Your Guide to Motion Sensors.

You can’t have a home security system without motion sensors. There are many types of motion sensors to choose from depending on your needs. This guide will help you understand what a motion sensor is, what types are available, and how they help keep you and your family safe.


What is a Motion Sensor?

How are Motion Sensors Helpful?

Every 22.6 seconds

How do Motion Sensors Work?

Wireless Motion Sensors

Can Pets Trigger Motion Sensors?

Motion Sensor Installation Tips

man giving his dog a treat at the front door of his home

What is a Motion Sensor?

A motion sensor, also known as a motion detector, is an essential piece of any security system. It detects movement in your household and notifies your control panel, alerting the monitoring center to contact you.

  • A motion sensor detects movement and sends a signal to the control panel
  • The control panel alerts a monitoring center
  • The monitoring center contacts you

How are Motion Sensors Helpful?

Motion sensors can detect when doors or windows are opened and sense when someone enters a room. Motion sensors can be set up with a smart doorbell to alert you when someone is approaching your home. Motion sensors can give you peace of mind wherever you are.

  • Detect intruders when you are away
  • Recognize when a door or window is opened or broken
  • Conserve energy, turning on smart bulbs when someone enters a room
  • Sense movement in specific areas of the home, like your office or craft room

Every 0.0 seconds

That’s how often an in-home burglary occurs. That’s almost three burglaries every minute, and about 3,757 burglaries a day.

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report 2017

How do Motion Sensors Work?

So many motion sensors, so little time. Here is a breakdown of the different types of motion sensors and how they work.

Passive Infrared (PIR)

Passive infrared (PIR) sensors are the most common motion sensors installed in homes today. They detect both movement and body heat using infrared energy. They’re also pet-friendly, allowing your small animal (usually up to 50 lbs) to stay home without tripping the sensors.

Microwave (MW)

Microwave (MW) sensors are common for businesses but can be used in larger homes as well. They detect movement in bigger areas of the home, like a living room or a front room with a high ceiling, by sending microwave signals out and timing how long it takes for the signals to come back. Unfortunately, these sensors tend to be more expensive than PIR sensors and don’t play well with electrical interference, resulting in frequent false alarms.

Area Reflective

Area reflective, commonly known as reflective infrared (RIR) sensors, detect both moving and stationary objects. Unlike PIR sensors, they can also detect if something is moving toward or away from them. Unfortunately, where PIR sensors detect objects up to 100 feet away from them, RIR sensors can only detect objects within 20 feet.


Like MW sensors, ultrasonic sensors send out waves (in this case, ultrasonic or sound waves), and wait for the signal to return. If something is in the room and not supposed to be, the sensor will notice the discrepancy when the ultrasonic waves return. Unfortunately, a change in temperature (a rise or drop of 5-10 degrees) can affect the sensor’s accuracy.


Vibration sensors can be homemade, though we wouldn’t recommend it. They detect any sort of vibration in the home (as big as an earthquake, as small as someone bumping into a chair). Vibration sensors are not recommended for use by themselves, as they wouldn’t be able to see a rise in heat like the PIR sensors, nor measure discrepancies in a room like MW or ultrasonic sensors.

Dual Technology

Dual technology sensors combine two different types of sensors for better security. PIR sensors are usually included in dual technology sensors and can be paired with MW, ultrasonic, or vibration sensors.

frontpoint motion sensor

Frontpoint Motion Sensor

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  • 44-foot coverage area
  • 90-degree field of view
  • Pet-friendly
  • 6-8 year battery life

Wireless Motion Sensors.

Although some motion sensors require wiring, most sensors these days are wireless, eliminating complicated installations and allowing for a much simpler set-up. Wireless motion sensors can usually be installed without the help of a professional, keeping the installation process in your hands.

Place wireless motion sensors anywhere you want in the home. Your back door, your kids’ bedrooms, or the safe in your room are great locations for motion sensors. Wireless motion sensors make it possible for you to set up your security system the way you want.

Can Pets Trigger Motion Sensors?

Our pets are no burglars, and motion sensor technology has taken that into account. PIR and dual technology motion sensors ignore animals under a certain weight, making it difficult for Mr. Snuggles to trip the system. The only potential downfall is that larger animals might still set off the sensors, so consider your pet’s size when deciding whether to add motion sensors to your home.

  • Small pets, usually up to 50 lbs, can roam around without setting off an alarm.
  • Larger animals might still trigger a response from the motion sensors.

Motion Sensor Installation Tips.

If you haven’t done it before, installing motion sensors by yourself can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you feel confident installing them in your home, without the help of a professional.

Tip #1: Stay Away 
From Heat

Keep sensors away from heating sources like vents or stoves. The heat can throw off the infrared signals, causing a false alarm.

Tip #2: Place in High 
Traffic Areas

Make sure you place motion sensors in a location where potential threats have to walk. This tactic will maximize your chances of catching a burglar in the act.

Tip #3: Go for 
the Hallway

Most sensors detect motion in parallel movement best. Place sensors in a hallway or stairwell, so an intruder walking by will trip the alarm.

Tip #4: Protect Your 

Keep valuables safe by putting a motion sensor near them. The intruder might know where you keep your high-priced items, so protect them with motion sensors.

Get a Quote.

Now that you know everything you need to know about motion sensors, it’s time to make a smart investment. With pet-friendly motion sensors covering a 44-foot area, motion sensors from Frontpoint have you and your household covered. Get a quote to protect your home today!

Request your FREE Quote

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