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? 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 footrest so that when you recline back, the door/window sensor is separated from the magnetic contact. I use my 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 your garage door installation, 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!