burglar alarm motion sensor
A motion detector senses a burglar’s movements or heat signature

Home security is like an onion – layered technologies make it harder to reach the center. (And make burglars more likely to cry as each layer unfolds!) Motion sensors, also known as motion detectors, are an excellent and essential level to your home security equation.

Types of Motion Sensors For Home Security

Before we dive into the benefits of motion detectors, let’s just go over the basic types:

Active Infrared Sensors
Active infrared detectors emit a constant electrical signal that uses infrared light (heat) beams that connect to a light detector. If the infrared beams are interrupted, your detector sounds the alarm.

Passive Infrared Detectors 
A passive infrared sensor passively waits for an infrared event. When a heat source, like the human body, passes by, the sensor detects the moving presence and sounds the alarm. These are the most common sensors in home security.

Active Ultrasonic Sensors
Active ultrasonic sensors use high-frequency sound waves (you can’t hear them) that work like a boomerang: These waves are sent out and then return to the sensor, reporting any suspicious interruptions in the sound waves (in other words, a human body obstructing the ultrasonic path).

Passive Ultrasonic Detectors
Instead of actively sending out sound waves, these detectors wait passively for a sound event, like shattering windows. The sound waves emitted by such an occurrence are what triggers a passive ultrasonic detector.

disable motion sensor
Disabling your motion sensors (to get a nighttime glass of water, for example) is as easy as keying in your code

Advantages of Home Security Motion Detectors

Motion sensors are an essential weapon in your home security arsenal. Your house alarm system is a lot harder to breach than Hollywood would have you think – and most prowlers are much less adept than your average blockbuster burglar – but still, layered security promises added peace of mind when it comes to your family’s safety.

The sole purpose of a motion sensor – and its biggest benefit – is providing further security against burglars. If your alarm system is somehow breached without alerting you to an open door or window, your motion detectors will sense your intruder and sound the alarm. This gives you time to reach safety while your alarm company calls for police assistance.

And as for the oft-touted disadvantages, well, they’re mostly bad memories of sensors past. Today’s motion-sensing technology is very advanced, so you no longer have to worry about false alarms from small or medium pets. They’re also easily disabled, so you can get up for a glass of warm milk in the middle of the night.

motion detector area
Motion detectors can cover almost the entire area of a room

A Note on Motion Sensing Lights

Putting lights on a motion sensor is a very simple and effective – not to mention inexpensive – way to secure your property. You can place flood lights, garden lights, your front entrance light, and other outdoor lighting on motion sensors. Many indoor/outdoor motion sensor lights can be easily installed on your own (DIY).

Motion-sensing lights provide several benefits:

  • Reduce Crime: Statistics show that well-lit communities have lower crime rates than neighborhoods with poor lighting.
  • No Place to Hide: When the exterior of your home is well lit, would-be burglars have no place to lurk or hide.
  • Warning Signs: If your flood lights suddenly go on, it’ll give you the chance to investigate or call the police.  

Top 5 Highest Rated Motion detectors

1. Honeywell Ademco AURORA PIR Motion Sensor
This sensor has entirely silent relay operation, is pet Immune up to 40 pounds, and features Split-Zone Optics technology

2. DT7235T DUAL TEC Motion Sensor
This sensor has reliable detection with 100 lb. Animal Immunity, patented false alarm prevention features, and is fast and simple installation without adjustments.

3. Leviton ODC0S-I1W Self-Contained Ceiling-Mount Occupancy Sensor
This sensor has an impressive 360 degrees field of view with approximately 530 sq. ft. of coverage when mounted at 8 ft., adjustable delayed OFF time setting between 20 seconds and 15 minutes to allow custom adjustment, and resilient operating temperature of anywhere between 32-122 Degrees F.

4. Skylink PS-434A Motion Sensor
This sensor is a reliable and easy-to-install model, featuring a large motion detecting range of a 40 feet by 110 degree arc, and false alarm prevention technology.

5. RAB Lighting STL200W Stealth Sensor
This sensor is a more advanced device due to its having additional features that many other motion sensors don’t have such as temperature compensation, radio frequency immunity, 6000 volt surge protection, 200 degrees detection pattern, and full adjustability for 24 hour operation or custom applications.

How a Motion Detector Alarm Works

Motion detectors may be either hardwired or wireless and run by batteries, so are easily added to an existing home security system. Though they can be used in many different ways, they work by covering what are known as “zones” inside and outside the home. As soon as it detects movement, it will trigger the alarm. A motion sensor doesn’t have to be the type that triggers a home security system alarm, however. There are varying degrees of simplicity and complexity. They may be connected to outdoor floodlights as a deterrent to an approaching intruder, or they may be connected to a bathroom or stairwell light programmed to turn on for the safety of family members.

Different Types of Motion Sensors

  • Passive infrared sensors detect heat from a person’s body, so while it won’t detect falling leaves, it will detect a pet or critter
  • Ultrasonic motion detectors send out ultrasonic pulses that measure the reflection of anything moving
  • Microwave motion detectors send out a constant flow of microwaves that bounce off objects in their path. Effective, but easily triggered
  • Dual technology motion detectors combine two different types of sensors so they reduce false triggers
  • Pet immune motion sensors accommodate pets without setting off the alarm
  • Ceiling mount motion detectors have a better “view,” less likely to be blocked by furniture or other large items

How to Choose a Motion Sensor Alarm

With so many types of motion sensor available and so many options, it’s important to determine the specific requirements of your property, home, and family. Regardless of which type you choose, don’t skimp on the number of detectors you purchase. Walk through and around the home looking for any vulnerable spot that would benefit from motion detection. Before your purchase keep these points in mind:

  • Motion detectors do not have to be expensive. Expect to pay as low as $20 or as much as $150+
  • Be sure the type of detector is suited to your home and property in terms of pets and other trigger factors
  • A night feature is programmed to only be active at night—useful when connected to a light.
  • Will the motion detector connect to your home security alarm system?

Who are Motion Sensors for?

Because they are so versatile, motion detectors will benefit any homeowner. You should consider one if:

  • You want the added layer of security motion detection brings to your home security system
  • You want the built in safety light provides in potentially dangerous places like stairwells and bathrooms
  • You want to save energy by having a motion detector activate the thermostat, lights, or appliances

More Safety Solutions for Kids and Families: