Keeping your home safe and secure used to rely on expensively installed alarm systems – no longer. These days, you can simply fit inexpensive – and wireless – door, window and motion sensors yourself and be alerted on your mobile device should anything untoward happen
Most of the sensors we’ve chosen here are part of larger smart home systems from big-name brands such as British Gas' Hive, Samsung and Philips, although Elgato’s Eve sensors rely on a fourth-generation Apple TV to act as a gateway or hub when you’re away from home.
Assembled here then are our top five picks. Install them now for instant smart home gratification.
Our pick of the top smart home security sensors
1. British Gas Hive Window or Door Sensor
Tell when doors and windows have been opened – in an instant
Detection range: not stated | Field of view: not stated | Sensor type: not stated | Connectivity: not stated | Detection time: not stated | Dimensions: Sensor: 2.3x7x2.4cm; Magnet: 1.2x7x1.5cm | Weight: Sensor: 24g; Magnet: 24g
Door and window sensors are a perennial favourite among home security folk, since they’re less likely to be triggered by errant pets or things like billowing curtains. In a nutshell, they usually come in two parts: one attached the door or window frame; and the other attached to the door or window itself.
When the door or window is closed, the circuit between the two parts of the sensor is complete and so is marked as ‘closed’ – as soon as a door or window is opened, the circuit is ‘broken’, so triggering an alert.
The Hive Window or Door Sensor is part of British Gas’ popular Hive smart home system, which also includes the Hive Smart Thermostat and other goodies. Like most of the other sensors here is relies on a central hub to work (rather than connecting to your smartphone or tablet individually) so you’ll need to factor in these additional costs at purchase time.
Of course, as most of us live in homes with multiple doors and windows you may need to buy several Hive Window or Door Sensors to cover your living space – and British Gas sells them in both packs of three and five, as well as as individually, so you’re covered. A Hive Window or Door Sensor is also included in the Hive Starter Pack.
In practice, however, you probably only need to buy door or window sensors for the most vulnerable doors and windows, with wireless motion sensors (see below) covering other spaces.
Fixing the Window or Door Sensor requires no special skills – you just attach pop in a lithium battery, make sure the sensor can be picked up by your smartphone or tablet, choose a location name ('front door', for example) and then attach each part of the sensor to the relevant part of the door or window frame using the self-adhesive pads.
From now on, every time the door or windows is opened, you’ll receive an alert telling you what’s happened. You can also use the Hive smartphone app to quickly check all the doors and windows fitted with a Window or Door Sensor are closed before you leave home.
It’s a simple system that works well.
2. British Gas Hive Motion Sensor
Keep a virtual eye on your home – even when you're not there
Detection range: Up to 6 metres | Field of view: 110 degrees | Sensor type: Passive InfraRed (PIR | Connectivity: not stated | Dimensions: 2.4x8.5x2.5cm | Weight: 62g
Another home security favourite, motion sensors use infra-red technology to detect movement within a room or space, triggering an alert when it is detected. At one time motion detectors had a reputation for creating false alarms, although technological improvements now make that less likely. Most motion sensors are adjustable too, so if you do have a false alarm you can adjust its sensitivity so it doesn't trigger next time.
As you'd expect, the British Gas Hive Motion Sensor does send a notification to your smartphone or tablet every time it’s detects movement, just as it's supposed to. However you will need to partner it with a Hive Hub for it to work – so it’s best fitted as part of a whole Hive Smart Home system.
The Hive Motion Sensor itself is easy to set up – simply pop in a battery, register the device and its location using the Hive app, then place it in a suitable location – either using the sticky pads on the back of the device itself or by placing it free-standing on an object such as sideboard or table.
Like most Smart Home systems you can use the Hive Motion Sensor to trigger further actions – such as automatically switching on a light when it detects movement, for example.
You can also track movements picks up by the sensor over time. Handy if you’re keeping a virtual eye on a elderly relative, for example, and want to check that they're active without actually 'spying' on them.
3. Elgato Eve Motion
Triggers awesome actions for HomeKit users
Detection range: Up to 9 metres | Field of view: 120 degrees | Sensor type: Passive InfraRed (PIR | Connectivity: Bluetooth LE | Detection time: Less than 2 seconds | Dimensions: 8x8x3.2cm | Weight: not stated
This square-shaped motion sensor is part of Elgato’s Eve smart home range, which is aimed at Apple users. As such it relies heavily on Apple’s HomeKit. While the Eve Motion can send alerts to you when you’re at home using Bluetooth, when you’re away it relies on the 4th-generation Apple TV to send alerts outside the home. And that may be a deal breaker for some.
Having said that, the Elgato Eve Motion is a powerful piece of kit. It’s easy to set up and use, with the accompanying Eve app for iOS 10.3 or later enabling you to use the Eve Motion to set a complex chain of events in train – automatically switching on lights, heating, etc when you get home using other compatible devices.
The Elgato Eve Motion also has a longer viewing distance than the Hive Motion Sensor (9m vs 6m) and a slightly wider field of view (120 degrees vs 110). We also prefer its more elegant design.
4. Philips Hue Motion Sensor
Have Hue lights? Then you need this!
Detection range: Up to 5 metres | Field of view: 100 degrees | Sensor type: Passive InfraRed (PIR) | Connectivity: Zigbee Light Link | Detection time: Less than 0.5 seconds | Dimensions: 5.5x5.5x2cm | Weight: not stated
Philips was one of the first big-name brands to embrace mainstream smart home technology with its Hue smart lighting system – although its efforts seem to have largely stopped there: you won’t find smart plugs or smart thermostats among its offerings. Or at least not yet. That’s a shame because the Philips Hue is one of the smartest and easiest to use systems out there – and we include the Hue Motion Sensor within that.
Essentially the Hue Motion Sensor can be used to trigger the lights in your Hue lighting system when it detects movement, but it's clever enough not to switch the lights on and off during the day, thanks to its built-in daylight sensor.
The Hue Motion Sensor is certainly easy to set up and use – you can either use it free-standing, or can screw it to the wall or ceiling using the bracket supplied. And once set up on the Hue app can also be used to control your lighting – provided you already have a Hue Bridge and Hue lights at home.
Sadly, the Hue Motion Sensor has the shortest and narrowest operating range of the motion sensors included here, being limited to an average of 5 metres and 100-degrees respectively.
5. Samsung SmartThings Presence Sensor
Find out where your loved ones are
Detection range: 27m | Field of view: not stated | Sensor type: not stated | Connectivity: Zigbee | Detection time: not stated | Dimensions: 4.9x2.5cm | Weight: 11g
The Presence Sensor is one of the smarter smart home objects for a very simple reason. Resembling the Tile’s wireless key finder, it’s a Zigbee-enabled key fob that you can attach to or place inside a loved one’s belongings and then have it trigger an alert every time they either arrive at or leave home. On the face of it, this sounds slightly stalkerish, but the Presence Sensor is also a little cleverer than that.
For one thing, the Presence Sensor is part of Samsung’s SmartThings smart home range, which includes things like smart plugs and motion sensors, so it can be used to trigger custom events – such as automatically switching the lights on when your partner or other members of your household nears home.
It’s also handy for keeping tabs on pets or elderly relatives who have a tendency to wander from home.