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Best Motion Sensors

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 66 Models Considered
  • 42 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 184 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best motion sensors

    Last Updated August 2018

    Motion sensors in and around your home are a great way to beef up your home’s security system. Motion sensors can also keep track of the comings and goings of family members, and can be used to enable and control lighting automatically.

    Finding the right motion sensor for your needs may feel like an overwhelming process, considering the number of options available. BestReviews is here to help you make the best buying decision possible. We’ve put together this shopping guide to help you decide on the best motion sensor to suit your needs.

    We’ve also received a bit of help from our expert Bill, an engineer and DIY-pro, to ensure that we provide you the best advice for selecting motion sensors for your home.

    Once you’ve taken all the information in, feel free to scroll back up to the top of the page to take a peek at our top-five picks.

    Some motion sensors can make different noises when people approach. Some even mimic a dog to drive away intruders.

    Types of motion sensors

    There are various types of motion sensors on the market. Your needs will dictate which type is best for you and your unique situation.

    Passive infrared

    This is one of the most common types of motion sensors. Passive Infrared sensors use body heat to detect movement and potential intruders.

    Infrared is useful for monitoring large areas, and is sensitive enough to detect movement.

    Microwave

    This type of motion sensor detects movement from a distance by using microwaves fill a target area.

    The sensor monitors the frequency of the reflected waves. Intrusion by a moving object alters these frequencies, triggering an alarm.

    The biggest drawback to microwave motion sensors is that they’re prone to false alarms.

    Motion-Detecting Socket

    The First Alert PIR725 Motion Sensing Light Socket is a hands-free device for the inside of homes and businesses. This sensor automatically turns on the light when someone enters a room and turns it off after the person leaves. The device is installed into an existing light socket and the bulb is screwed into the fixture. Some owners tell us that the motion sensor works best in rooms with relatively low ceilings. This technology is also a great addition to dark rooms and spaces, such as closets and basements.

    Combined microwave and infrared

    Some motion sensors utilize a two-step process for detection that includes both passive infrared and microwave technologies.

    The double-step verification process reduces the chance of false alarms.

    Vibration

    This type of sensor is activated by the vibrations that occur due to movement.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Many motion sensors are advertised as “pet immune,” which means they won’t go off if movement is under a certain size, weight, or shape.

    Ultrasonic

    Another type of motion sensor that uses waves to detect the presence of moving objects or people. In this case, sound waves are used.

    This type of detector is prone to false alarms and is not appropriate for those living in busy metropolitan areas, or other places with a lot of outdoor noise.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you need an outdoor unit, make sure you purchase a motion sensor that can handle the elements and won’t go off if a tree or branch flies by.


    Considerations when selecting a motion sensor

    Here are the primary considerations when deciding on the right motion sensors for your home.

    Smart capabilities

    If monitoring your home via a smartphone is important to you, make sure your chosen motion sensor has smart capabilities and app integration.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you can find an unobstructed view, room corners are a great place to install motion sensors.

    Power source

    Motion sensors are hardwired to the main electric supply, or require the use of batteries. Either option has advantages and disadvantages.

    You will need to change batteries every so often, which can be tedious.

    You don’t need to worry about hardwired sensors failing without a battery change, but an electrician may be required for installation.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    It’s best to keep sensors away from vents or air conditions units, because air blown from these can cause false alarms.

    Range

    Different types of motion sensors are capable of detecting intruders and movement at different ranges.

    Passive infrared and microwave detectors are particularly good at monitoring larger areas.

    Placement also helps improve the range of motion sensors. It’s best to place detectors high up, to get the maximum range out of each unit.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some motion sensors will alert you when the battery is running low.

    Occupancy mode

    Many detectors offer users the option of enabling this function, which tells the motion sensor that someone is already in the home. This reduces the chance of false alarms.

    If a system includes indoor sensors, these will be deactivated while outdoor sensors will continue working.

    EXPERT TIP

    For those who have long driveways, there are motion sensors just for you. They will alert only if there are cars, bikes, or walkers coming up to your house.


    Your needs

    What do you intend to do with the sensor? Are you concerned about potential break-ins? Or are you more focused on people coming close to the property at all?

    If you are looking to prevent people from coming close to your home in the first place, you may want to invest in outdoor motion sensors. These models are durable, and can handle extreme temperatures and precipitation.

    A larger area is usually in question when monitoring the exterior of a home so consider motion sensors that have bigger detecting ranges.

    Half-Mile Sensitivity

    The Chamberlain CWA2000 Wireless Motion Alert System is great for outdoor settings like garages and driveways. A half-mile sensitivity range (from sensor to base) allows the device to alert users when vehicles or pedestrians approach. The Chamberlain can detect pedestrians and animals as well as vehicles.

    If you want to increase security inside your home by placing motion sensors indoors, think about where you’ll mount your new sensors.

    Vibration sensors are useful for use with windows and doors, but less so for detecting movement in an open area.

    To trigger an alarm or light when someone walks through the entryway, a microwave or infrared sensor may be more useful.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some motion sensors work in tandem with doorbells to activate the bell as someone approaches your front door.

    Motion sensor pricing

    Single sensors usually cost less than $50. But keep in mind, most people purchase more than one motion sensor to cover different areas of their home or property.

    More expensive options will have more features.

    EXPERT TIP

    Placing sensors high up will increase their detection range.


    Ideas for using motion sensors

    You can use motion sensors for things other than home security. Here are a few ideas for taking advantage of this type of device.

    • Conveniently turn on lights when someone enters a room or gets home. Smart lights can be used in tandem with motion sensors to cleverly automate your home’s lighting.

    • Let your detectors do the thinking for you. Setup sensors to detect when you leave your house, so they can automatically turn off lights or activate security systems.

    • Keep tabs on your kids and pets. Place motion detectors in off-limit areas to ensure your little ones or fur friends aren’t getting into something or somewhere they shouldn’t be.

    • Install sensors in crawl spaces or an attic to detect when unwanted wildlife move in.

    With the right combination of smart products, sensors, and creativity, there are plenty of ways to use motion sensors.

    If you’re in an area with lots of wildlife, a very sensitive outdoor detector may cause annoying false alarms.

    FAQ

    Q. I have pets, can I still use a motion sensor indoors?

    A. Yes, but you will want to choose a detector that is pet immune; otherwise you’ll find yourself inundated with false alarms.

    Q. What should I look for when selecting an outdoor motion sensor if I live in a very cold climate?

    A. You may have trouble finding an option that works reliably when the temperatures dip below freezing. Your best bet is to check owner reviews from others in a similar climate. Batteries tend to freeze in cold weather, and many motion sensors will be slower to detect when it gets very cold out.

    Q. With hardwired sensors, what happens when the power goes out?

    A. Most have some kind of reserve power, and will still be functional for up to 24 hours after the power goes out.

    Q. Do the motion sensors in my home require any kind of maintenance?

    A. If you are using sensors with batteries, you’ll need to replace those from time to time. You should also clear the sensors of dust to ensure they are working correctly. Don’t use harsh chemicals to wipe down your sensors; such cleaners can damage the sensor lens.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer