Motion Activated HVAC

motion detector mounted in a corner

Adding value to your home involves more than improving the look of your space. Energy efficiency improvements are just as valuable—they can reduce the costs of maintaining your home, while keeping it comfortable for you and your family.

Programmable thermostats have been around for a while, and they're great options when it comes to adding value. They're fairly easy to install, and can be adjusted to automatically shut off when you leave, saving you money. But if saving money is your primary motivator, an even better option worth considering is a system that incorporates motion detectors that sense whether or not a room is occupied.

These motion or occupancy detecting sensors are already used in “green buildings” in the commercial sector. These efficient systems shut off AC or heat to unoccupied areas, which makes a significant difference to annual heating and cooling costs. Aluminum rods equipped with motion sensors, placed strategically in designated rooms or zones, signal the HVAC to react when triggered by movement in the room. When movement hasn't been detected for a certain amount of time, the sensor sends another signal to turn the component off so energy isn’t wasted.

family moving

How Effective Is It?

Heating and cooling a room only when people are in it makes plain sense from a frugal financial standpoint. It’s also a good feeling to know that we’re doing what we can to combat the climate crisis with a lower carbon footprint. But how effective is a motion detecting HVAC really?

Some technologies may have been created with the best intentions, but don’t make sense for some of us (we're looking at you, low flush toilet). Here are the basics on how the system works to give you a little more decision power.

Motion Zones

A motion detector is installed in rooms or zones of the house. These sense activity in the room when it is occupied. When the detector is activated, the A/C shifts into high gear to quickly bring the temperature down to the programmed “Occupied” setting.

After reaching the programmed setting, the system shifts to a lower output for energy-savings, while maintaining a precise, comfortable room temperature. When the sensor no longer detects motion, a signal is sent to the thermostat to reset to the previous higher temperature in the “Unoccupied” setting.

Nighttime Use

With automated motion detection used to activate the system, you might think the unit would become inactive at night when minimal movement during sleep tricks the sensor into thinking the room is unoccupied.

This may have been an issue in the past, but newer systems with smart components can take the time of day into account, and in this case, override the sensors at night to maintain a preset temperature during those hours of inactivity for a comfortable sleep.

sleeping couple

Is the Technology Right for Me?

Adding smart technology to your home allows you more options than just programming the AC or heat to turn on and off. You can control humidity in your house, and even access weather reports so you can make decisions based on conditions outside.

You can even incorporate your smart phone for added functionality. With an app that accesses your location, it alerts the system to turn on before you arrive, heating or cooling the rooms to the pre-programmed temperature so there is no lag time between your arrival home, and when the optimum temperature is achieved.

A motion activated HVAC may also be a better fit with your lifestyle if you have an unpredictable schedule. An inconsistent schedule can make it difficult to keep up with programming a smart thermostat with all the adjustments you have to make each time your schedule changes.

Beyond that, it just makes sense, especially for larger homes where it’s often difficult to keep a consistent comfortable temperature because of increased square footage. A second story and a multiplicity of zones with different heating and cooling needs only makes an inefficient system work harder and waste energy (a.k.a. money).

Increased efficiency means increased savings, and goes hand in hand with decreased carbon emissions, making a motion activated HVAC an appealing option for the frugal, environmentally conscious homeowner.