Environmental sensors are often added to DIY wireless home alarm systems to provide added protection to family members and home.

Whereas entry sensors and motion sensors are an integral part of security system for detecting an unauthorized entry, environmental sensors are to do with an early warning system to help prevent disaster and save lives from fire and gas leaks.

They detect things like smoke, heat, water, gas and changes in air quality. When they’ve detected one of these situations they can sound the alarm and/or send a notification to those monitoring telling them that there is an issue and action needs to be taken.

The sensors are typically on all the time whatever the mode the alarm is in (home, away or off). This is achieved in more traditional systems by adding them to their own zones so the notification and alarm sounding can be customized to fit the circumstances and with the newer systems this is set up on a sensor by sensor basis with the default that they are on all the time.

When the system detects carbon monoxide or smoke you want it to be sounding the alarm and sending out notifications to get anyone home out of the house and get the emergency service there as quick as possible.
If it is a change temperature, getting cold or a leak has been detected then you probably want to be notified and take the appropriate action to prevent damage – such as stopping the pipes freezing or the basement flooding.

Types Of Sensors

Carbon Monoxide Sensor – when carbon monoxide, an invisible killer, is detected the siren is sounded and notifications sent.

Gas Leak Sensors – detect the presence of poisonous gases carbon monoxide, LPG, LNG and often have an internal siren to sound as well as notify the persons monitoring

Smoke Detector Sensor – detects smoke while fire is smouldering to give you the chance to take action and get out of the house as well as to notify emergency services

Freeze Detector – when temperature drops below a certain temperature (40 degrees F) it will notify you so you can take action to prevent freezing pipes – great for vacation homes as well as your main residence.
Temperature Detector – this detects when temperature changes rapidly and goes beyond a minimum and maximum

Water Sensor – detects small deposits of water. You stand if up on the floor of the room and when a little water touches the sensor it sends out a notification. It can help in preventing flooding and mold infestations. It is great for basements, laundries, water heaters, attics or anywhere you have water pipes.

Adding Sensors To Your System

Environmental sensors don’t have to be included in the DIY starter kits when you buy them as most allow you to add to them as you want and your budget allows. You can add them to monitored and unmonitored systems.
Not all self-monitored systems give you the option to add these type of sensors – with it currently being the more traditional style ones that have the range to cover environmental issues. The 3 systems that have this are Pisector PS03-M, Skylink SC-1000 and Fortress GSM-B. Of the new internet based systems the ISmartAlarm and SmartThings are increasing their range on this by being a hub that work with other manufacturers products to give you greater coverage.

The only unmonitored system that I’ve reviewed that has environmental sensors as part of the starter kit is the Canary Alarm System. These are included in the hub and detect changes in temperature and air quality. These certainly can help keeping the environment clean and at the right temperature but are not enough to warn you of fire.

Many monitored systems do include the option to add environmental sensors but many tie you into a long term contract with penalties if you want to stop paying. The only one that we’ve reviewed that doesn’t do that is the Simplisafe 2 system – where you can buy packages with environmental sensors or basic starter kit and add them once you’re ready.
You are charged a monthly fee for monitoring and the notifications but you can cancel at any time without penalty.
These internet and smartphone based systems are moving forward all the time and I’m sure they’ll catch up in area but in the meantime the traditional systems are more reliable and are more cost effective on the whole.

When Should You Add These Sensors?

This comes down to personal preference but you should definitely have fire and carbon monoxide sensors in your home to prevent loss of life as part of your safety steps, whether you add them to your system or buy them separately as part of your system comes down to how much you like the convenience of having them all controlled in one place and the added security of getting an notification sent to you.

Environmental sensors are seen as “accessories” rather than core to home security systems. They can provide a higher level of safety for your home and family when integrated with the system rather than standalone. There is less set up involved and less items to monitor. You can be notified anywhere in the world you have coverage and sort the issue before it gets big, as opposed to coming home to find out there has been a flood you could have sorted when it was small problem.

Filed under: Buying Advice

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