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Home Driveway Alarm

July 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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This DrivewayPatrol Driveway Alarm is one of those ‘As seen on TV!’ products, which means the quality is questionable, but the price is outstanding due to mass production, and they are thoroughly tested. The idea is simple: just hide the motion sensor along your driveway, put the speaker unit in your home (within 400 feet), and when someone walks or drives into your driveway, you hear a chime. It can be handy for security, alerting you to guests, or for quite a lot of other purposes.

This is a passive infrared sensor, so you don’t want to put it in a windy bush or at a level where the cat will set it off, unless you want your cat to set it off. Some people use this type of motion detector at ankle level by their door to let them know when their pet wants to come in. They can also be useful if you are making a racket in a workshop or are in the back yard and you want to be alerted to visitors. There is no wiring necessary, as the wireless driveway alarm takes three C batteries for the sensor, and a 9 volt for the chime (not included).

There aren’t many products out there that still use C batteries, and if you are like me, you don’t want to be buying odd battery sizes all the time. My solution was to get these Sanyo rechargeable batteries with charger. They come with 8xAA, 2xAAA, and four each of these plastic shells you can put a AA battery inside of in order to make them work as C or D batteries. They work great, and rechargeable batteries have gotten so much better in recent years. I use them for everything now. Everything from AAA to D batteries actually put out the same voltage, they just made all the bigger sizes to hold a charge longer, but the new AA batteries hold more than the old D batteries.

There is a similar driveway alarm system, the Bunker Hill Driveway Alert System, that you can find at Harbor Freight. They are similar enough that I’m guessing they are using pretty much the same guts. Harbor Freight is known for having really cheap stuff, but amazon has this Driveway Patrol unit for around half the price ($11 as of this writing).

If you are looking for a DIY driveway alarm solution, It would be easy to whip up something fun with this DIY Motion Detector Kit. By putting the sensor in your driveway and hooking it up to your indoor lights, you could have the interior lights come on whenever someone approaches, which would both leave a convincing impression that you are home even when you aren’t, and if you are home, alert you more directly than traditional outdoor motion lighting when someone is outside.

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Make any Light Into a Motion light | Heath Zenith SL-6053 Wireless

April 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sometimes you already have the perfect lighting for your home and you just want to add motion sensing functionality. With this DIY motion detector Kit you can make any light motion sensitive. There are a few other such kits out there, but this one has some nice features.

It is designed so you replace your existing wall switch with the one provided (anyone moderately handy ought to be able to handle this). The motion sensor itself is battery powered (two AAA batteries which should last quite a while), and you can just attach it wherever it is you want to detect motion, as long as it is within a hundred feet of the outdoor lighting. Motion sensor doesn’t need any wiring.

There are some big advantages to being able to set up the motion sensor away from the light. For one, it allows you to hide the sensor where it won’t be visible to vandals at nitght when the light comes on. It is also a great way to keep June bugs, may beetles, moths, and other insects from circling the light and continuously triggering it.

The unit works with lights up to 300 watts, and has a dimmer switch with five levels of brightness (won’t work for fluorescent bulbs, but you shouldn’t put them in motion lighting anyway). The energy saving nature of outdoor motion lighting combined with the dimmer switch reduces the need for energy efficient outdoor light bulbs. It has a dusk mode option which can turn the lights on at a low level for a few hours after dusk. They will brighten to full if motion is detected. Due to all the features, this product isn’t really cheaper than a normal outdoor motion detector light, but wireless motion detectors give you the flexibility to use the lighting of your choice and place the motion sensor out of sight. It is sensitive to a 240° angle and does have a sensitivity adjustment. When you turn the main switch on, the light stays on. When you turn it off, it is in motion sensor mode. The individual product numbers on these two components are : SL-6017 for the switch, and SL-6032 for the motion sensor. Heath/Zenith Motion Sensor tends to have prompt customer service. This switch is intended for single pole switches, which means that it is the only switch that controls the light. If there are multiple switches for the light, you need the 3 way version of the switch (SL-6023) instead of the 6017. You can get the whole single pole switch and motion sensor kit on amazon. Or a bit cheaper through Plumber Surplus. They tend to have good promotions as well.
I’ll make an effort below to post and keep up to date any of their weekly promotional codes I come across:

Heath Zenith SL-6053-WH Motion light Set with Dual Brite, Transmitter and Receiver, White

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Scarecrow Motion Sprinkler

March 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


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Unlike a motion sensor light, the Scarecrow CRO101 Motion Sprinkler won’t help you when you are fumbling with your keys in the middle of the night, but there are a ton of useful applications for it:

Keep cats out of yard: Cats really don’t like this thing. This is an easy way to keep the neighbors cat from digging in your yard without irritating its owner.

Keeping dogs out of yard: Admittedly there are a few breeds of dog that think this is just a great toy, but at least they will be frolicking rather than leaving a present on your lawn.

Keep deer out of garden: The Scarecrow has a feature to pause for eight seconds between bursts. This really disturbs flighty animals like deer. It is also effective against rabbits and chickens.

Discourage people: Whether they be bums, burglars, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Girl Scouts, they will likely choose easier pickings. Be warned this also goes for the mailman, Publishers Clearing House, and other desired guests.

Pond guard: If there is a heron eating koi out of your pond, or a raccoon eating your fish. this is the answer.

Repel skunks and other undesirables: If it likes to scuttle in the night and is big enough to be detected, it won’t like the Scarecrow. Skunk sprayed your dog? Give it a taste of its own medicine!

This unit works day and night. For most applications, this is nice, but if you just want it for one or the other, you are out of luck. It runs off of a 9 volt battery (not included). It comes with a 17″ stake and setup is easy. Just attach the hose and the stake, put in the battery, and it is ready to go.

Amazon carries this motion detecting sprinkler, and it is usually eligible for prime shipping.

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Adel Biometric Fingerprint Reader Lock LA9-3

March 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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I’ve been using this lock for a few years now and I’m quite pleased with it. It is still on its original set of batteries (four AA), and is well built and reliable. My impression has been that this lock is more secure than your average front door lock, but none of this technology is foolproof, nor is a fortified front door going to prevent unlawful entry. If someone is determined enough they can always break a window or just saw through a wall. What this lock is about is convenience and the impression that you take your security seriously. I no longer carry keys. I have everything biometric, and the experience has felt very freeing.

No more wondering if you remembered if you locked the door, the door is locked all the time.  This can be overridden by scanning your fingerprint and typing in a sequence, at which point the light will blink green and the lock will be unlocked in passage mode until such a point as someone pushes a button, at which time it will resume being always locked. This can be handy if you have guests and don’t want them getting locked out. Another advantage is that you can put in a code for a guest and then change it at a future date, thus removing the concern of your cat sitter having the keys to your home. The fingerprint scanner is moderately reliable. If your hands are really wet or dry, it may not register until you remedy the condition, and it takes about a second and a half to read your print. The unit can hold 120 fingerprints, and can also be unlocked via a combination you set on the keypad. What if the batteries die? The unit comes with two keys, which look very hard to counterfeit, and there are two little contacts at the base of the unit. Simply touch a 9 volt battery to the contacts and it will power the unit.

I know this isn’t a motion light, but it appeals to the same desire: that security should be something that makes your life easier, rather than something that just gets in your way while protecting you from hypotheticals; it should light your way or free you from the need to worry about keys.

I’ve had quite a few guests look jealous and ask me where they can get one. You won’t likely find this lock in a local hardware store, but you can have it conveniently delivered from amazon. I got mine from Brickhouse Security. They have all sorts of high tech security stuff like this, and still carried this lock last I checked.

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Sylvania Wireless Motion Sensor Anywhere LED Lights

March 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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These Wireless motion sensor lights by Sylvania are easy to stick anywhere. They have a strong magnet on the back, come with  a piece of sticky foam, and have screw holes for more permanent attachments (the mount has a nicely designed detachment if you want to remove the light). The lights are about the size of a racquetball, and have a small switch on the side with three settings: on, off, and auto (motion sensitive). They take three AAA batteries, and after being triggered many times every night by me and my pets, the batteries last about four months, six if you don’t mind it being dim.

The motion detector is quite sensitive and only triggers in the dark. The smooth light output is about that of a bright flashlight. They have rubber seals on the major seams, and I’ve had one outside for most of a year now getting hit by rain and hail, and it is no worse for wear. The way the motion sensor sticks out one side makes it easy to boost its sensitivity in a single direction, and the head swivels about 80°. I’ve found them useful as closet lights and cupboard lights, and I’ve stuck some to my forced air heating vents on my ceiling as motion activated night lights so that I can walk around at night without squinting, waking up the family, or tripping over the cat. Using the magnet means they are easy to just grab and take with me if need be. Looking inside them, the actual circuitry takes up very little space and seems like it would be easily converted to other use for robotics or other motion sensitive applications.

I’ve seen these at Costco, or you can save yourself the trip and have it conveniently delivered from amazon.