The Best Driveway Alarms: Protect Your Home and Garage
Install an alarm and get alerted to movement or people entering your driveway.
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON June 16, 2020
Two of life’s biggest investments are your car and your home. Naturally, keeping that property secure is a top priority. Your home security system keeps your house safe, but what about your driveway? Not only is it somewhere cars are often parked, but it also leads to your garage. Many garages feature a door that opens to the home, and even if it doesn’t, it’s still home to costly tools and equipment. Driveway alarms ensure that you are notified when someone enters your driveway. There are options that detect only vehicles, while some alert you to the presence of people or wildlife.
The best driveway alarms work both as a notification for you and a deterrent for potential intruders. Of course, the best driveway alarms depend on the layout of your driveway, integrating seamlessly to give you quality results. To help you track down the best driveway alarms on the market, we’ve curated a list of the leading selections. This breakdown details everything you need to know about choosing a driveway alarm that works for you.
Install this alarm and hear a chime anytime a person, vehicle, or large animal comes within 40 feet of the angled eye sensor. The sensor uses passive infrared technology to sense motion and heat during the day and night.
- Straightforward design with plug-and-play install
- Expandable to up to 16 separate alarms
- Features over 30 unique sounds and adjustable volume
- Unit vulnerable to false alarms due to high sensitivity
- Housing is not durable enough to withstand extreme weather
This magnetic wand sensor detects large masses of metal near it. It will trigger an alarm in a 3 to12-foot radius. You can then have the internal base station up to 400 feet away. It requires two AA batteries.
- Will not result in false alarms for wildlife or people
- Features a 400-foot range for longer driveways
- Comes at an affordable price
- Wand vulnerable to malfunctions
- Signal weakens as it gets further from the base
- Subject to issues with electrical interference
This solar-powered driveway alarm can detect movement in your driveway up to 143 feet horizontally and 128 feet vertically for a detection range of 30 feet. You can place the receiver up to a half-mile away.
- Adjustable sensor sensitivity to limit false alarm risk
- Able to send signals through dense materials like walls and trees
- Straightforward installation requirements
- Alarm works best only on the highest sensitivity setting
- Receiver may be vulnerable to outside interference
- Weakens as it gets further from the base
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Benefits of Driveway Alarms
- Secure your garage and home. First and foremost, a driveway alarm is about security. Many garages connect to the home through a side door. If your garage is detached, it just means you might not hear someone pulling up. An alarm system informs you that someone is in the area so you can act accordingly.
- Wireless door alarm. It never hurts to have a heads up that company is coming, even if it’s just the time it takes them to park. The chime on the alarm receiver lets you know when guests have arrived. Plus, you can customize the sound to embrace the holidays — or just for a chuckle.
- Deter potential intruders. Often, alarm systems work just by putting off potential threats. If the sensor is visibly mounted, it will often deter intruders since they know there is security on the premises.
- Keep track of traffic. If you have a driveway that gets used by cars in the area and passersby, it’s good to know. These sensors let you know who’s in your lane so that you can keep track of who is coming and going from your property.
- Wildlife awareness. If you are in a rural area, it’s useful to keep an eye on the critters in the area. From deer to herds of elephants, an infrared sensor is able to let you know when something (or someone) is close by.
- Children’s safety. Kids playing in the yard? Teenagers sneaking out? A motion sensor alarm system lets you know of human movement. This way, you are always aware of what’s going on in your driveway.
Types of Driveway Alarms
Active Infrared (AIR)
Infrared technology refers to the electromagnetic spectrum just beyond visibility, closest to the red end of the rainbow. Driveway alarms that rely on active infrared sensors send a beam outwards to register movement. It features two components, where one part sits on each side of the driveway. The light gets sent from one, reflected back by the secondary unit; and, as long as this reflection is uninterrupted, the alarm isn’t triggered. However, if something passes through that invisible line, it blocks the reflected beam, thereby triggering the alarm. It is reliable, though can be a trickier version to install. Be precise in the placement and keep the sensors clean in order to get the best results from this type of system.
Passive Infrared Technology (PIR)
The most prevalent type of driveway alarms, passive infrared technology, uses the same infrared beams as an active model, though is more basic. Instead of relying on a reflected beam to be interrupted, this sensor detects thermal energy. You can find these models at varying degrees of efficiency. Some are sensitive enough to detect the heat of a person or wildlife. Others are only able to register hotter objects such as the engine in a vehicle. When the sensor registers that heat signature, it relays a signal to the receiver located inside the home. This emits a sound alert, sometimes backed by a visual cue. These are popular for the ease of use and installation, though they are vulnerable to false alarms in the environment.
Magnetic Probe Technology
Useful for detecting vehicles, this sort of alarm registers metal via a magnetic sensor. Encased in polymer, usually PVC, the sensor goes underground, parallel to your driveway. When a vehicle drives past it, the metal sensor activates the alarm. These are less prone to false alarms since the unit is not triggered by heat. However, the reach of the magnet is variable. It depends on the casing, installation, and power of the sensor. If it is not strong enough to register small components of metal, then it might not register all vehicles. Aluminum and polymers are increasingly prevalent in vehicle design, making magnetic probes less valuable. That said, they are affordable and easy to install, while still offering valuable security.
Based in Washington, Guardline specializes in producing high-quality driveway alarms and alarm systems. The company prides itself on producing durable and dependable equipment. The Guardline ¼ Mile Long Range Wireless Driveway Alarm is a reliable alarm system for your driveway.
Headquartered in Illinois, Chamberlain is best known for its garage door opener products. But the company also produces motion detection sensors for your property. The Chamberlain Cwpir Weatherproof Outdoor And Alert System Add-On Sensor is the perfect way to complete your driveway alarm system.
The Rodann Tech company prides itself on producing reliable alarm systems for your entryways. This includes driveway sensors and door alerts. As a customer, you’ll enjoy top customer service. The Rodann Electronics Wireless Driveway Alarm System is a perfect example of the company’s commitment to excellence.
Driveway Alarm Pricing
- Under $50: Alarms in this price range tend to use simple technology, such as magnetic alarms. They also have shorter signal ranges.
- $50 to $100: Alarms in this range will use more advanced technology and will have more sensitive sensors and longer signal ranges. The unit construction is also more durable.
- $100 and up: Units in this range are either top of the line or have multiple sensor units. These are typically a complete system.
Mode of Operation
One of the first things to investigate is how the unit is powered. Some run on batteries, with many of the modern selections being rechargeable. Others rely on solar power, charging during the day and holding the energy in a power bank for use at night. Alternatively, there are models that you must hardwire into the system. While battery- and solar-powered may be less reliable, especially without a low battery warning, they are easier to install. Conversely, hardwired models are more secure, simply because there is less likelihood of failure due to power issues.
Type of Sensor: Magnetic, Passive Infrared, Active Infrared
While the industry continues to evolve, the current alarm systems available use one of three technologies. The most basic is the magnetic sensor. These are preferred by those who want to know about cars pulling up and aren’t concerned about people or wildlife. Registering metal, the sensor detects vehicles through their steel components. Keep in mind that modern car models continue to rely less on magnet-sensitive metals, so the tech will age relatively quickly.
The next type of sensor uses passive infrared; which, in essence, is a heat signature detector. Coming in various calibrations, higher-end models let you curate the threshold based on your needs. You can modify it to register heat in animals or to detect the heat of a car engine. It relies on a single sensor, powered by electricity that’s either hardwired or battery-operated. These are more affordable than active infrared, and easier to set up; however, since there is only one sensor, it is less accurate than active infrared.
The final type of sensor commercially available is an active infrared sensor, made of two components. One of the first things to look at is the range in between the sensors, they must be able to interact with one another. These operate on a beam relayed between the two, where the interruption is the alarm trigger. Consider the range from both this aspect and in terms of how long of a driveway it can accommodate.
Weatherproofing and Durability
The sensor for your driveway alarm must be physically near the driveway — that outdoor placement means it will be exposed to hail, frost heaves, rainfall, and ultraviolet rays. If you want something that won’t glitch after every rainfall or die in the cold, weatherproofing is essential. There are two key features: waterproof and protection from ultraviolet rays. Make sure that it can safely be exposed to moisture and that it won’t get damaged in direct sunlight. Another important component is insulation, so ensure that the casing is capable of keeping the cold at bay. Provided it has these features, you can safely keep it in the driveway year-round.
- Power Source. Think about how serious you are about the alarm system. If you need something that is heavy-duty, you’ll want it to be hardwired into the system. The other option is a battery, whether solar or replaceable. Replaceable batteries leave more vulnerabilities to the elements (heat, cold, moisture). Solar systems are tougher, but you are counting on the sunlight to keep it working. If the panels aren’t located in a sunny spot, it won’t reach the proper capacity.
- Transmission Range. The distance at which the sensor can relay a signal to the receiver is a critical component of the design. It must be able to communicate efficiently, regardless of ambient conditions. Things like trees, bushes, and sheds can block the signal, so be sure that you have a sufficiently strong relay and reliable circuitry.
- False Alarms. The whole point of getting a driveway alarm is to know when cars or people are nearby — not to be alerted to every passing squirrel. While every sensor is vulnerable to glitches, the fewer the better. Look at what measures the sensor and receiver used to prevent this issue. Whether it is a matter of calibration or positioning, in most cases, false alarms are easy to avoid.
- Sensor Range. This is true of any sensor. For magnets, you need a powerful enough force to register the approaching vehicle or person. Passive infrared systems must have a sensor capable of detecting heat from a distance (something that diminishes as it spreads out). An active infrared sensor must have two parts facing each other, a connection that requires proximity. Be sure that the sensors are capable of the necessary reach
Best Driveway Alarms Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Buy an alarm system that lets you adjust the sensitivity of the alarm. This will give you better control over where and how the sensor works.
- Clean off the surface of the sensor occasionally (especially after a storm). It limits scratches and keeps the sensor working for longer.
- A battery-powered sensor will likely need a replacement twice a year, though cold weather can be a drain. Make sure to check it occasionally, in the same manner you would a fire alarm.
- If you have a long driveway, look for an expandable system. Then you can have multiple alarms to indicate that someone is traveling the entire length of the driveway.
- Consider the amount of vegetation you have around the driveway alarm. The wind could trigger false alarms by moving the tree branches.
Q. How does a driveway alarm work?
Driveway alarms work in three ways. Some systems use magnetism to sense a large mass of metal going by them. This will alert you to vehicles in your driveway. Other sensors use an infrared light beam. When something crosses the beam, it temporarily blocks it, and that triggers the alarm. A third way they work is by sensing heat. This will be the heat of a vehicle engine, a person, or a larger animal.
Q. How can I hide my driveway alarm?
The first step is to buy an alarm unit that’s naturally colored. That way, it blends into the surrounding nature. You could then install your unit on a wood post or nearby tree. If you have a fence around your property, you could install your alarm on the fence post.
Q. Why do motion sensors give false detections?
Nothing’s perfect, and motion sensors are no different. Extreme cold damaging circuitry, heat giving a false signature, power surges, damage sensors, incorrect placement, and interference can all result in a false detection. To avoid this, make sure there is a clear line of sight between the sensor and the driveway, accounting for the shape and distance it registers. Be sure that the area between the receiver and the sensor is open and free of interfering objects.
Q. How do you install a wireless driveway alarm?
It’s easy to install a wireless driveway alarm. First, connect the receiver inside the home, preferably at an outlet that’s close to the driveway. Hook it up to your wireless internet and the next step is for you to mount the sensor. Most sets come with mounting hardware. It will either be on the ground or mounted to a tree or garage. Place it precisely and test that it works. After that, it’s just a matter of tinkering with volume and chimes.
Q. How far away will a driveway alarm work?
It depends on the alarm. A good standard is reading around 40 feet in the distance. Expect a range of half a mile, but use reason. If that half mile is through bush and thicket, it won’t relay as effectively without a signal booster. Most driveway alarms on the market are built to accommodate moderately-sized driveways. If you have a larger property, look for a heavy-duty model and aim to give the signal a clear path.
Q. Can pets trigger motion sensors?
Yes, depending on the type of sensor you install. An animal will not trigger a magnetic sensor because animals aren’t made of metal. They may trigger an AIR sensor if they cross the infrared light line. But if they jump over or go around the light line, they won’t trigger the alarm. A PIR will trigger based on the animal’s movement or body heat.
All things considered, the Guardline Wireless Driveway Alarm System is a terrific go-to. It performs reliably, is able to resist the elements, and isn’t prone to false alarms. The sensors are made of quality tech for that sought-after peace of mind.
If you want to save without skimping on security, the Mighty Mule Wireless Driveway Alarm will get the job done. It’s accurate, well-constructed, and made to offer the benefits of wireless detection without going overboard.