at every light switch in your home or office may not seem a bad idea at all. However, don’t rush into this decision because you may immediately realize that it may be more of an inconvenience than a benefit in some cases. This may be confusing to you, so let’s take a look at some examples.
  • It is apparent that some common rooms have been omitted from this list. Rooms include TV rooms, bedrooms, and common areas with pets. The installation of vacancy detectors in these areas might be a better choice than occupancy detectors.
  • One of the key differences between an occupancy detection device and a vacancy sensor is their activation method. There are switches on each light fixture that detect when the room is unoccupied and turn off the lights, but the occupancy detector is the only one that automatically turns them on.
  • When you use a vacancy detector, you can choose not to have the lights turned on automatically as you enter defensible areas, they will remain off unless you activate them manually. A bedroom is a good place for this because you don’t have to wake anyone up when someone enters the room, or the lights won’t be turned on when somebody rolls over on the bed.
  • In kid’s bedrooms, where children often keep the lights on constantly, a vacancy detection device will prove to be particularly useful as a way to conserve energy. For the same reason, occupancy detectors are not the ideal choice in TV rooms.
  • In the case of a light switch that controls overhead light that may not be desirable when watching television, for example, it will prevent the lights from turning on when somebody enters the room or when you go to get something. The only case in which occupancy detection devices may be an issue is when there are pets in the home. Occupancy detectors can be activated by animals. The energy consumption in the common areas at night might be excessive if pets or people roam the area at night.
  • It is sometimes an excellent idea to install occupancy detectors in kitchens, as was previously mentioned. It depends entirely on the kitchen where it is situated in the home’s layout, as well as how other spaces might intersect with the kitchen. With open floor plans, particularly if the kitchen functions as a common space, a vacancy detection system is a good idea, especially for pet owners. If the kitchen is located in a different space from other rooms in the house, then an occupancy detector would be a good choice, especially if the rooms have a limited amount of natural light. Having the occupancy detection lights helps you find your way soon after you enter the store with groceries in hand. By combining an occupancy detector switch with LED lights under the cabinet, you will be able to enhance the functionality of the space and add a touch of modern luxury.


Taking all factors into consideration, the consumer can make an informed decision about which rooms are appropriate for occupancy sensors, which might be better suited for vacancy sensors. Several companies make occupancy-detecting wall switches that can be transformed into vacancy sensors as an optional feature. It is impossible to misunderstand these devices, since users can select, after installation, the function that is most suited to their needs.

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