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8 clever ways to better use smart sensors in your home

With a little thought, smart sensors can make your home fully automated

8 ways to use smart sensors
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Smart sensors form a key part of any smart home, whether they're simply sitting around and monitoring what’s going on, looking for when a window or door is opened, or checking the current temperature.

As interesting as this information is, though, if you’re struggling to work out how to best use any smart sensors you have, we’ve put together this handy list of ideas so that you can make your home smarter and automate some dreary tasks.

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Most of what we tell you can be achieved through the software that your sensors shipped with, such as Samsung SmartThings. However, you should also look outside of the default options, as you can find alternative options in other systems. For example, SmartThings sensors can be used to trigger Amazon Alexa routines, expanding what’s available there, and Philips Hue motion sensors can be used in Apple HomeKit Automations to do more there.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

1. Auto activate lights with motion

One of the best options for a motion sensor is to use it to trigger lights to turn on or off automatically. Philips Hue has a dedicated motion sensor for this job that lets you configure the scene a light should be set to during the day and night, allowing you have a softer light for the nighttime and brighter light during the day. The motion sensor also has a LUX sensor in it, so lights can be set to only trigger when it’s actually dark.

There’s no reason why you can’t build similar controls using alternative systems, such as HomeKit or SmartThings, turning lights on automatically when motion is detected.

There are some simple rules to follow, though. First, don’t use motion sensors in areas where you want to turn off lights. For example, in a living room, you may want the lights off to watch a film, whereas a motion sensor would turn them on automatically. Secondly, be careful of where you place the motion sensor, as you don’t want it to go off if, say, a pet walks past it: mount a motion sensor higher on the wall to avoid this problem.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

2. Turn on lights when a door opens

One of the best uses of an open/close sensor is to turn on a light when a door is opened and turn it off when it closes. This can work brilliantly in an attic or cupboard where you’ve got a light.

There are plenty of ways to do this. If you’ve got smart lighting installed, then an open/close sensor can be used to trigger that. If not, you can use the same sensor to toggle a smart plug.

If you happen to have a spare motion sensor, you can always connect this to the inside of a door and have it trigger the light to come on, turning the light off when there’s no motion.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

3. Shut down a room when there’s no motion

One of the best uses for a motion sensor is to save power when you leave somewhere for an extended period. To do this, you need a system that can wait until there’s no movement for a set period of time, which HomeKit doesn’t provide, but both Amazon Alexa and SmartThings do.

We use the Philips Hue motion sensor in a garden office with an Amazon Alexa routine. When there’s no motion for 30 minutes, Alexa triggers a Yonomi Routine, which turns off the Hue lights, sets the Nest thermostat to Eco mode and turns off the Sonos player.

Think about the action you want when you return to a room. For example, you may want to turn the heating back on, but you may not want to trigger a Sonos player to start every time you enter a room.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

4. Monitor for potential environmental problems

Nobody wants frozen pipes or a leak. Smart sensors can help here. With a water leak sensor, you can be warned when there’s standing water. It’s a good idea to place these sensors under appliances that can leak, such as under a washing machine or dishwasher, near a boiler, or under toilets and kitchen sinks.

You can also use temperature sensors to pre-warn you of problems. Place a temperature sensor under the floor where your pipes run, and set up an alert to warn you if the temperature drops below 40F, as it could indicate that your pipes may freeze.

Likewise, look out for extreme temperatures, such as those above 95F, as it could mean that there’s been a fire and your house is warming up.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

5. Set reminders

Are you always going out without your keys or forgetting to take your umbrella with you? You can set a motion sensor connected to a front door to send you a message. For example, with Samsung SmartThings you can monitor the multipurpose sensor and ping a message when it goes off.

Connect this sensor to your front door and you can have a message sent to you that says whatever you want, such as, “Don’t forget your keys.”

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

6. Get peace of mind

Have you often gone out only to wonder if you’ve left a door or window open? With smart open/close sensors attached to each, you no longer have to worry, as you can simply fire up the app and check.

This can save a lot of worries and, potentially, a long return trip just to see if you did really leave that window open.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

7. Knock sensor

While the Ring Door View Cam added knock detection to deal with pesky couriers that refuse to press the doorbell, what do you do if you’ve got an older system? If you’ve got SmartThings, you’re in luck, as you can simply use the built-in Door Knocker Automation.

This uses the multipurpose sensor’s accelerometer to detect when someone has knocked at the door, sending a push notification. You can then either answer the door or fire up your smart doorbell’s app to speak to the person.

8 clever ways to use smart sensors in your home

8. Enhance your security system

If you’ve got a dumb alarm system, smart sensors can provide a way of enhancing your alarm. Place smart open/close sensors on your windows and doors, for example, and you can have an alert sent to your phone. You could also trigger lights to turn on to scare off a burglar.

The key to this kind of interaction is being able to limit when you get the notifications, either by restricting on time or by mode. For example, with the SmartThings Home Monitor, you can use open/close and motion sensors to detect for intrusion while you’re away, then the same sensors can perform other jobs when you’re at home.

Alternatively, you could use an open/close sensor on a cupboard or safe with your valuables in it for protection at all times, sending a notification whenever there’s activity.

TAGGED    smart home

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