Adding Motion Detectors To Your Home Security System

Installing a security system in your home is a major step towards protecting it against intruders. But giving your home the protection it needs against intruders shouldn't stop here. There are plenty of add-ons and upgrades that can further enhance the effectiveness of your home's security system. Motion detectors are one such upgrade that can bring added peace of mind to you and your family while you're asleep or away from home.

How Motion Detectors Enhance Your Home Security

Most standard security systems rely on contact sensors installed on the door frame or window sill of each potential entry point. When the security system is armed, any attempt to open a wired door or window will disrupt that contact and alert the security system to an intrusion attempt, resulting in the system automatically sounding a high-pitched alarm and notifying the alarm monitoring company. Once an intruder manages to find a way inside without tripping the door or window alarm, however, there's usually no way for the security system to detect that unwanted presence.

Installing a set of motion detectors throughout your home allows your security system to constantly monitor your home for movement or motion. If the motion detector senses movement, it will immediately sound an alarm and send out an alert. Even if an intruder decides to get creative and enter through a hole in the wall or a bypassed window sensor, their presence can still be picked up immediately by the motion detector.

Motion detectors can also be paired to your home lighting system. This allows the motion detectors to automatically turn on some or even all of the lights in your home to deter would-be intruders. Even when the security system is unarmed, motion detectors may save you the trouble of fumbling for a light switch in the middle of the night.

Understanding Your Options

There are two types of motion detectors commonly used with most home security systems: active and passive motion detectors. Active motion detectors actively emit and read different types of energy to detect changes in the immediate environment. Some active motion detectors emit ultrasonic pulses and measure the resulting reflections to gauge movement, while others rely on infrared and microwave technology to detect movement.

Passive motion detectors, on the other hand, aren't capable of emitting energy to detect motion. These devices instead use passive infrared (PIR) technology that can detect heat signatures from human beings and most warm-blooded animals. Some sensors use both passive and active technologies to eliminate margin of error and prevent false alarms from occurring.

Proper Placement is Essential

Placement matters when installing motion detectors. As SafeWise's Hillary Johnston notes, most motion detectors have an effective range of 50 to 80 feet, which means you can cover an entire room as long as the motion detector has an unobstructed view. Each motion detector should be mounted above eye-level on the wall or in a corner of the room.

For maximum effectiveness, you should consider placing your motion detectors in these areas:

  • On the hallway wall near your master bedroom
  • Near potential choke points, including staircases and narrow hallways
  • Inside your basement, especially near the staircase or hallway leading to your home's main level
  • In any second or third-floor bedroom, preferably high up in a corner of the room

If you're installing a motion detector in your living room or dining room, you can use the surrounding décor to your advantage. Placing your motion detector on a mantle and surrounding it with family pictures and mementos can help your detector blend into its environment. Just make sure your keepsakes aren't blocking the motion detector's sight line.