Home & Safety Preparedness | Motion Detectors

Motion Detectors: Added Safety for Your Home

It is important to be aware of what is going on both in and around your home. There are many ways to help make yourself and your family feel safer; one option is to use motion detectors. They are designed to detect movement in a particular area and send a signal to the device’s control panel, alerting you to a potential problem. Although motion detectors are most commonly used to send a warning when a door or window is opened, closed, or broken or if there is unexpected movement inside the home, they can do more than protect you from a home invasion. Motion detectors can also be used to save energy and provide hands-free lighting; notify you if children enter an area to which you do not want them to have access, such as a medicine cabinet; and alert you if your pet is in a restricted area.

Types of Motion Detectors

There are two kinds of motion detectors: passive sensors and active sensors.

  • Passive sensors work by detecting changes in energy in a particular location; they do not emit energy themselves.
  • Active sensors emit energy in the form of infrared light, sound waves, or microwave radiation that senses motion in an area.

The majority of motion detectors on the market today are wireless and do not require drilling into a wall to install. Instead, they communicate wirelessly with the other components of a security system.

Dual Technology Sensors

In addition to sensing movement, motion detectors can be coupled with other kinds of technology to offer advanced protection. Here are a few examples:

Motion-sensor lights: These motion detectors can be used either indoors or outdoors. When used for outdoor use, motion-sensor lights turn on automatically when someone walks into a designated area outside of your home. Although they could frighten away an intruder, they also come in handy for homeowners who are looking to save money on their electricity bills, as they can provide light to an area only when needed, rather than having to leave the light on all night, for example. Motion-sensor lights are made for indoor use as well, where they can be programmed to make it seem as if the homeowner is present.

Motion-sensor cameras: To avoid having to scroll through hours of uneventful footage, motion-sensor cameras can be programmed to record only when movement is actually detected. In many models, you can have text messages or email alerts automatically sent to you when motion is detected. It may also be possible to see the footage remotely via a smartphone or other device.

Motion-sensor alerts: Catching a thief in the act is only one of the many uses of motion detectors. If text messages or email alerts are programmable in your equipment, you can install motion detectors in areas where you do not want your children to be, for example, liquor cabinets and wine cellars, gun safes, medicine cabinets, or other areas. If someone tries to have access to those areas, an alert is triggered.

Motion-sensor response: Motion detectors can be programmed to have an alarm go off, but there are also other responses to choose from, such as a barking dog. These “fake dog” alarms could be set up near a door or garage to scare off burglars.

Depending on your needs and the kind of equipment you buy, motion detectors can also be set up to be triggered when a door or window is opened. If you have a pet, some motion detectors can ignore animals under a certain weight, so fewer false alarms would occur.

Installation Tips

While many people opt to have their motion detectors professionally installed, you may want to connect the equipment yourself. If so, be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You may also be able to call a customer service representative to help walk you through the process. Here are a few general tips to consider when setting up your equipment:

  • Passive infrared sensors, which detect body heat and are the most common type of motion sensor, should be placed at least 10 to 15 feet away from heat sources, including areas that receive a lot of direct sunlight.
  • Areas of your home where people must travel through regardless of where they are headed, such as stairwells, are good spots to locate motion detectors. Thieves often head for master bedrooms when they break into a home because valuables are often stored there. If a thief would need to pass through a main hallway to get there, that may be a good spot for the motion detector. Other areas include first floor windows, back doors, garage doors, and entryways off of patios or decks.
  • For the best results, it is recommended that motion detectors be placed parallel to where an intruder would walk—not head on.
  • Keep in mind that the higher the motion detector is mounted, the larger the detection area it covers.

Remember that although motion detectors can be important components to your home’s security system, they are not foolproof, and there can be false alarms. User error, power outages or surges, as well as tree branches, insects, foliage, and even curtains can all trigger false alarms. Motion detectors have a wide variety of uses, so do your research before deciding which type best suits your needs.


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