Ah, the lowly door/window sensor. It just sits next to an entry point in the home waiting to add security benefits and it doesn’t really cost that much. Instead of treating spare sensors like the Rodney Dangerfield of IoT devices, why not give that sensor some respect and use it in unique, non-security focused ways? Leave security to companies like Locksmith Portland. I’ve done that in the past and have a few “thinking outside of the box” ideas to help you repurpose any door/window sensors you have lying around.
Note that in most cases, you’ll need a smart home hub like a Wink or SmartThings device since these low-powered devices can’t do much without one. That’s because many sensors on the market use Z-Wave radios, which on their own, can’t get on your home’s wireless network. The exception is for Apple HomeKit users because most HomeKit sensors use Bluetooth.
Trigger a bathroom fan that’s on a smart switch
I don’t know about you but my kids never seem to turn on the exhaust fan when taking a shower. I’ve thought about retrofitting some smart fans with humidity sensors to solve the problem but there’s a cheaper way. Why not put a door/window sensor on the shower door? Obviously, this won’t work if you have a shower curtain but if you have a door on the shower, it’s easy to mount sensors on it. When the kids close the door for a shower, the sensor contacts can be a trigger event for the exhaust fan connected to a smart switch. It’s not a perfect solution since the door has to be left open a crack all other times. However, it’s much cheaper and easier than installing a whole new fan with integrated sensors.
Make a reclining chair smart
This won’t work with every recliner but if you flip your chair over, you can hide a door/window sensor under the chair. One part goes on the side of the chair and the other goes on the back of the footrest so that when you recline back, the door/window sensor is separated from the magnetic contact. I use my leather recliner at night solely for studying, reading and writing, so during this time when I recline back, my Google Home plays relaxing music and turns on a connected reading lamp next to the chair.
Get notified when your garage door is left open
While you won’t be able to remotely close your garage door, this handy trick will at least alert you when you’ve left the garage door open. Depending on whether or not you got a trustworthy company like Spark Garage Doors – Denver CO to install your garage door, there might be enough clearance to put a sensor on the wall just above the closed door: Placing the other part of the sensor on the very top edge of your garage door will complete the contact indicating a closed door.
If this doesn’t work in your situation, you can tape one part of the sensor to the garage floor near the corner of the door with the other part actually on the corner. When the door is open, the contact between the two sensor parts is broken, indicating the open door. The trick is to trigger a notification only if the door is left open for a certain number of minutes: I use 10 minutes as the time constraint but you can customize the number; preferably to a short enough time that you’re not far from home if you left the door open.
Don’t walk into a dark closet
Sure you can flip a switch to walk into an illuminated closet but why bother? Just put a door/window sensor on the inside of the closet door and add a connected bulb. When you open the door to walk in, the light will automatically go on. When you leave and close the door behind you, the light’s out. I find that we used to leave the closet light on accidentally by not flipping the switch, so this was my trick to resolve that problem and reduce wasted electricity.
These are just a few ideas that I’ve used in the past, or still use, to repurpose extra door/window sensors. They’re generally simple to implement and don’t cost much money since you can nab these sensors for around $20 to $25 each. If you’re a HomeKit user, the price of entry may be a bit more: Eve sensors, for example, will set you back $40.
Got any interesting ways to use door/window sensors? Share them in the comments!
They make a great security device for anything you don’t want moved so long as you’re don’t mind sticking one piece to the item. Hide the main piece of the sensor behind the item and be alerted any time it moves. For extra security, in the right scenario, a light or sound could also be triggered.
Add one to the other end of a pull string and have fun with some truck or treaters!
Robert Hafer says
I have an upright freezer in my basement that I’ve attached a door sensor to. It turns on a nearby light when the door is opened and off 1 minute after it is closed. Also, I get a notification if the door has been open for more the 10 minutes.
I used one on the liquor cabinet to notify me when it was opened/closed. And the the teenagers were very aware that I had the sensor and it notified us when it was opened. I also put a movement sensor in the bottom of a container to know when that was moved at all. You could use this for all sorts of things like a stash of money, gun case, or anything else that you’d like to know if someone was messing with it.
Fazal Majid says
I believe the National Electric Code now requires all vent fans to be on a timer (or that might be California only). It’s a very simple and inexpensive upgrade, and much more reliable than IoT anything.
On my to-do list: put a sensor on my mailbox lid so I know when mail has arrived.
You can also combine them well with other components. For instance I have one on my garage door, but I also have a relay that can open/close the door. So if the door is open for 8 minutes it tries to close it, at 9 minutes it tries again, and if it’s still open at 10 minutes it texts me. (Trying an even number of times is important because it means in the case of a sensor failure the worst case is that it opens for 1 minute then closes again)
I’ve also seen people combine them with power meters on dishwashers or washing machines, (after the power meter shows the cycle has ended, you know that the dishes inside are clean until the door has been left open long enough to put them away)
More adventurous types can take door sensors apart and convert them to monitor any number of things by wiring across the magnetic reed switch. This allows you to convert all sorts of non-connected devices to connected ones. Anything that can close a relay can trigger the sensor. And as you point out, these are usually the cheapest connected devices you can find.
Stacey Higginbotham says
I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but my mailbox is out of Wi-Fi range down the street, so I’d need cellular. Sigh!
Francisco Geraci says
I have done this with a category 5 cable running out to my mailbox. I modified the window sensor by following these instructions:
So the switch electronics and battery is actually inside my house (no weatherproofing required) and I used a surface mount magnetic contact inside my mailbox. Here is the switch I used:
I made all the connections inside the mailbox with telephone wire splice connectors:
I only needed to use one pair of the category 5 cable. The run is about 80′ and it’s been working great every day since December 2017.
Javier R Refuerzo says
I use one to get notifications when my Traditional Doorbell is pressed by placing it inside the chime box. I removed the outer cover from my window/door sensor and removed the cover from my doorbell Chime Box, then I placed the window/door sensor parallel to the doorbell Magnetic Piston and replaced the chime box cover. This allows me to see the CCTV camera at the front door on my phone or watch when the someone presses the doorbell, much like the Ring Doorbell but without the need for a subscription.
Great ideas! Curious what sensor would you recommend for the Wink v2 hub?
I have a French door style refrigerator. I use it to monitor the doors that seem to get left open. It will turn a hue lamp purple, and I combined it with IFTTT to call me and tell me the fridge is open. The phone call is useful in case I leave the refrigerator open and immediately leave the house.
I’m trying to figure out how to get a smart door to my house using the August lock system and some sort of motion sensor/automatic door opener. This kind of technology must be about to hit the market, but until then, I figure I must be possible with the right combination of technologies.
I want a door sensor for our Jack and Jill bath. My teens are forever leaving one door shut.
Similar to Scott- I have a door sensor that alerts me if the freezer is open for 5 minutes or more. Trying to figure out how to mount the door sensor to my outside fridge, so I can know if those are open to…
Kartik Soni says
Great ideas! Curious what sensor would you recommend for the Wink v2 hub?
Undoubtedly great post. Definitely, your latest “door/window sensor” system is awesome. How much would it cost if I want to install it on my garage door? Can you give me an idea, please? Thanks in advance 🙂