What's your motion detector strategy?

I’m trying to work out having my basement Hue lights come on automatically. I don’t have a basement door, so a door detector is out.

Right now I’m trying a combination of two motion detectors on the second step that need to both fire (to try and prevent false positives), and one in the basement. And it’s just… not good enough. Sometimes they don’t detect the motion, sometimes they detect motion that isn’t there.

Are we just not there yet on motion lights?

(I’ve moved this to projects so you can get individualized responses based on your own set up and requirements. :sunglasses:)

As far as strategies, motion detectors can work great for turning lights on, but there are some placement issues that you have to address. We have them all over my house and they work very well.

Step One: Choose the right placement

The first step is to understand how the sensors detect motion. They are detecting very small changes in heat that move across the field. For that reason you want to position the sensor so that the person is not walking straight towards a sensor, but rather across the field. Ceiling mounted sensors can solve this for many positions. But quite often if a sensor is failing to detect it’s because it’s Positioned so that a person moves straight on towards it. See the following FAQ:

Step two: choose the right sensor

There is a huge difference between one model and another in sensitivity, inactivity, etc.

Two big differences to be aware of.

Zigbee sensors are typically more responsive than Z wave sensors, particularly among the inexpensive models. Once you get up to devices like the Fibaro motion sensor, the responsiveness improves considerably. But at the low-cost end, a device like the Lowe’s iris zigbee sensor may have a one or two second advantage over a device like the gocontrol Z wave sensor.

Second, most home automation sensors are preset to the value you would want for security monitoring, which is designed to save battery life, and may be fairly slow in responding. If the sensor allows you to change the responsiveness, you almost always will up it for turning on interior lights.

To be honest, for controlling hue lights it’s really hard to beat Phillips own motion sensor (a zigbee device) which works with the hue bridge. It’s fast, it’s not too expensive, it has a couple of basic rules built into it. We have four of these and like them very much.

If you use them with the hue bridge, SmartThings will not be aware of them, but that’s the way they will work the most quickly. SmartThings will be aware when a Hue light that was triggered by that motion sensor comes on so you can get indirect integration that way.

There is a community created device type that allows you to connect the Hue sensor directly to the SmartThings hub, but different people are reporting different degrees of success with that method, and it does add some additional lag because it requires a trip to the SmartThings cloud each time.

So if all you want is to control Hue lights with motion sensor, you might just consider the hue device made for that purpose.

Step three: use zones if needed

Odd shaped rooms or very large rooms just may not be able to be easily covered by one sensor. Fortunately Mike Maxwell has created a zone manager smart app which can combine the information from multiple sensors into one zone. This is rightly very popular. :sunglasses:

Step Four: More Tricks

There are many more tips and tricks that apply to specific situations. You can read about these on the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki. In particular, go to the project report section and look for the list on sensors. There are a number of motion sensor discussions there that you might find interesting. Or you could just go straight to the project reports on bedrooms at the very end of that page, as almost all of those are about motion sensors.


So…placement, device choice, and use of zones will solve most motion sensor issues. In addition, there are some specific tricks for specific use cases that might also help. But definitely you should be able to get useful and practical motion sensor triggers for your lighting, it’s one of the most basic home automation use cases. :bulb::heart_eyes:

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And this might also be of interest. Basements can be particularly challenging with motion sensors because they don’t tend to have the same consistent levels of heating as the higher levels of the house.