The Complete Guide for Novices to Motion Sensors

Motion sensors are an important addition to any home security system. They can detect when someone is in your home or near your property and can provide you with peace of mind. If you’re thinking about installing a motion sensor in your home, here’s everything you need to know.

What are motion sensors?

An electrical device that is intended to detect and quantify movement is referred to as a motion sensor (also known as a motion detector). Although motion sensors are most commonly found in security systems for homes and businesses, you can also find them in other electronic devices such as phones, paper towel dispensers, game consoles, and virtual reality systems.

Motion sensors are often embedded systems that consist of three key components: a sensor unit, an embedded computer, and hardware. This is in contrast to the majority of other kinds of sensors, which can be held in one’s hand and are independent of one another (or the mechanical component).

Motion sensors can be configured to perform a wide variety of specialized tasks, and as a result, these three components can range in size and arrangement. Motion sensors, for instance, can be utilized to turn on floodlights, set off audio alarms, activate switches, and even call the police.

What role do motion sensors play in making a home safe?

The most important function of motion detection is to identify suspicious activity and trigger an alarm to be sent to the control panel, which then notifies the monitoring center.

The sensors start doing their work either when you tell the system that you are not at home or when you tell them that you are not at home yourself. Some security systems can even be programmed to record activities using a security camera if motion is detected in the area.

Motion sensors keep watch and are prepared to respond to a variety of events, such as the presence of movement in your living room, the opening or closing of windows or doors, or the shattering of a window.

The following is a list of some popular applications for motion sensors:

  • Notify you in case your teen is out beyond their bedtime.
  • Ring the doorbell automatically whenever someone approaches the entrance.
  • Notify you if your children enter any of the restricted locations in your home, such as the medicine cabinet, the fitness room, or the basement.
  • Use lighting with motion sensors in empty areas to cut down on your energy consumption.
  • Notify you immediately if your dogs enter restricted places that they are not permitted to be in.

Types of motion sensors

Passive infrared (PIR)


Passive infrared (PIR) Indoor
Passive infrared (PIR) Indoor
Passive infrared (PIR) Outdoor
Passive infrared (PIR) Outdoor

By monitoring shifts in temperature, a passive infrared sensor can determine the presence of body heat (also known as infrared energy). This motion sensor is the one that is utilized in home security systems more frequently than any other. When you arm your security system, this triggers the motion sensors so that they may report any potential dangers.

As soon as the PIR motion sensor has warmed up, it will be able to detect heat and motion in the areas surrounding it, thereby establishing a protective “grid.” An alarm will be sounded by the infrared sensor if a moving object blocks an excessive number of grid zones at the same time as the levels of infrared energy fluctuate rapidly.

Microwave (MW)

ENERLITES Low Voltage Ceiling Sensor Pir Occupancy Motion Detector
ENERLITES Low Voltage Ceiling Sensor Pir Occupancy Motion Detector

This kind of sensor broadcasts microwave pulses into the environment and then measures the reflections that it receives from moving objects. They are more expensive and more susceptible to electrical interference than infrared sensors, but they cover a broader area than those sensors.

Dual technology motion sensors

Dual technology motion sensors
Dual technology motion sensors

In an effort to cut down on the number of false positives, certain motion sensors can integrate various detecting algorithms. An example of this would be the combination of a passive infrared (PIR) sensor and a microwave sensor in a dual technology sensor. Such a combination is not uncommon.

Each variety of sensor operates in a distinct portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (ranging from passive to active). As opposed to other types of motion sensors, dual technology motion sensors have a lower risk of producing a false alarm because an alarm can only be triggered if both of the sensors have been tripped. Having said that, this does not mean that they do not occasionally trigger false alarms.

Types of motion detectors that are not as common

  • Area reflective sensors use an LED to send out infrared rays, which are then reflected by the person or object to measure how far away it is. This lets the subject be found when it moves within the area.
Area reflective sensors
Area reflective sensors
  • Pulses of ultrasonic waves are used by ultrasonic motion sensors to measure the reflections off of things that are moving.
Ultrasonic motion sensors
Ultrasonic motion sensors
  • Vibration motion sensors can pick up on the small vibrations that people make as they move through a room. You can buy them, but it’s also easy to make them at home. A small mass on a lever is used to make a homemade vibration sensor. When the mass moves, it turns on an alarm switch. Motion sensors you make yourself can work, but they aren’t always reliable.
Vibration motion sensors
Vibration motion sensors

Specialized motion sensors

GE Personal Security Window and Door Alarm

GE Personal Security Window and Door Alarm
GE Personal Security Window and Door Alarm

Contact sensors are a key component of any home security system. These devices use a magnet to detect any movement on the doors or windows of the house. When these sensors and magnets move apart, an alarm will be triggered, alerting you to potential intruders. Because their operation is based on simple physics principles, these devices are fast and easy to use, making them a popular choice for homeowners everywhere.

Additionally, GE has created some great models of personal security contact sensors that come equipped with advanced features like opt-out technology and pulsed sine wave signaling for optimal convenience and reliability.

Whether you’re looking for a basic sensor for your front door or one with additional functionality for other entry points around your property, contact sensors are a must-have for any homeowner looking to keep their home safe and secure.

Pet-immune motion sensors

Pet-immune motion sensors
Pet-immune motion sensors

Pet-immune motion sensors are extremely useful tools for detecting potential threats in the home or workplace. These sensors rely on a passive infrared (PIR) technology that can accurately detect people and other moving objects by using a network of heat-sensitive elements.

Generally, most PIR sensors are capable of ignoring animals up to a certain weight, making them quite pet-friendly. However, for those who have particularly larger or more active pets, a dual technology motion sensor may be a better option. This type of sensor uses both PIR and microwave technology to make its detection more accurate and less prone to false alarms.

Thus, if you want to ensure that your home or workplace is protected from unwanted intruders without having to worry about false alarms caused by animals, then a pet-immune motion sensor is definitely the way to go.

Adjustable sensitivity
The sensitivity of some pet-resistant motion sensors may be adjusted, making them suitable for use in households with active animals.

Video motion sensors

Video motion sensors
Video motion sensors

Today’s security cameras use advanced signal processing algorithms to detect and record movement. These video motion sensors are able to differentiate between normal activity, like people or animals passing by or walking around inside a house, and true motion caused by suspicious activities.

By only recording when they sense motion, these cameras can save on memory storage by not needing to keep footage of times when nothing is going on.

Additionally, this technology allows users to quickly locate footage of important events and review them immediately, in order to identify potential threats and take any necessary action.

Overall, advanced signal processing makes modern security cameras an essential tool for keeping homes and businesses safe from harm.

Where to place motion sensors?

Where to place motion sensors
Where to place motion sensors

Motion sensors have the ability to set off alarms and then direct the home security feed to the location at where the alarm was set off. Using these helpful hints as a guide, take the time to carefully plan out the location of the motion sensors in your home.

The following are the locations where your motion detectors will be most effective:

  • Those Tucked Away Spots

Install a motion detector at the four corners of each room, pointing it in the direction of the entrance. Because of this, there will be no way for someone to enter without accidentally setting off the alarm.

  • Near Valuables

Install motion sensors so that they are pointed straight at your most valuable possessions. Nobody will be able to approach them without your knowledge, and you won’t let it happen on purpose.

  • Outside Patios

It is a good idea to install a motion sensor on the patio that is located outside of your house if you have one. You will be alerted as soon as someone approaches the back door if you are paying attention.

  • Second Floor Bedrooms

Even if you believe that a thief would have no way of entering your home on the second story, it is still a good idea to install motion detectors close to the sleeping areas of your property. If someone comes close to you while you’re sleeping, the alarm will wake you up immediately.

  • Basements

It would be smart to have a number of sensors positioned down in that area. If you have a lot of clutter, you should make sure that the items are stored in a location where they won’t get in the way of anything. Consider putting one in close proximity to the stairway that leads upstairs.

  • Ceilings

An intruder may already be hunting for motion detectors when they enter the property after they have broken in. The ceiling is an excellent location that they would not glance in right away. Because sensors can detect movement from any angle, this is an excellent strategy for preventing thieves from readily dodging detection.

  • Throughout the Decorations

Making motion detectors look like they are part of your home’s decor is an excellent strategy for concealing them. Hide them among your photos and other trinkets so that they won’t be so easy for potential intruders to find.

The Positions That Are the Least Effective:

  • Close to the windows

This is a terrible spot for two different reasons. The first issue is those motion sensors that are activated by heat can become confused when exposed to direct sunshine. The second thing is that the sensor is most effective when an intruder walks perpendicular to them rather than directly in front of them.

  • Close to sources of heat

It is a good idea to keep motion sensors away from hot air vents and radiators because there is a possibility that a heat source could cause a false alert to be triggered. The alarm could be set off by any shift in the level of infrared heat.

How to install motion sensors?

How to install motion sensors

When it comes to installation, do-it-yourselfers have it easier than they ever had before because to the increasing prevalence of wireless motion sensors. Installing a motion sensor only requires the use of a screwdriver, which most people are already familiar with. When installed properly, motion detectors provide excellent coverage, which helps reduce the likelihood of false alarms being triggered.

  • Unbox your motion detector

Instructions and mounting hardware need to be included in the package you purchased for your motion sensor. If your gadget needs additional batteries, now is the moment to insert them into the motion sensor.

  • Pick a place to hold the event.

Before you put your motion detector, you need to think about the optimal sensor placement in the following situations:

Because you can arrange infrared sensors to cover the most ground possible in corners, this makes them an ideal site. The majority of motion sensor designs feature slanted edges and screw holes, allowing them to be installed neatly in the corner of a room.
Mounting your motion detector high on the wall will provide the most coverage; however, you should avoid positioning it directly above a large piece of furniture, such as a bookshelf or entertainment center, since this will restrict the range of the detector’s passive infrared energy.
Mount your motion detector such that it faces the main door. This should be done in every room and corridor where you have motion detectors so that they can detect intruders as soon as they enter the building.

  • Secure the sensor in place.

Because passive infrared sensors are so lightweight, you won’t need to bother about attaching them to studs or drywall anchors. A regular screwdriver should be sufficient for the job, but an electric screwdriver or drill will make the operation go much more quickly.

The majority of motion detectors feature a mounting bracket that can be removed from the main body of the device. This allows the mounting bracket to be first screwed into the wall, and then the motion sensor can be clipped back into place. Taking the motion detector off the wall for maintenance purposes will also be simplified as a result of this change. Mounting some types of infrared sensors may call for the complete disassembly of the device.

  • Connect your sensor to your system

To properly connect your motion sensor to your system, the instructions provided by the manufacturer should be followed. The majority of do-it-yourself systems will lead you through this process step by step, and most of the time, you will use the main keypad or a mobile app to set up and configure your motion detectors.

You may connect smart motion detectors, such as the Z-Wave powered Aeotec TriSensor (around $45), to lights and other smart devices by way of a smart hub, such as SmartThings, so that a light goes on whenever there is motion in the area. You can also use the app that comes with the smart hub to arrange motion alerts to be sent to your mobile devices at specific periods of the day or night if there is movement during those hours.

  • Make necessary adjustments to the settings for your motion detector

When you arm your security system, the majority of motion detectors have three primary settings:

When the mode is set to instant, any motion will cause the alarm to go off.
In the setting known as entrance delay, the sensor works on a delay, so even if it does detect motion, you have approximately thirty to sixty seconds to disable the security system before it sounds an alarm.

The interior follow-up mode works on an entrance delay, but only when the door contact triggers first. However, the alarm will sound immediately if it detects motion inside the home even if the door contact has not been activated.

  • Maintain your motion detector

It’s possible that over time, dust and other particles could accumulate on the screen of your motion sensor. This will cause interference with the infrared energy, which will make the sensor less effective at detecting motion. A microfiber cloth, either dry or slightly dampened, should be used to clean it at least once every couple of months.

Be sure to take the motion sensor off the wall before you paint it if you plan on painting a wall that is close to it. It is necessary to replace a passive infrared motion sensor if it becomes contaminated with any paint.

Additional installation tips

Additional installation tips
Additional installation tips
  • Pet size matters

Motion sensors that claim to be immune to the effects of pets may only avoid false alarms when they are used appropriately, and even then, there are several circumstances in which they may still do so.

A great number of pet immune sensors employ ratings that are tied to an animal’s weight; yet, even little pets are capable of setting them off with sufficient verticality. It’s possible that your pet could accidentally trigger the security system since they prefer to work on their vertical leap.

This is of the utmost importance if there are active sensors located in close proximity to a stairwell. Your pet may be mistaken for a mouse by the sensor at the foot of the stairs; but, by the time your pet reaches the top of the steps, the sensor may recognize your pet as an elephant.

  • Overhangs decrease range

When placing LED motion sensor lights or cameras outside, bear in mind that installing them under an overhang (such as a carport) can restrict their range. This is something to keep in mind when making your installation decisions.

In the same way that your field of vision narrows when you wear a hat with a brim or visor, an overhang can impede the motion detector light’s 180-degree sensing angle, changing it into a 90-degree sensing angle. This has the same effect as wearing a hat with a visor.

  • Avoid creating a barrier for the infrared.

Motion detectors are similar to flashlights in that they emit a beam of light; however, rather than using light waves, motion sensors use motion-detecting infrared energy waves. In the same manner that the light is brighter closer to the bulb, the infrared radiation is denser closer to the gadget, and it becomes less concentrated as it moves further away.

The waves emitted by a motion detector are unable to pass through solid things like walls or other pieces of furniture. When you are installing your motion sensor, picture it as a light that is mounted on the wall. Everything that casts a shadow as a result of the position of that light has the potential to obstruct the motion sensor’s capacity to cover the region that is cast in shadow.

  • There are variations in the quality of motion-detecting light switches.

It is important to keep in mind that not all motion-detection light switches operate in the same way while shopping for motion-sensing light switches designed for usage inside.

When someone enters a room, an occupancy sensor will turn on by itself and will turn off again when that person leaves the room.

  • You have to manually activate a vacancy sensor in order for it to turn out the lights when it detects that a room is vacant.
  • Lights can be turned on at a variety of different intensities using dimmable sensors, which can be programmed to do so.
  • You have the ability to select the motion sensor light switch that is most suitable for your needs thanks to manufacturers such as Lutron that produce these switches.

Benefits of Motion Sensors

  1. Motion sensors are the most effective component of a home security alarm system, therefore installing them in your house should be your top priority if you are truly concerned about the safety of your family and belongings at home.
  2. The majority of home security systems are not nearly as effective as they need to be to deter criminals from breaking into a home.
  3. The installation of motion sensors is the most effective approach to protect your home from being broken into and to make it more secure overall.
  4. The installation of a motion sensor serves no other purpose, and its primary advantage is that it offers a higher level of protection for your home from criminals and other unwanted visitors.
  5. If the motion sensors detect any odd activity, they will sound an alarm. This is the most effective method for securing your house.

FAQs about motion sensors

What are the 3 settings on a motion sensor light?

At its most basic level, a motion sensor light has three settings: sensitivity, timer, and lux. These settings determine how sensitive the light is to movement, how long it will stay on after detecting movement, and what level of darkness the light will turn on in.

The sensitivity setting determines how quickly the light turns on when movement is detected. A low-sensitivity setting means that the light will only turn on in very dim conditions, while a high-sensitivity setting results in a quicker transition.

The timer setting controls how long the light stays on after movement is detected. With this setting, you can choose a duration anywhere from a few seconds to as long as several minutes. This can be useful if you want to watch over your property or else simply have enough time to safely leave the area.

Finally, the lux setting determines what amount of ambient light triggers the sensor. A low lux level prompts the sensor even in bright conditions, while a higher lux level only turns on in very dark areas. This allows you to configure your motions sensor according to your specific needs and preferences. Whether you want maximum security at night or simply need some extra lighting for safety reasons, a motion sensor light with these versatile settings makes it easy to get just what you need.

What are motion sensors used for?

Motion sensors are a frequent component of home security systems, where they serve the purpose of notifying the homeowner (or the security company’s expert monitors) when someone is in the vicinity of the property. Motion sensors also have some cool applications in the commercial sector.

  • A siren or alarm system can be activated by an outdoor motion sensor, which can scare away anyone who is not authorized to be there. You can protect your children from putting themselves in harm’s way by installing motion detectors next to potentially hazardous areas such as swimming pools and tool sheds.
  • When someone comes to your house, whether it be a delivery person or a visitor, a video doorbell camera that has an integrated motion detector can let you know.
  • If you have an interior camera equipped with a motion sensor, it can start filming adorable moments with your pets or alert you if your kid climbs out of their crib.
  • Some dashboard cameras also have motion detectors that will start recording whenever another vehicle comes within a certain distance of your parked car.

The only limit is the sky! If you are not employing the motion sensors to detect a break-in or another risky scenario, you should stick to self-monitoring motion sensors.

When it comes to adding motion sensors to outdoor lights, there are a few important steps that you need to follow. To get started, you will need to pick out a quality motion sensor kit online that is compatible with your existing light. Once you have your kit, you should make sure that the light has an opening where you can securely screw in the sensor. Then, you will need to turn off the power to the light and remove its cover so that you can access the wiring inside.

Once you have removed the insert and exposed the wires, it’s time to run the cables into your existing light. You may need to use splicing connectors or other tools in order to ensure a secure connection. Finally, once all of your wires are connected, you can adjust the motion sensor settings depending on your preferences and needs. Whether lowering or raising the sensitivity threshold or simply setting a timer for when you want your lights to turn on and off, taking these steps will help ensure that your new motion-activated lighting system works seamlessly and provides added safety and security for your home or property.

What loop should the motion detector be on?

There is no single answer to the question of what loop a motion detector should be on. The type and configuration of the detector, as well as the specific programming settings used, all have an important impact on how the sensor functions.

In general, loop 1 is typically considered the default setting for most wireless motion detectors. This is because it is the route that provides users with access to the widest range of features and settings. For example, when set to loop 1, controllers can adjust things like sensitivity levels and pet immunity settings depending on their specific needs.

However, there may also be cases where it makes sense to use a different loop setting for certain motion detectors. For example, if there are particular areas or spaces that are prone to high levels of noise or other interference, using loop 2 may be necessary in order to ensure reliable detection of movement in these spaces. Similarly, some advanced features may require a sensor to be programed as loop 2 in order to enable them.

Whether you are new to using motion detectors or a seasoned expert, it is important to understand how different settings and features affect performance in order to make informed decisions that will keep your home or facility safe and secure. So if you’re unsure about which loop you should use for your motion detector, do some research or talk with an expert in order to make an informed choice that’s right for you.

A motion sensor is a device that is used to detect movement in an area and trigger a corresponding reaction. Typically, motion sensors are wired with four wires to help facilitate communication between the sensor and other systems or devices.
These wires can be arranged in various ways depending on the application, but most use a combination of Normally Closed (NC) wiring as well as series wiring. The two power wires go directly to the electrical control panel, or ECP bus, which powers the entire system. The data wires carry information about the motion detected by the sensor and allow the system to respond accordingly.
Overall, motion sensors are an essential component of many security systems and other automated devices, thanks to their precise and reliable features.


Motion sensors are vital to a security system. Intruders can’t be detected without sensors.

Our tutorial should have taught you the role of motion sensors in home security, the various motion-detecting technologies, and how to install them effectively. For help researching home security systems, see our post.

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