The Philips Hue indoor motion sensor is quite a useful device: when it detects motion, it allows you to automatically turn your lights on to pre-set colors and brightness levels, configurable for different times of the day.
However if it’s positioned or installed in the wrong position, it can either miss people walking past, or it might get triggered by mistake (such as by your pets). Thankfully there are a number of ways of installing your motion sensor for the best effect.
Philips Hue’s indoor motion sensor has a 100° motion angle (field of view), and up to a 16 foot range so it’s important to take this into account. Mounting your sensor too high – or low – can result in it not working effectively.
How the Philips Hue indoor motion sensor works
The Philips Hue motion sensor is a standard, PIR-based sensor:
“PIR” stands for passive infrared, and this means that the sensor effectively measures heat signatures within its range. Humans and pets both give off heat signatures (i.e. radiatiated infrared light), meaning that Hue’s motion sensor can detect when someone walks past.
It can then be configured to perform a set of actions called routines, such as turning on specific lights or changing their color and brightness. This can be really useful for turning on a bunch of lights when you first come home, or automatically putting the ceiling light on when you stumble into your utility room with an arm full of clothes!
The device itself is battery powered and it comes with a magnetic ball which you attach to your wall, and then connect the sensor too. Alternatively, you can simply stick the sensor to a surface or even prop it up on a table. It’s really easy to install. It then communicates over ZigBee back to your Hue Bridge, which then controls your lights accordingly.
Hue Motion Sensor field of view
It has a 100° motion angle in both the vertical and horizontal directions, along with up to a 16 foot (6.9m) range:
This makes the motion sensor a fairly versatile and useful device because it can pick up a lot of motion, but this can also be a bad thing because it can pick up too much. Equally whilst a 100° motion angle is fairly good, it can actually miss some things – which is why 180° wide angle motion sensors have been built!
The next sections cover what you should consider to ensure that you place your motion sensor in the best possible location.
What to consider when placing it
As mentioned above, the Hue motion sensor has a 100° vertical and horizontal motion angle and it has a potential range of up to 16 foot (although in reality, some people complain that it doesn’t always detect them from ~6 foot away!).
1. Think backwards!
When placing it, you should therefore think backwards: what do you plan on happening? For example, if you want your bathroom ceiling lights to dim down when you use the john in the middle of the night, you’ll want your Philips Hue sensor pointing at the bathroom door.
But you almost certainly wouldn’t want it pointing that way from your bedroom/landing, otherwise it’d go off if you roll over in bed or your cat does their nightly patrols!
So instead you’d want to position the motion sensor inside the bathroom, pointing at the door. And since you won’t want it set off accidentally by your pets (more on this later), you want to install the sensor so that it’s aiming at eye level (i.e. 5-6 feet off the ground) – therefore even with a 100° vertical angle, it shouldn’t be set off by pets. It will, however, be set off by a human walking into the bathroom.
2. Think about your routines
“Why is this guy telling me to think about my Alexa routines?!”, you ask? No, not those routines – you should think about your day-to-day (IRL!) routines.
This is because they’ll feed directly into getting the best out of your motion sensor. For example…
- If you regularly make midnight trips to the fridge, a motion sensor near the fridge that is configured to only come on/trigger between 11pm-3am will make sense.
- If you find that there’s no good position for your Hue motion sensor… consider whether you tend to open or close doors for specific activities. For example, do you close the living room door when you settle down to watch a Friday night movie? If so, a motion sensor can be installed taking this into account – i.e. that a closed door will ‘cut off’ the PIR motion sensor and stop it triggering.
You can then install the motion sensor outside the living room, in the knowledge that it won’t get triggered by accident during movie time by anyone moving around inside the living room.
- If you like to watch TV in your bedroom at night but don’t want the motion sensor triggered by the TV, consider installing the sensor down by the leg of the bed.
This will allow the sensor to be watch the bedroom and (ensuite) bathroom entrances, but not get confused by the TV. Of course, pets will then easily trigger it – so either shut the bedroom door at night, or set the linked light to 1% brightness so that the motion sensor won’t wake you up at night with a 100% bright light!
3. Ensure it can be installed where you plan it
When you’ve finished looking around your rooms and working out the best spots for your Hue motion sensors, make sure that it’s easy to install there!
The last thing you want to do is decide on a single ‘best spot’, and then realize it’s hard to install there.
The motion sensor has a ball slot in the back, which fixes onto a magnetic ball. This ball is easily screwed onto the wall, but if you’re unable to screw this in for any reason, you may have to comprise and instead use:
- Velcro strips
- Command/M3 adhesive strips
- A 3D-printed Hue sensor stand… if you have a 3D printer (or access to a cheap enough printing service).
These can either be applied to the magnetic ball, or directly to the Hue motion sensor if using the ball doesn’t make sense.
4. Trial and error
“Perfect is the enemy of good“Voltaire, 1770
Having said all the above, don’t over-analyze your decision of where to place the Philips Hue motion sensor. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as they say!
The fact that the motion sensor has a 100° vertical and horizontal range means that it will detect quite a lot, and it can be almost impossible to think through every possible human (and pet!) routine that may accidentally trigger the sensor.
Equally you might install it in one spot, only to realize that it doesn’t get triggered when someone does something nearby in a particular ‘blind spot’.
If you’re unsure, perhaps use an adhesive strip to temporarily install the magnetic ball before screwing it in permanently.
Best install location when you have pets
I actually cover this in a lot more detail in its own dedicated guide, but the main thing to know is that if you install the Hue sensor at floor level (or pointing at the floor), it has a higher chance of being triggered by your pets:
Therefore installing it higher up makes a lot of sense.
However where this isn’t possible or wouldn’t make sense, two things you can try instead are:
- Lower the motion sensitivity (under advanced settings in the Hue app) to medium or low. Medium may work if you have smaller pets, but a large dog may require a ‘low’ motion sensitivity setting.
- If all else fails, set the light down to a dim 1% brightness (especially at night-time). Then if your pets do trigger the motion sensor, you won’t be woken up by 100% bright white lights!