• Smart sensors are the eyes and ears of your house. Sometimes overlooked, they are one of the important elements to make your home truly smart  
  • They provide environment-based triggers for home automation rules. As an example, they are used in almost each of 15 coolest home automation routines
  • We reviewed and tested over 30 connected home sensors to give you the recommendations of the best sensors. The following are the best smart sensors:  
Surprisingly, almost 30% out of $2k that I spend on sensors when building my personal open source smart home. This includes a combination of Dome Motion and Light Sensor (Price not available) and Aeon Multisensor 6 in 1 ($59.99). For door sensors I use SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor

Why Sensors Are Important

The main benefit of connected sensors is providing awareness and make your home more intelligent. 

They are one of the most important elements in your Internet of Things (IoT) setup. They provide another set of eyes for monitoring movement, motion, temperature, etc., in your home, whether you’re far away from home or just having fun in your backyard. 

For example, a sensor can make sure you will never use a light switch again and also report the temperature in your house. This can not only reduce expenses but also the number of devices you need to secure your home. 

What Different Kinds of Smart Sensors Exists? 

Motion Sensors

One of the most popular types are motion sensors. They detect motion/movement in and around the home. They are your virtual guard when you’re not home. Motion sensors will alert you to unwanted movement around your home or when pets/children wander into restricted territory. 

Water Leak Sensors

A water leak can be an expensive occurrence. Fortunately, it can be prevented if you put proper monitoring in place. With a leak sensor, you get an alert whenever your home is at risk of broken water lines or freezing pipes. Most times, people only become aware after the damage has been done. In prevention of this, leak sensors will alert you when there is an instance of a leak and you can take action and fix it immediately. You can place the leak sensor under your dishwasher, refrigerator, sinks, and anywhere there is a risk of water leakage. 

Automations using leak sensors

Door / Window Sensors (aka contact sensors)

Door sensors good for monitoring your front door/porch. You can also set them up to turn on or off the lights. Thus, they can be effective towards preventing break-ins. You are notified directly on your phone when an intruder tries to break in. Talk about beefing up your home security especially when you’re out and about. 

MultiSensors

These are the most versatile devices from this list as they combine a host of features offered by single smart home sensors. This includes being able to track temperature, vibration, humidity, motion, leak, and so on. MultiSensors will come with at least a year of battery life and are often discreet so they are almost always unnoticeable where they are placed. If you don’t want to have many different devices in your smart home setup, you can get one of these and have them do most of these things. 

Vibration sensors

These are similar to motion sensors as they are able to detect not only vibration but also movement in your space. They are most effective against theft and the best place to put them is around your drawers, safes, and where you have kept valuables. Some vibration sensors have range up to 100ft, so they can easily stay in a variety of places. 

Temperature Sensors

Temperature sensors are great for monitoring both the interior and exterior area of your home. They are especially great in the summer when it’s hot but also can be handy in the winter when it’s very cold. You can set it up to turn on the AC when it’s hot outside and 10 minutes before you get home. Or you could have it activate your sprinklers if it’s been above 20 degrees for the past two days. 

Where Should I Install Sensors?

One of the most suitable areas to place your sensors is on your window, door, or any point of entry to your home. This is because they are able to detect any movement around these areas, which can be very effective against break-ins, theft, and burglary. 

If you can’t afford more than one or two, you can put them in your front or back doors as that is where any intruder will most likely target first, according to a report that half of all occurrences of burglaries are through the front door. 

Because sensors come in different types and models, resulting area to install them may be different. 

For your motion sensor, there are many places you can put them in your home. They can be in the hallway leading to your room, which is good for your overall security. Another good area to place them is your living room, because of the high traffic in there. Finally, they should be in a position that’s high above the ground for more effectiveness. 

What about multi sensors? This can be a little more difficult because of the multi-function capacity of multi sensors. A good rule of thumb is to place them in a central location, where most of the features will be useful. Here, it’ll easily pick up the temperature level, humidity and be able to monitor motion around the house easily. 

If you are installing a leak sensor, there are specific places that are most suitable. The most appropriate place is under your dishwasher, refrigerator, sinks, and anywhere there is a risk of water leakage. 

Should I Use Zigbee or Zwave with Sensors? 

It depends on the application and your budget. If you are buying on a budget, Zigbee is cheaper and so maybe the logical option for you. Also, some types of sensors only use one of two multisensors (for example we only found multisensors on the Z-wave protocol.

MORE: Zigbee vs Z-wave: which protocols would work better for you?

Is Having RF-based Sensors a Good Idea? 

Yes, but only for specific uses cases. They are equally cheap but not as versatile as other types. The main advantage of RF sensors is the price. But at the same time, they are much simpler devices. This means that is no feedback loop and hence no confirmation that the signal that the sensor sent was received.

Our recommendation is to use RF sensors only in non-critical applications (for example I use SONOFF PIR Motion Sensor in all my windows).  

Best Smart Motion Sensors

Philips Hue Motion Sensor is the best Zigbee Motion Sensor

Amazon Reviews:
  • Lux and motion sensor
  • Indoor use only
  • Weighs 7.2 ounces
  • Requires no wiring
  • 90 days limited warranty

You could always use a motion sensor with the Philips Hue Lighting System as well as third-party ones like SmartThings. Fortunately, Philips now have their own first-party solution that works really well. Fortunately, it doesn’t just work with the Philips Hue Lights but can work within your home kit setup as well. There are a lot of things you can do with the Philips Hue Motion sensor for Smart Lights, including putting it in your hallway, bathroom, kitchen, living or any room in your house. 

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Built-in ambient light sensor and temperature
  • Can be installed anywhere
  • Very quick to setup

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

  • Sensitivity isn’t very effective
  • Might come refurbished

Using Hue Motion Sensor

You can set it on a shelf somewhere in your house or go with the magnetic mount if you want to put in on the wall, ceiling, refrigerator, or similar areas that require mounting. It also comes with a couple of screw sets that’ll help you screw the mounting bracket on to the installation location.  

It comes with 2 AAA batteries and you can get 2 to 3 years of usage out of it, which is good enough. You’ll need a screwdriver, though, when it’s time to remove/replace the batteries. However, you don’t have to worry about that except in a few years’ time. 

Reported Issues

One of the issues with this sensor is that the sensitivity is quite low such that it may not function properly at times. Some users complain that it doesn’t turn on the proper lights or delay in switching on the lights when you are in the motion range. 

Compare with other Zigbee Sensors

The Philips Hue Motion Sensor for Smart Lights is quite affordable, but not as cheap compared to other sensors like the SmartThings sensor ($19.90). The advantage is that Hue sensor has also ambient lux sensor, which is key for any light automations. In our view, this is worth paying extra.

Dome Home Detector is the best Z-Wave motion sensor alternative

Amazon Reviews:
  • Supports up to 150 ft range
  • 3-year battery life span
  • Compact and discreet

The Dome Dome Home Automation Motion Detector is another great sensor to add to your home automation system. The device is capable of detecting movement in your home using an extra wide 110-degree sensor. It will react to any movement or similar activity by sending you an alert to your smart home system. 

Compared to other Z-wave Sensors

Compared to the Aeon 6 in 1 ($59.99) which is powered by USB cable, this can only be powered by a battery. So, you should be prepared to spend some extra on battery replacement, even though that will only be needed every few years. 

For RF-based we recommend Sonoff PIR Motion Sensor 

Amazon Reviews:
  • Offers 110 degrees detection range
  • 12m x 12m max coverage area
  • For indoor use only

The Sonoff PIR motion sensor offers dual infrared options, which brings about a more accurate and sensitive operation. This is a great option if you are using it in isolation and with no need for other items in close proximity. 

It also has a PIR sensor, which helps in optimizing energy consumption as well as long term durability. However, it’s a little bigger compared to the Philips Hue Motion Detector and similar models. Even with that, it’s still dependable. It’s easily configured so it’s at least user-friendly. 

Best Door/Window Sensor

SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor is still the best Zigbee Door Sensor 

Amazon Reviews:
  • 32-104oF operating temperature
  • Powered by 1 x CR-2450 battery
  • Signal range of 50-130 ft
  • Communicates through Zigbee

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Versatile monitoring
  • Instant notification
  • Compatible with popular protocols
  • Supports Wi-Fi

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

  • Installation process not straightforward

One of the greatest advantages of the Samsung SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor is the ability to detect when your window, door, or drawer is opened or closed, even though it’s installed in a corner in the house. Most sensors need to be in close proximity, that is, you need to place them on your window/door/drawer to detect movements around it. 

Using and installing it

Being a new generation 3 sensor, the SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor offers a lot more flexibility than previous generation 2 SmartThings. One of the advantages is that it supports Wi-Fi, which means you can put it in a central location instead of creating another space for it. 

It comes with the new SmartThings app, which seems to have less functionality, compared to the classic app. In the new one, support for custom automation is neglected as well as a few other features. You may want to stay with the classic app if you like some of the missing functions in the new app. 

Issues

While the device itself functions seamlessly, setting up is not so smooth. One of the problems with the unit is the rigid installation procedure. If you’ve not installed similar items in the past, it may not be easy getting through the installation as quickly as it’s advertised. 

Compare with other Zigbee Sensors

One of the reasons why many users like the SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor, compared to others, is the sophisticated automation it offers. Not only does it work smoothly, but it’s also multipurpose, so you’re getting more smart home functionality. 

EcoLink has a bit more expensive but the best Z-wave window sensor

Amazon Reviews:
  • Weighs 1.4 ounces & measures 3.4x1x1″
  • Earth magnet for wide range installation
  • 3-year battery life
  • Z-wave compatible

Looking for a reliable door sensor? Look no further than the Z-wave Plus Earth Magnets Door/Window Sensor. 

One of the great things about the unit is that it comes with superb accuracy when it comes to transmission of signals. This ensures it functions properly anywhere you place it in the house. 

In addition to that, it has screw downs for a wired reed switch. This is a great option for those who want to monitor their mailbox and need a sensor to do it. So, if you are going to use this, you can leave it open outside your metal mailbox and it will still transmit excellent signals to the house. Add the strong battery with this perfect signal, and you get a nice setup for your mailbox.  

Best Smart Multisensors 

Aeon 6 in 1 Multisensor is expensive but the best z-wave multisensor

Amazon Reviews:
  • Measures 1.8 x 2.5 x 1.8 inches
  • Battery and AC powered
  • Screw-in installation method

While it’s small, the Aeotec Multisensor incorporates a lot of features you’ll otherwise find in the bigger counterparts. You can measure motion, vibration, humidity, light, temperature, and UV levels all in one place. 

WHAT WE LIKED

  • Easy to mount
  • Solid construction
  • Pairing and setup is easy

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

  • Nothing serious found, only feedback that Aeon should have included batteries

Using and installing it

You can either power it via a USB power supply or use the battery that comes with it. Therefore, it’s great for those that don’t have an AC outlet where they are installing the sensor. Moreover, the device is designed for easy battery access, so changing the battery isn’t going to cause you headaches. Finally, you can purchase the in-ceiling bracket along with it so you can cover it and conceal it from plain sight after installation. 

Issues

There are not a lot of issues except that it’s very small in size. The OEM batteries may not be standard, so you might need to buy another set. In addition, some users complain that the battery isn’t so stable and that a firmware update may be needed to get it working properly. And to do that, you’ll need a dongle, which costs a few dollars. However, the battery is most likely usable in its current state, so you can make do with it. 

Compare with other Z-wave Sensors

Aeon 6 in 1 Multisensor offers you both USB and battery power options, which is a huge advantage over other Z-wave models like the Dome Home Automation Motion Detector Z-Wave. The only hitch is that it doesn’t come with the batteries, which is where the ZOOZ Z-wave Sensor excels as it comes with its batteries (but has fewer sensors). 

However, you can power it with AC, which can save you money from repeatedly buying batteries or where it might go dead in the middle of the night or when you are too busy to get another set of batteries. 

ZOOZ Z-wave Sensor is a great alternative

Amazon Reviews:
  • Reports motion, temperature, humidity, and light level

The ZOOZ Z-Wave Plus 4-in-1 Sensor is another great multisensor that serves as a good alternative to the Aeotec Multisensor. Not only in terms of size but in the performance department. 

First, the sensor comes with the required CR123A battery, which offers significant battery life than the previous AAA batteries. While it’s already good for its low-maintenance and stress-free feature, you’ll also enjoy it for the extended power and durability. 

In order to ensure the communication between the sensor and your Zwave hub is secured, a bank-grade AES encryption is used. This ensures all signals are secured, all the time. In addition, the sensor can cover most rooms or a large area, thanks to its 40ft motion detection range. Compared to the Aeotec Multisensor, you get more coverage area, which is good if you’re using for a wide area. As an additional point to the security, the device is made small and compact. Such an inconspicuous design makes it easy to overlook, thus, can put any intruder at a severe disadvantage. 

Best Water Leak Detector

Best Zigbee Leak Sensor: Samsung Leak Detector

Amazon Reviews:
  • Light or siren alerts
  • Requires 32 to 104°f operating temperature
  • 1 x CR2 battery
  • Range: 50-130 feet
  • ONLY available in the U.S

An effective way of preventing water damage in your home is installing a water leak detector like the Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor. Unlike older water leak detects that only sound an alarm, which can easily be missed while you’re not at home, the Samsung Smart Things Water Leak Sensor, will send alerts instantly to your phone at the first sign of moisture. Fortunately, you don’t have to be at home to act on this. If your smart home is properly set up, one of the other smart devices can switch off the water main, preventing flooding and leaks until you get back home. 

MORE: Best water shut off valves

One downside though, is that it’s only available in the US. So, if you already fancy this but outside the region, you would not be able to benefit from it. 

Alternative (more expensive) Z-Wave Water Leak Detector: FIBARO Water Leak & Freeze Detector 

Amazon Reviews:
  • Built-in temperature sensor
  • equipped with a siren alarm
  • can be battery or VDC powered (12/24 VDC)
  • built-in tilt sensor

If you are looking for another alternative to detecting leaks in your boiler rooms/laundry, check out the FIBARO Flood Sensor. Since it’s compact and discreet, it’s easy to hide under your dishwasher and enjoy the invisible monitoring. It works with the leading Z-wave systems including Home Seer, Vera, SmartThings, etc. 

In addition, the FIBARO Flood Sensor has a built-in temperature sensor, so you can monitor the condition of your water pipes and get an immediate alert when they are in unusual conditions such as being frozen. 

Setting it up might set you back several minutes or even become a major PITA, which is one of the drawbacks of the FIBARO Flood Sensor. Therefore, if you haven’t installed anything like this in the past, you should be ready to try at least twice to get your smart hub to recognize it. However, as most Z-wave devices often take time to figure out or some technical know-how, you may want to outsource the installation. 

Best Outdoor Motion Sensor

Best Outdoor Floodlight Sensor: HomeSeer HS-FLS100+ Z-Wave Plus 

Amazon Reviews:
  • Z-Wave-connected outdoor motion (PIR) and light (LUX) sensor
  • designed to replace 120 VAC sensor modules

One of the best AC-powered outdoor motion sensors on the market is the HomeSeer Z-wave plus outdoor floodlight sensor. You can use it as a standalone wired-in Z-wave motion detector and it doesn’t require any lamps to hook up to it before you can use it as a sensor. Whether you’re using it as a lux sensor or outdoor motion sensor, it’ll help you beef up your security. 

In addition, this device offers a lot of flexibility, compared to conventional motion-activated floodlights. Moreover, you can use it as a conventional floodlight sensor or as a smart floodlight sensor. In the first mode, it works as a standalone motion detector and is very useful in the dark hours for powering up your floodlights when motion is detected. Or add it to your smart home system and set it up to send signals to the smart hub when the lux changes or there is movement. It also works the other way, that is, it can receive commands from the hub to turn OFF or ON your floodlights. 

Other Important Things to Consider When Buying 

1. Battery Life

When you have a sensor with long battery life, you can easily place it anywhere. This ease out the stress of handling, making it maintenance-free. 

Another advantage is that you can install it almost anywhere compared to a model that needs to be close to the wall socket to plug in. For example, you can install your outdoor motion sensor close to your mailbox that only needs battery replacement every few years. Not only does this provides ease but also removes the stress associated with using AC-powered sensors. 

One of the strongest device in this list, in terms of exceptional battery life is the Zwave Plus Earth Magnets Door & Window Sensor. Not only are you going to enjoy the strong signal and affordable price, but also minimize the stress associated with AC-powered sensors. 

2. Ability to Power with AC

Fortunately, battery-powered sensors are not the only option for you. While many operate on battery, you’ll still find lots of options if you are only interested in those that are powered by plugging in. 

The advantage of this type of sensor is that you can place them in your drawers, fridges, pet doors, near curtains, etc., and close enough to monitor their performance and to the hub for stronger signals. 

If this feature is important to you (and it should be for busy areas), you should consider buying a multisensor from Aeon. It is one of the small number of sensors that supports power supply from USB.

3. Ability to Configure

One of the great things about smart sensors is that they are often easy to configure, especially if you already operate a smart home system. However, this isn’t always true as not all models come with a mounting option which helps with the installation. 

For this, it’s better to look for models that offer hardware and tape mounting options. The tape will help you locate the appropriate location to install the sensor while the hardware will help keep it in place, when you install it on the wall, ceiling, etc., and not fall off. 

Although smart sensors are generally easy to install, some models comes with necessary tools to ease installation. A prominent one is the Philips Motion Sensor Smart Light Sensor. If you are looking for the easiest sensor to setup, we recommend you buy it from Philips.

4. Pet-Friendly Features

Another important feature to look at is the motion of pets if you have those at home. Most devices are advertised as being pet-friendly, but you need to look closely at each model before selecting one. 

A great one should be able to disregard the motion by pets that weighs less than certain pounds, say 80 or 40 pounds. We’ve found the SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor to be the best in terms of preventing false positives from cats, dogs, walking around the house. We recommend you go with that if you want a pet-friendly smart sensor. 

5. Range

Most sensors offer ranges in feet and degrees. Also, there are short range and long range PIR motion detecting sensors. Choosing one will largely depend on what you’re trying to use the sensors for. Typically, the long-range sensors are suitable if you’re looking to cover a large space. 

If you want to monitor a large area or need to install your sensor in a place far away from the hub, you need one with a strong range. The best in terms of coverage area is the Sonoff PIR motion sensor. It offers up to 110 degrees detection range, which is enough for most people.