Motion detectors are gadgets that detect movement and alert you or the monitoring center for further action. They are a common feature in automated technology like faucets and doors but famous among security systems.
Moreover, motion sensors are valuable indoors and outdoors as they watch for unexpected movement when you’re away from home or asleep.
However, although these units are the linchpin of home safety and security, they need much tinkering before functioning efficiently. For example, pets and bugs are primary culprits of triggering false alarms, requiring you to adjust the sensor’s sensitivity settings accordingly.
In addition, a few homeowners have raised another concern about the detectors detecting light and raising a false alarm. So, let’s debunk any myths and clarify the subject: Can Lights Trigger a Motion Sensor?
Unfortunately yes. Lights can trigger a motion sensor, leading to a false alarm. The device picks infrared radiations or heat signals and triggers based on changes. Furthermore, since lights release much energy as their state toggle, they quickly activate the motion detector.
Nonetheless, this observation is not accurate for all motion sensors. For instance, light bulbs trigger passive detectors more than active ones. Therefore, consider the latter for a home with many lights.
In light of the above, this article expounds on different types of motion sensors in the market and how they work. You’ll also find detailed answers to frequently asked queries for more insight.
Types of Motion Sensors
A motion sensor is a gadget that detects moving objects, mainly humans. Further, people frequently incorporate the unit as a home security system component to alert them of motion in an area.
Thus, it forms an essential addition to guarantee safety, energy efficiency, home control, and automated lighting control.
The primary principle of motion detectors is to sense intruders and then trigger your control panel, which alerts the monitoring center. They also react to situations like unbolting doors and windows or movement in your living room.
Thankfully, we have different motion sensor types to accommodate various security needs. Furthermore, they rely on multiple principles for optimal functioning in specific applications.
Typical motion detector usage is in exterior doorways and windows for monitoring the area around a building. The gadget generates electric signals after detecting motion, triggering specific actions such as sounding the alarm or turning on the lights.
On the other hand, some motion detectors operate like military radar scanners, while others depend on vibration, sound, and infrared radiation.
In short, manufacturers classify motion sensors based on their motion detection strategy. Moreover, these types have different benefits and drawbacks, significantly influencing decision-making.
So, we have three dominant classifications listed below with a detailed explanation of their operation.
1. Active Motion Sensors
These units are also called Radar-based motion detectors. They emit radio or microwaves across a room or the monitored area, which strike nearby objects and reflect back to the sensor.
The motion detector looks for a frequency shift in the wave when it returns to the unit, mainly when an intruder moves in the motion-sensor-controlled area. Further, it understands these changes and sends an electrical signal to the light, alarm system, or other devices connected to the unit.
Active sensors using microwaves for motion detection work best in automatic doors in shopping malls, home system alarm systems, and indoor lighting units.
However, avoid using them for exterior lighting and similar fixtures since the movement of random objects like smaller animals, windblown items, and larger insects trigger the sensor, activating the lighting.
2. Passive Motion Sensors
Passive sensors are opposite to their active counterparts. They do not send out signals but detect infrared energy from objects in the controlled area.
Moreover, the detectors scan the area for body heat from living things, whether animals or people. Objects with a temperature above zero radiate heat. So, they turn on the alarm or the light when they walk into the detection area.
Unfortunately, passive motion sensors are ineffective in areas with small animals and insects. But you can adjust their settings to pick up movements of objects with certain heat levels, for instance, adjusting the unit to detect movement from humans.
3. Combined (Hybrid) Motion Sensors
Combined or hybrid technology detectors combine active and passive sensors. They activate the alarm or light when both sensors detect movement: thus, helpful in reducing false alarm triggers.
But this technology has disadvantages. It does not guarantee the same security level as separate microwave and passive infrared sensors since the alarm goes off when both sensors detect motion.
So, for instance, the system will not send a signal to the control room if a burglar can escape one of the sensors.
Under these three motion detector categories, we have various sensor types. Find some examples below.
Types of Sensors
- Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensors
These gadgets are among the most widely used, and you’ll find them in most home security systems. They look for infrared energy level changes caused by the movements of humans and animals.
Remember, all warm-blooded creatures produce infrared radiation, making them targets of the motion sensors.
Passive infrared motion detectors have a thin pyroelectric film material that reacts to infrared radiation by emitting electricity. They activate the burglar alarm or lights whenever this electricity influx occurs.
But although these sensors are economical, using less energy, heat sources, and sunlight easily obstruct them. Hence, they are more appropriate for indoor movement detection in closed environments.
- Active Infrared Sensors
These detectors emit an electric signal connecting them to a light detector, then sound the alarm when an object interrupts the beam.
Active infrared sensors use a dual-beam transmission structure. One side emits infrared rays, whereas the other receives the signal, making the device suitable for outdoor point-to-point interruption identification.
- Microwave Sensor
These sensors generate microwave pulses and calculate their reflection on objects to determine moving objects. They are also very sensitive but sometimes work in non-metallic objects outside the target range.
Microwave sensors consume much power, making them suitable for ON and OFF cycle operations. Moreover, it is feasible to acquire them when you know these cycles.
- Ultrasonic Sensors
Theoretically, ultrasonic sensors send out high-frequency sound waves reflected back to the device. Further, they are available in passive and active versions and sound the alarm when an interruption occurs in the sound waves.
Passive ultrasonic sensors focus on specific sounds like glass or metal breaking. They are also very sensitive but are pricey and susceptible to false alarms.
Conversely, active ultrasonic sensors generate ultrasonic or sound wave pulses. Then, they check out for waves reflecting off moving objects. But the system unsettles fish, dogs, and cats since they can hear the sound waves.
- Tomographic Sensor
These detectors generate radio waves and activate the alarm when intruders trouble them. They also detect signals through objects and walls, requiring you to position them where the radio wave net covers a large area.
However, tomographic sensors are expensive and more suited for storage units, warehouses, and facilities needing commercial security levels.
We also have less common motion detector types used for highly specialized applications. They include
1. Area Reflective Sensors. These devices emit infrared rays or signals from an LED and use the rays’ reflection to measure the distance to the intruder. They also show when the object moves within the monitored area.
2. Vibration Motion Sensors. These units identify small vibrations humans make when moving in a room. You can also improvise the detectors using a small mass on a lever, but it is not as reliable as a commercial one.
Finally, manufacturers create specialized motion sensors to accommodate unique scenarios. They include
1. Contact Sensors. These detectors use magnets to spot movements on windows or doors. The sensor and its corresponding magnets move as the window or the door opens, triggering the alarm.
2. Pet-Immune Motion Sensors. Unfortunately, most passive infrared sensors detect animals meeting a certain height and weight criteria. So, consider dual technology, as the two sensors must be triggered before sounding the alarm.
As a result, it works best for homesteads with small animals such as cats and dogs. You can also lower the device’s sensitivity to minimize false triggers.
3. Video Motion Sensors. Most security cameras utilize advanced signal processing that starts recording when they detect motion. Further, they save on memory storage by ignoring hundreds of hours of unnecessary footage and capturing the important stuff.
What Triggers Motion Sensors?
Typically, motion sensors are triggered by movement around the targeted area. Therefore, you’ll receive an alert, hear an alarm, or see lights when a person or animal approaches the sensor.
Indoor motion sensors are triggered by your curtains fluttering in the wind or your family walking into the monitored area. Further, if your detector is activated by heat, your heating unit and air conditioning could turn the lights on. But it occurs when you place the sensor too close to a vent. Thus, you can prevent it by positioning the sensor 15 feet away from vents.
On the other hand, outdoor motion sensors are activated by approaching visitors, passing cars, or rustling leaves in nearby trees.
Sometimes, spiders or bugs crawling across your light’s sensors may trigger the lights to turn on. And worse still, the sun or an extremely hot bulb can trigger a passive infrared motion sensor.
Generally, no one wants their lights turning on each time the wind blows. Thus, adjust the detector’s sensitivity to ensure it only activates the alarm when necessary.
Why Does Light Trigger a Motion Sensor?
As briefly mentioned above, light bulbs and other lights impact one type of motion detector: Passive infrared sensors. Besides, only these devices trigger the alarm after detecting changes in infrared radiation.
Light sources dissipate infrared radiation or energy, which passive infrared motion detectors pick up. Thus, as the light bulb goes on, it causes a rapid heat intensity change, triggering the sensor.
However, low-wattage bulbs do not trigger the device since the temperature increase is insufficient. In addition, the sensor’s activation depends on the light source’s power consumption and heat generation.
Older fluorescent lamps become quite hot since they need high wattage. Further, they drain more power from the mains, delivering a high light intensity. Hence, placing these lights away from your motion sensors is prudent to avoid false triggers.
Conversely, LED bulbs are more energy efficient, offering the same light amount while generating less heat.
In addition, the lights are more affordable than older incandescent bulbs. Thus, you can place them near motion sensors without triggering false alarms.
Finally, light triggers motion detectors with high-sensitivity settings. So, review the device’s sensitivity, especially if it was not mounted by a professional.
How to Stop a Motion Sensor’s False Alarms?
False alarms cost your peace of mind and even money when you incur logistical expenses responding to them. In addition, they’ll cost a fine and may slow down the authorities’ response time during actual emergencies.
Plus, false alarms are embarrassing. Therefore, let’s determine foolproof strategies to eliminate these nuances from your home.
1. Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions During the Installation
Human error is the number one reason for false home security alarms, especially when one is not adequately trained to use the system.
However, most units are relatively easy to use and do not need significant training. But still, take the necessary time to learn the motion detector and adhere to the product manual.
In addition, ensure anyone who uses the unit, such as babysitters, friends, family, and children, is adequately trained.
2. Keep the Sensor’s Batteries Fresh
Change the unit’s batteries regularly, as low or inconsistent power cause false alarms. Further, the system may give audible warnings for low battery levels, whereas in some cases, they activate the sensor.
The equipment typically notifies you that the batteries are running low, but consult the monitoring company for a professional recommendation.
3. Close Doors and Window Securely
Believe it or not, leaving windows and doors open can trigger the alarm. Moreover, door and window detectors are activated when the wind disrupts their connection.
Therefore, make it a habit to close all windows and doors tightly. In addition, the practice reduces nuisance alerts and hinders intrusion into your home.
4. Correct Installation
Align all your sensors and detectors according to the manufacturer’s recommendations during installation.
Also, do-it-yourself home security systems are more susceptible to incorrect installation issues. Thus, hire a home safety expert to help with the process for guaranteed success and sensor functionality.
5. Consider the Home’s Layout
Unfortunately, motion detection systems are more prone to false alarms when you do not consider the home, its occupants, and its uses when installing the device. Some poor positioning decisions include
- Smoke detectors mounted too close to heat sources, such as fireplaces and stoves.
- Smoke sensors placed in or too close to bathrooms.
- Ignoring pet-immune motion detectors in households with pets.
- Bad wiring when wires become loose or get crossed.
6. Use pet-immune motion sensors
Generally, active pets frequently cause false alarms. But we have unique pet-friendly motion detectors with sensitivity adjustments, allowing the alarm to ignore pet movements.
Therefore, they give you peace of mind and allow your furry friends to roam around the house.
7. Practice Entering the Security Code
Interestingly, false alarms occur when homeowners enter the wrong code to deactivate the lights or alarm. Thus, ensure anyone deactivating the alarm knows the password before entering it.
8. Keep the Area Around the Sensors Clear
Usually, pets, insects, rodents, and stray objects like balls set off the alarm. In addition, balloons are notorious for triggering the system when they float around.
Hence, keep the sensor-controlled area free of objects and clutter, and tie down items blown around by the fan or air conditioner.
9. Frequent Maintenance and Upkeep
Security system equipment needs regular care and maintenance to remain operational. So, cover up the detectors temporarily when handling dusty projects around them. Also, replace the unit’s batteries when the device warns you.
1o. Keep Your Sensors Updated and in Good Shape
Although most users blame false alarms on human error, faulty equipment also triggers false alarms. In addition, if your system was installed a while ago, perhaps it’s time to replace it. Older security equipment causing false alarms include
- Outdated Glass-Break Sensors. These devices listen for breaking glass sounds, leaving them prone to false alarms from other similar sounds, like watching a loud film with crashing noises or dropping a dish.
- Non-Supervised Wireless Devices. Currently, motion sensor panels check in with the unit every 24 hours. Hence, the panel knows everything works well at any given time.
Remember, older devices neither communicate with the control panel nor send signals, making them prone to false triggers.
11. Keep Contact Information Current
Home security safety policies require alarm monitoring companies to verify alarm activation before requesting police dispatch. Hence, the company will use the contact details you provided.
Moreover, police response to false triggers is prevented when the monitoring company promptly reaches you during an accidental alarm activation.
12. Answer Your Phone
Sometimes authorized users often search for the correct number to call after an accidental alarm system activation while ignoring a call from their alarm monitoring company. They may not recognize the caller ID and ignore the call despite it being from an out-of-state alarm monitoring center.
Therefore, answer your phone during false alarm alerts and save the monitoring company’s contact. In addition, provide this number to all home users, including house-sitters.
Why Does My Motion Sensor Go Off Randomly?
The first culprit for randomly setting off motion sensors is human error. Although home security systems are easy to use and do not need significant training, some homeowners do not take the time to learn new systems.
Therefore, it is easy for them to make mistakes when operating the device, triggering the alarm.
Low batteries and unreliable power sources also make motion sensors go off randomly. Most wireless home security units have batteries that occasionally need replacement. So, they give warnings for low battery levels or trigger false alarms.
Similarly, an unreliable power source malfunctions and accidentally triggers the motion detector.
Your motion detector could go off randomly due to unlocked windows and doors. Besides, the wind quickly rattles open windows and doors, triggering the alarm system. Hence, lock your doors with a deadbolt to minimize unintentional sensor disturbances.
Faulty equipment randomly activates your motion sensor. Furthermore, although most top home security system manufacturers provide high-quality products, sometimes you may get a faulty one.
Also, incorrect installation causes it to go off randomly. And violating the manufacturer’s recommendations leads to multiple false triggers.
Passive infrared motion sensors are susceptible to pets since they are sensitive to body heat. Further, rodents and insects also trigger alarms, depending on how close they reach the detector.
Thankfully, we have some sure-fire steps to reduce the false triggers while guaranteeing superior safety.
- Step One: Find a Security System That Works For You
This step is essential in guaranteeing home security, as being able to personalize your system to work with your home seamlessly is a plus. In addition, you can always add cameras, extra sensors, and other accessories regardless of whether you want to build a DIY unit or purchase a pre-built package.
Also, evaluate your home’s set-up and get the most suitable device. For instance, you’ll have to install an entry sensor on a door or window instead of a motion detector due to its layout, or vice-versa.
- Step Two: Determine What’s Triggering the Alarm
There are multiple reasons why false alarms trigger in your home. Below are some common causes and quick fixes.
Believe it or not, not all surfaces suit your motion sensors. For example, the unit may not hold tightly to textured frames and walls, requiring you to consider a more robust and permanent fixture.
Also, install your detectors and keypads on smooth flat surfaces, and you can use a ruler to test the area’s flatness. Then, clean it with rubbing alcohol before mounting the motion sensor.
Always use the fasteners provided by the manufacturer for a more permanent fixture or when working with an uneven surface. Otherwise, the unit will eventually become loose and fall.
Some motion detectors do not work well on metal surfaces or floors as it causes wireless interference. So, consider how the device works before determining where to position it.
Avoid some home areas when choosing the perfect spot for your motion sensors and detectors. For instance, do not install the gadgets near direct heat sources or above a radiator, as this is how they pick up heat signatures.
Position water sensors where water won’t be splashed near them daily, such as bear the shower or bath.
In addition, position the base station in a central home area, like the hallway, since the detectors work up to 100 feet from the base station. Or take a tour of various motion sensors illustration for more information on the best location.
Our furry friends are also the primary causes of false alarms. But you can make minor settings and placement adjustments and reduce the nuisance.
For example, turn the motion detector upside down with the dial button facing the floor. Then, fix it four to five feet high on the wall, out of the pets’ reach, and lower the sensor sensitivity.
4. Accidental Bumps and Knocks
Accidentally smashing objects near the sensor triggers false alarms. Therefore, do not position your glass-break sensor in the kitchen close to pans, fragile glasses, and pots. In addition, keep them away from regions susceptible to glass break-ins like the conservatory.
- Step Three: Test the Alarm
Set the alarm after mounting the motion detector and when you add a new sensor or move it to a different area. This way, you’ll ensure the unit is ideally placed to prevent accidental triggers.
In addition, put the system into test mode during the process and give it a few minutes. The procedure is as follows
- Install the detector in your preferred location.
- Dial the Menu button on the keypad.
- Enter your password or PIN.
- Scroll right using the Home dial until you reach the fifth option, ‘Test Mode.’
- Press the Away button to enter Test Mode.
- Keep the system in ‘Test ‘Mode’ for one hour.
Can Motion Sensor Sensitivity Be Adjusted?
Adjusting a motion sensor’s sensitivity is possible. It has a “Range” or “Sensitivity” dial, allowing you to calibrate how readily it reacts to movement.
But you must point the detector optimally to prevent strolling cats and warm car engines from triggering the security lights and alarm.
Moreover, movements from animate objects coming toward the sensor are less likely to activate it than those moving across the monitored area. Therefore, mount the motion detector at a 90-degree angle to the area.
This sensitivity dial is at the motion detector’s bottom or back. Further, some devices have it on the back of a decorative lantern. So, lift off its junction box for adjustments.
The process is as follows.
- Set the dial halfway between the “Max” and “Min” positions at 12 o’clock.
- Test the detector by walking across the targeted area. Usually, adjustments to the sensitivity setting tell the device how far to check for movement.
- Mount a ladder to repoint the motion detector lower or away from warm objects like stoves and heat vents.
Here’s How to Adjust Motion Detector Sensitivity:
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Best practices for Installing Motion Sensors?
Most motion detectors are wireless, making them easy to set up. Besides, they do not need drilling, and communication with other security system components is wireless.
Better still, you can mount your device if you know how to use a screwdriver and guarantee optimal coverage.
Read the installation instructions when mounting the units since the manufacturer includes placement recommendations. In addition, some Do-It-Yourself systems have video tutorials, give electric prompts, or have you call a representative to help you through the set-up procedure.
Alternatively, you can get professional installation services when working with commercial units. The installer will know how to mount it.
Remember, motion detectors are not error-proof, so you’ll sometimes experience false alarms from electrical failures, poor application engineering, power surges, lightning, user error, faulty equipment, animals, insects, and foliage.
What Are Some Expert Motion Sensor Placement Tips?
Although you can increase your detector’s efficacy by adjusting it manually, read the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent false alarms. Here are placement tips to assist in leveraging the unit’s strengths.
- Place the motion detector at ‘choke-points”, locations where people have to walk through, such as the main hallway or the stairs. This way, trespassers trip the sensor regardless of their destination.
- Keep passive infrared detectors ten to 15 feet away from heat sources such as vents, sunny windows, and radiators. They can trigger upon noticing a swift heat change, even that of a cloud passing over direct sunlight in the living room.
- Evaluate where burglars will likely go and their ‘safest’ path. For instance, most intruders enter the house through the front, back, patio, or garage door. So, place the detector in these areas.
- Find walls that intruders would walk alongside, such as a narrow path leading to a room or the hallway. Besides, motion detectors work best when the trespasser walks parallel to it, not towards it.
How Do I Choose the Best Motion Sensor Alarm?
Choosing the most suitable motion detector alarm involves several considerations. In addition to convenience features such as surveillance cameras and alarm types, the device should accommodate the household you mount it to.
For example, a household with accessible backdoor benefits best from exterior motion sensor alarms, while one-entrance apartments work better with indoor ones.
The motion sensor’s features are a primary concern depending on the desired result. For instance, some individuals opt for alarms with blaring sound systems and security alarm lights, whereas others prefer discrete ones.
In addition, more sophisticated sensor alarms have detector cameras that track suspicious movement when activated. While they are more expensive, they guarantee a more efficient investigation after a trigger.
Another consideration when getting a motion sensor alarm is how best your home accommodates it. Most systems are flexible, often consisting of small devices sending signals throughout the facility.
However, other units are designed with specific home locations in mind. They include car and outdoor motion detectors. But still, as a rule of thumb, the alarm should cover all the home’s entry points.
Other factors include your budgetary allocations. Moreover, although it’s not generally prudent to scrimp on safety, a home surveillance unit should fall within a comfortable budget.
Thankfully, most motion sensors are designed for specific niche markers, such as solar detectors for environmentally-conscious persons.
Finally, apartment owners need clearance from their landlords, while users in specific neighborhoods need to ensure the sensors fall within stipulated community guidelines. So, the best motion sensor alarms address all the above concerns while guaranteeing the highest security level.
How Do I Disrupt a Motion Sensor?
Darken the sensor’s lens to keep it from picking up heat signals. Then, identify its placement and map out the field of view. Afterward, sneak up to the detector’s blind spot and cover its lens with paper or cardboard to disrupt it.
However, darkening the sensor’s lens is not effective against all types. For instance, the detector will pick up movement from blind spots if it’s in high-sensitivity mode. Thus, stay still as you move to the camera to prevent the gadget from triggering.
How Can I Tell if My Motion Sensor is Bad?
To test a dysfunctional motion sensor, wire the fixture directly to see if you can bypass the detector. But mind you; this electricity check may present a shock hazard, requiring you to be careful.
Generally, the motion sensor is faulty if the sensor’s lights go on when directly powered. So, the fixture needs a replacement.
Also, motion detectors malfunction when the lens is dirty or defective due to electrical circuit malfunction. Thus, verify the fixture receive the required power amount using a voltmeter. If so, clean the sensor’s lens.
Finally, if none of the above techniques work, your lens needs a replacement.
Unfortunately, glitches and problems occur even with the best security systems on the market. One of the most common issues involves the motion sensor being triggered by something other than motion. Also, sometimes these sensors sound the alarm, turn on the right, or activate the camera when nothing is there.
Interestingly, it’s essential to consider that light often triggers motion detectors. Besides, since the devices use light and shadow patterns to determine movement, it makes sense that changing light patterns sets off the unit and other devices tied to it.
Other naturally occurring scenarios setting off your motion sensor include dappled patterns such as dust caught in a sunbeam, sunlight moving through tree leaves, or slow-moving light changes.
However, though these instances are not enough to set the motion detector off, do not rule out any of them. Therefore, review the above article again to master your device and guarantee optimal functioning.
Can Lights Trigger a Motion Sensor?
Lights can trigger your motion sensor, mainly if it detects movement by sensing infrared radiation. Furthermore, lights quickly alter the area’s temperature, causing the device to trigger a false alarm.
Also, light sets off detectors using high image comparison by causing a sudden light intensity change. In addition, you are sure of false alarms when your lights are on swinging around on pendants.