Outdoor Smart Home Sensor
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A Bloke

Outdoor Smart Home Sensors

I’m not sure why, but there seems to be a serious lack of outdoor smart home sensors available in the UK. There are plenty of ‘dumb’ outdoor gate contact sensors and motion sensors that can turn a light on when someone walks past or trigger an alarm, but very few outdoor sensors can be integrated with a smart home.

 

Why Aren’t There Many Outdoor Smart Home Sensors Available To buy

I’m not completely sure why there aren’t a lot more outdoor smart home sensors available, but if I were to guess, I’d say:

  1. Distance – The main wireless technologies like Zigbee and Z-Wave used by a lot of smart home systems are fairly short-range. They rely on a wireless mesh to give coverage around the home. So, If you locate an outdoor sensor at the end of your garden, it will likely have connectivity issues.

  2. Environment—Indoor smart home sensors are usually in a controlled environment where conditions don’t change dramatically. In contrast, outdoor smart sensors may experience extremes in temperature and humidity. Coping with extreme conditions will make outdoor smart home sensors more expensive and, therefore, less in demand.

  3. Battery Life – As I discovered, when using an indoor door sensor outside, the battery life is much shorter, especially when the weather is very cold.
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Can I Use Indoor Smart Home Sensors Outside

With a little modification, it is possible to use indoor window \ door contact sensors outside. I have successfully adapted a Hive window \ door sensor to work on my garden gate.

The technology used by indoor motion sensors to detect motion is different to the way that outdoor sensors work. So, if you try to use an indoor motion sensor outside, it will not work correctly, especially on a sunny day.

Who Makes Outdoor Smart Home Sensors

After some research, I found only four manufacturers that make outdoor smart home sensors that integrate with smart home systems and are readily available in the UK. If you live in the US, there are many more options.

Yolink

Yolink is a US-based company that, as far as I can tell, has the most extensive range of outdoor smart home devices.



Ring

Ring (owned by Amazon) is another US company probably best known for the Ring Doorbell. The only outdoor sensor (that isn’t a camera) produced by Ring is a gate contact sensor

Bestseller No. 1
Ring Alarm Outdoor Contact Sensor
Ring Alarm Outdoor Contact Sensor
Weather resistant and battery powered.; Easy, tool-free installation.
£49.00 Amazon Prime

 

Philips Hue

Philips Hue is well-known in the smart home world for their smart lighting. The Hue range of outdoor devices is limited to a motion detector

SaleBestseller No. 1

 

Yale

Best known in the UK for their locks and general home and business security. 

SaleBestseller No. 1

 

Best Outdoor Smart Home Sensors

I don’t have the time or the money to try the outdoor sensors from the four companies I’ve listed above. After a bit of online research, I decided that Yolink looked like they were the best outdoor sensors.

Reasons I think Yolink are the best outdoor sensors

  1. Number of devices – Yolink has an extensive range of both indoor and outdoor smart home devices. If, after testing, I find that Yolink products work well, I can look at using Youlink products more widely around my home

  2. Long Range – Of the four manufacturers I researched, Yolink were the only manufacturer claiming long range  (up to a quarter of a mile!) for their outdoor devices using a wireless technology called LoRa. I don’t need a quarter of a mile, but I do need the sensors to have a range of 30 meters.

  3. Low price – Yolink sensors aren’t particularly cheap, but they are cheaper than most of the competition.

  4. Integration – From what I’ve read, it appears that Yolink products will integrate with other smart home systems, such as Alexa and Home Assistant

For the reasons listed above, I’m going to buy a Yolink motion sensor and hub to test.

Update: I’ve purchased the Yolink motion sensor and hub from Amazon since writing this article. So far, I’ve found the Yolink sensor and hub work really well. I’ll write a detailed post after a bit more testing.

Where Can I Buy Outdoor Smart Home Sensors

Outdoor sensors from the manufacturers I’ve listed above can be purchased on Amazon.co.uk. Several independent UK retailers also sell the products. 

Using An Outdoor Network Camera As A Motion Sensor

As an alternative to buying a dedicated outdoor smart home motion sensor, it is possible to use a network camera as a motion sensor. Before I got the Yolink outdoor motion sensor I used an outdoor Reolink network camera as a motion sensor to turn on the light on my front drive when someone approached the house. I also used the Reolink as an automatic smart doorbell when someone got close to my front door.

It is best to use a network camera that has AI so that it doesn’t constantly trigger at any motion. An AI camera can be configured only to detect the motion of a car, person or pet. So things like tree branches moving in the wind don’t get picked up as motion.

Conclusion: Outdoor Smart Sensors

There’s not much choice in the UK when it comes to outdoor sensors that work with existing indoor smart home systems. I’ve only found four manufacturers that appear to fit the bill. 

 

FAQ: Outdoor Smart Home Sensors

 

What is a wireless mesh?

A wireless mesh network is a type of network topology where each node (device) in the network can communicate directly with nearby nodes, as well as relay data for nodes that are farther away. This creates a mesh-like structure where nodes form multiple pathways for data to travel through the network.

What is LoRa?

LoRa, which stands for Long Range, is a wireless communication technology designed for low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs). It enables long-range communication between devices with minimal power consumption, making it ideal for outdoor smart home sensors.

 

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