14 Unusual Uses for Security Sensors

Keep the kids out of the liquor cabinet, trigger the exhaust fan when someone sits on the toilet, virtually bark at the deer, and more.

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What else can you do with security sensors?

Everyone knows security sensors can trip the alarm system when someone opens the door, passes a PIR (motion sensor), breaks a window or performs some other act of trespassing.

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But these low-cost little gems can also trigger a variety of other events that have little or nothing to do with security.

We asked our friendly custom electronics professionals (CE pros): What interesting things have you done with security sensors?

Here are some of the responses.

CE PRO FAVORITE
1. Virtual bouncer
We love to entertain, so we included a bar when we finished our basement. The beer cooler is always stocked for guests, and we “protected” our teenagers by installing a micro-sensor on the cooler. The wireless micro-sensor is adhered to the door. This “zone” is always on, even if the alarm system is not in the armed position. The police department is not dispatched if the zone is breached, but we receive a call from our response center via telephone or email if the cooler is opened.

It keeps our good kids honest, and their friends’ parents know they are staying out of trouble while chillin’ in our rec room playing video games! – Chris Thompson, Webco, Ramsey, Minn.

CE PRO FAVORITE
2. Securing the throne
Well I can’t take credit for originating this one but I’ve used it many times. There are sensors that get affixed to a floor joist below a commode so that when it flexes from the added weight of the throne the trigger turns on the exhaust fan. Perhaps if you could add a methane detector you could extend the run time for the fan, or better yet, spray some smell-good upon departure. – David Garfinkle, Creative Home Systems, Springfield, N.J.

3. Garage lights
When you come home with packages from shopping, and your garage has steps leading up to the kitchen, I thought it natural to allow my motion sensor to turn on the garage wall sconces and overhead lights as soon as either a person at the top of the stairs opens the door or the vehicle or person enters the garage. When leaving from the kitchen, just opening the door to the garage trips the motion sensor to turn on the lights. So you don’t have to reach for a light switch as your hands are full with keys and a bag. There is a timer for this light, and a floor sensor to learn if the big garage door is closed so that it is OK to turn off the lights when motion has ceased. – Garfinkle

4. Motorized windows
My first need for motorized kitchen windows occurred when a client was faced with a pair of side-hinged windows two feet beyond the sink. So I installed a mechanism for the window cranks and added an outdoor water sensor to override and close the windows in the event of rain. Skylights are triggered and usually come with their own water sensors. – Garfinkle

5. Sump savior
I’ve positioned a water bug sensor in the sump pit to cause lights to flash in the family room in the event of a leak. This saved a catastrophe. – Garfinkle

6. Pantry door
We have a tree-hugger-hippie client whose husband would go to the kitchen pantry for little snacks and leave the pantry light on which totally annoyed her. The pantry door was rarely closed so a motion detector/control system and lighting control were used to create an “occupancy sensor” inside the pantry to turn the light on for five minutes and off again. This “green snacking solution” made for stealth snacking while sparing his spouse the annoyance of wasting energy and having to turn the light off after the snacker was long gone. – Steve Person, Media Calm, Atlanta

7. Eye on the kids
I had a client who was more interested in keeping her teenagers inside than keeping the bad guys out. We put sensors on all of the floor-level doors and windows and set the alarm in a verbal feedback mode. The alarm panels announce “basement door”, “basement window” or “garage door” whenever the doors or windows are opened. – Person

8. You’ve got mail
When the great room PIR goes off and we’ve just arrived home and there’s a new message on the HomeLogic [home automation] box, the system annunciates [in my voice] that there’s new voice mail. – Tom Ardolf, Cybermation, Waite Park, Minn.

9. You’ve got company
If the house is in “Vacation” mode and someone comes down our driveway, the vehicle/driveway sensor calls my cell so I can see who’s there. If it’s in “Away” mode, then it just emails me, as I’m more than likely just at the office, and I can just maximize my Homelogic screen interface. – Ardolf

10. Extra fire protection
If smoke/heat detectors go off, all types of events are initiated — basic things like turning off the HVAC system, and more advanced activities like calling, emailing and flashing the lights. – Ardolf

11. Hello, cleaning lady
When the security system is disarmed by the cleaning lady’s security code – she only comes on Wednesdays – the system waits until she enters the house (judging by the door sensor), she is greeted by my voice and whole-house music … until she leaves the house. – Ardolf

CE PRO FAVORITE
12. Go away, deer
I don’t get unwanted visitors in my back yard, so I tied my security system into the paging output of my Niles distributed audio/video system. When the outdoor motion sensors are tripped, the alarm system’s contact closure activates the Niles system, and a 12-second recorded message blasts through two zones (four rock speakers) at 50 percent volume. The message? My dogs barking. – Shawn Kelly Stermer, Niles Audio

13. Alert the neighbors
If an alarm triggers, then all outside lights start flashing to alert neighbors. – Kelly Driscoll, Audio Design Innovations, Stillwater, Minn.

14. Kids home safe
One customer wanted to know when his kids got home everyday so we setup the system to send him an email when the front door opens or when the alarm was armed or disarmed. – Driscoll

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