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January 30, 2020

Home Automation Made Easy: Motion Sensors and Switch Solutions

There’s no question that home automation is helpful, but it’s hard to know where to optimize and how to start. We recommend that you begin the process with the lighting solutions in your rental property.

Do you ever deal with the following scenarios?

Scenario 1: You walk in from the garage in the evening with a bag full of groceries and struggle to turn on the lights.

Scenario 2: Closet or storage room lights are left on accidentally for long periods of time.

Scenario 3: Bathroom lights and/or exhaust fans are left on for long periods of time or exhaust fans are not left on long enough.

I started looking into these solutions a few years ago based on feedback from guests and property managers. Bulbs were constantly being replaced due to lights being left on 24/7. The issue isn’t that bulbs are terribly expensive. Rather, it’s inconvenient to go out there to replace them or get a handyman to do it if you’re not local to your rental property.

Product recommendations: Where to start

I found a few cool options that I tested out at Loudoun Escape. I wanted to address the scenarios above. I found switches on Amazon which solve scenario #1 and scenario #2 very well. The ones I used are good for up to 250W bulbs (which should be good for most scenarios). If you wanted higher wattage bulbs, I would recommend these switches.

We installed a motion sensor switch to replace the light switch at the entrance as you walk in from the garage of Loudoun Escape. This is in addition to walk-in closets, utility rooms, storage rooms and the half bathroom (no shower) on the main level. The lights immediately turn on as anyone walks into the coverage area. We have these programmed to turn off after a 5-minute period. This works consistently to ensure lights turn on immediately and also turn off when they’re no longer used.

A lesson learned here is never to use the light sensors I mentioned above for bathrooms with showers. I’ve tested this dual tech occupancy sensor which combines passive infrared and ultrasound technology to detect even subtle movements. It’s not perfect, but this switch does a much better job of keeping the lights on if someone is in the shower. Regular infrared sensors do not detect subtle motion that may be restricted by a shower curtain.

To properly ventilate a bathroom (after showers and similar), I have been researching and have settled on this switch to install. If installed on a switch which controls the air vent fan in bathrooms, you would just need to hit the buttons for the time interval you want (1, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes) and the fan will automatically turn off after the time period is over. This is a great way to make sure a bathroom is properly aired out to avoid any mold build-up.

Where I’d like to take these home automation solutions further is to integrate Ring motion sensors or Hive motion sensors with the smart switches or smart dimmer switches that we have installed at Loudoun Escape. The goal is to turn off lights in any room that is unused for a defined period of time. There are countless other automation ideas that are possible when smart switches are combined with other products.

These are home automation solutions I would like to integrate into our rental management solution Jervis Systems. Stay tuned for more!

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