How To Select The Best Driveway Alarm
There are numerous driveway alarm and alert systems on the market, some wired, some wireless, some with motion sensors, others with probes or even rubber hose sensors. Regardless of the brand, type or style, these systems are all meant to provide a notification when a person or vehicle enters a driveway, property, farm or store. With so many options it can be confusing, but a logical approach will help you to select the best driveway alarm, vehicle sensor or motion alarm for your application.
Decide on the Type of Sensors for the Driveway or Property Alarm
- Motion Sensor - A motion sensor or PIR (passive infrared) sensor, will detect any object moving across its path. This includes people and vehicles, but it can also include animals. Since it detects any sort of motion, it's vital to aim it so as to avoid false alarms. This sensor style is the most common because it's inexpensive, flexible and easy to install.
- Magnetic Vehicle Sensor - This type of sensor detects changes in the magnetic field around it, caused by moving metal objects. This type of sensor is designed to detect moving cars, trucks and other vehicles. It may also pick up smaller metal objects like bicycles. These sensors can be placed along side or beneath a driveway and will typically have a detection range of 8-15 feet depending on the speed of the vehicle. The probe is wired directly to a receiver, chime, or a wireless transmitter.
- Rubber Hose Sensor - In this case, a rubber hose is laid across the detection area. The hose attaches to a diaphragm that detects the moving air caused by a car, truck or other vehicle driving over it. This type of sensor is very easy to deploy as it simply lays across the road or driveway. But care is needed if snow plows or graders may damage the hose.
- Break Beam Sensor - Also known as photo beam sensors, these use a sender device typically with multiple beams that are aimed at a receiver. When one or more of the beams are broken by something moving across their path, the system is triggered. This style of system can span a large area and will detect people and vehicles as well as large animals like deer.
Decide Between a Wired or Wireless Driveway and Property Alarm
- Wired Alarms will be the most reliable and economical to operate because they aren't prone to interference, and don't have batteries that require replacing. But they can be impractical for long distances or where it's impossible to run a wire. Wires should typically be buried to keep them out of harms way from people, equipment and animals.
- Wireless Alarms are simple to install since no wires need to be run from the 'sensor' to the 'receiver' or chime box. These are flexible and cheaper to install. One needs to be conscious of the distance from the sensor to the receiver. Wireless devices are rated with an 'open air' distance which is a direct line of sight distance without obstacles or interference. In the real word, expect range to be lower than stated. How much lower depends on how many trees, walls or other obstructions are in the way. Where there are large hills and metal walls, a wired system is a better choice
- Hybrid Wired and Wireless Alarms - It's possible to use a bit of wired and wireless technology. For example, in the case of a driveway probe, the wire between the probe and a wireless transmitter may be anywhere from 50 to 1000 feet. Then the wireless transmitter may allow for another 1000-2500 feet to the receiver. In some cases such as a MURS based wireless transmitter and receiver, the distance can be up to several miles.
Decide What Needs To Happen When a Vehicle or Person is Detected
The most common application is to have a chime or alert sound inside the home, shop, store, or garage. This is standard on most driveway alarm and property alarm systems, so not much planning is required here. But if you would like to have notifications in more than one building, ensure that the system supports multiple receivers. This will almost always be a wireless system in this case, so also check the distance from sensor to receiver(s) and ensure the building isn't made of metal and doesn't have metal siding that would block the signal.
If you are constantly moving around the property, consider a system that has a battery powered portable receiver available so you can take it wherever you go. In many cases these will clip on to a belt.
You may wish to flash an indicator light or sound an external siren. In this case the system will have either a 'voltage output' to directly run a small strobe or siren, or a 'relay output' that can be used to trigger any number of powered devices. In the case of a relay, this will require a separate power supply as well as some basic electrical knowledge so you may wish to ask for assistance.
Some property alarm systems can be connected to a plug in lamp module or light switch so that lights can turn on when a person or vehicle enters the property instead of, or as well as alerting the property owner, and/or sounding a siren/strobe.
All of this boils down to four main questions:
- Sensor type
- Where receiver(s) are needed
- Wired, wireless or hybrid
- Action required
With these questions answered, you'll be able to select the best driveway alarm, vehicle detector or property alarm system for your application. In most cases these are do-it-yourself friendly systems but when in doubt, ask questions and find a helpful friend or professional installer to lend a hand.
Absolute Automation has been in the driveway and property alarm business since 1995 so please reach out for more information.
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