PIRs. You’ve no doubt seen them. You may even have a couple installed at home. They’re those little white boxes that sit snugly up in the corners of rooms, between the walls and the ceiling. For the uninitiated, a PIR (Pyroelectric, or Passive InfraRed) is a motion sensor; its sole function is to detect movement in a room. Some motion sensors use not just InfraRed, but a combination of technologies for more reliable detection. But let’s leave the technical nitty-gritty stuff to one side, the fact is they’re small, inexpensive and easily hidden (coming as they do in all shapes and sizes).
So why would you have them fitted in your house? Well, most people that have them use them as part of their security system. And why not? They’re ideal. A burglar or intruder breaks in, emits infrared radiation as they come into the sensor’s range, the PIR picks up on it, triggers an alarm and the person panics and flees. Perfect.
But there’s plenty more that you can do with your motion sensor. If you have PIRs fully integrated into your Smart Home system, you can get the same PIRs to carry out a wide array of different functions for you.
In small windowless rooms or spaces like utility rooms, pantries, walk-in wardrobes and small toilets, you’ll always want a light on when you or a member of your household is in there. So why use a light switch or pull cord every time? You can simply fit a PIR sensor and configure your Home Automation system to turn the light on as soon as motion is detected (and turn off again a set amount of time after motion is no longer sensed). Of course this is nothing out of the ordinary, but never the less very useful.
Simple lighting control with PIRs is all well and good, but can become annoying specially in rooms where you do not always want the lights to come on at full brightness automatically. Let’s say for instance that you have an en-suite bathroom. When you use it in the middle of the night, you might like the lighting soft and unobtrusive and for your noisy extractor fan not to kick in. But when you use it at 7am when you’re getting ready for work, you prefer a brighter light with perhaps the mirror lit up and the fan on to get rid of the steam from your morning shower. A PIR subtly sitting in the corner of the room will notice your entry sending a signal back to the Miniserver, which depending on time of day will prompt your pre-set scenes to kick in. PIRs in bathrooms also remove the need for ugly pull cords.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your walkabout kids or pets, then PIRs can be used to tip you off if someone breaches a specific area. Perhaps you have a swimming pool or pond that you don’t want your children to go near unattended. Or perhaps you live close to a main road and are concerned about your dog escaping and being run over. Installing InfraRed sensors could be the answer. You can set up your system up so that if a perimeter is breached, you receive a call or text. Or some lights flash in the house, or an alarm sounds, whatever you like.
Set an external sensor up to detect movement by your gate or at or at the start of your driveway and you can get advanced notice of any guests that are coming your way. One way of doing this would be to have the PIR trigger an IP camera that feeds live footage of the outside of your house directly to your iPad or smartphone. You can see the approaching person or car well before they knock on the door, giving you plenty of time to put on the kettle or hide (depending on who it is)!
None of us like the idea of rising utility bills and energy prices. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to make our homes as energy efficient as possible. Unnecessary room lighting has to be one of the most wasteful things you can do (and don’t worry – we all do it…). Whether it’s you or your partner that’s absent-minded or your kids that leave lights on, it’s costing you money. With a smart system a PIR can work in revers and turn the lights off after a long period of inactivity, even if you switched them on manually. Stop being the one chasing around after your kids, but let the Miniserver do the chasing instead and you’ll soon notice the reduction in your bills.
But those are just our favourite five. There are plenty of other things you can get your motion sensor to do for your in your smart home. Just use your imagination and post your suggestions here or on our forum.