An IR beam sensor uses a photoelectric receiver and an infrared beam to create a simple motion detection system. When someone walks through the beam, the sensor sets off an alarm, alerting you to an intrusion. While not as sophisticated as a full security system, an IR motion sensor is cost effective and can protect a home, business or an outdoor space. 

Models like the System Sensor BEAM1224, the Optex USA BX-100PLUS and the Dakota Alert BBT-2500 offer a variety of features with different detection ranges that are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. While all IR beam sensors provide the same basic functions, some have different features that make them an appropriate fit for different purposes. Knowing what you want allows you to pick the right one for your needs.

IR Beam Sensors: What to Look For

You might need an infrared beam sensor for home security, outdoor motion detection or to protect a small are, such as a door or large window. The following features can help you choose the right infrared security system for your needs.

Number of Beams
Most IR beam sensors come with one to three beams. More infrared beams allow you to protect a larger area or create a taller beam that is harder to bypass without detection. However, multiple-beam sensors cost more than single-beam sensors, and you might not need the additional coverage. If you need a full infrared security system, then you may want to look into a multibeam option. Otherwise, a single beam will probably work.

Power Options
Power options are important, especially if you have to install the infrared beam sensor outside. Because power options vary from lithium-ion batteries to solar panels and basic wall outlet plugs, you can choose an option that fits your space. One consideration is that if you are in an area where the power frequently goes out, or you need to protect an industrial or a construction site, you may want a battery-powered option.

Indoor or Outdoor
While most outdoor models can work indoors with no problems, the opposite is not true. Outdoor sensors must be waterproof and resistant to snow, frost and mist. They should also be able to automatically adjust their sensitivity. For this reason, it is important to ensure that your infrared light detector is suitable for its intended purpose and location.

Depending on the IR beam sensor, you might be able to protect an area varying from a few feet to several hundred feet. If you want to protect an entryway or a garage door, then a 16-20 foot range is more than enough. On the other hand, if you are setting up a security system around a construction site, you need something that can cover as much distance as possible so that you can protect the entire site without buying more sensors.

Depending on where you want to use the IR beam sensor, you might need several different features. Deciding in advance and checking your space allows you to pick the right sensor for your needs.

Bosch Review

The Bosch Security Video DS435I Photoelectric Detector has a single-beam infrared sensor that works to cover large indoor areas such as a stockroom or main office area. Drawing 12 VDC at a low amperage, the system isn't a major drain on your electric bill, but it is able to detect interruptions under virtually all lighting conditions. The beam monitors activity at a range of up to 500 feet, making it ideal for use in warehouses and other large, enclosed areas.

Using a single beam to establish wide area coverage, the Bosch Security Video DS435I Photoelectric Detector is intended for point observation from a single, fixed location. The IR beam sensor is adjustable through 90 degrees of arc along the horizontal plane and 20 degrees up and down the vertical. The sensor units are quick to mount to posts, shelves or other solid surfaces, and their high-impact Lexan casings protect them from the occasional jolt.

The Bosch Security Video DS435I Photoelectric Detector is able to operate in two power modes. The system is able to use 12 VAC from your building's main current, or it can convert the feed and operate its infrared motion sensor at between 8 and 14.5 volts of direct current, depending on activity level. The system draws only 68 mA in battery mode and 8 amps off its optional hardwired power system.

Protecting large indoor spaces is an ideal application for the Bosch Security Video DS435I Photoelectric Detector. Its emitter/receiver array establishes a narrow-beam field that works at ranges of up to 500 feet. This IR beam sensor may be mounted in almost any position that makes it difficult to spot, and then you can adjust the beam angles to cover the target area without being detected.

With an adjustable single-beam focus and a simple, durable mounting system, this IR beam sensor is designed for protecting limited spaces inside large interior areas such as storage facilities and showrooms. The system draws power at very low levels while running off battery power, and only slightly more while it's plugged into your building's main current. The sensor units convert the standard alternating current to a direct current that doesn't damage its circuits. Each emitter/receiver combination is capable of operating at any range up to 500 feet, which is ideal for covering large openings, yard gates and the loading bays on your dock.

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Dakota Review

Covering large areas, such as car lots and loading areas, can be difficult for an IR beam sensor, but the Dakota Alert BBT-2500 is designed for exactly that kind of open-area work. The system uses discrete infrared beams to establish point-to-point connections that are not tripped by motion outside of the monitored area. The BBT-2500 runs on batteries and doesn't require hard wiring or extension cables. The potential range of the system is enormous, though in practice environmental conditions cut the maximum range.

The Dakota BBT-2500 uses an infrared break beam detection system in a point-to-point direct connection between the emitter and receivers. Directed infrared motion sensors, such as the BBT-2500, are not distracted by extraneous movement outside of their capture zones, so this system works well as an invisible tripwire. The emitters can be mounted high enough to avoid being triggered by small animals such as dogs. The interrupted-beam uses a sufficiently wide field so that small objects, such as windblown leaves, are also unlikely to trip the alert.

The power supply is another feature that makes the BBT-2500 a good choice for use as an outdoor IR beam sensor. Each emitter runs off of a built-in lithium-ion battery, so no cables or wires are visible to trespassers. The integral solar cells charge up the batteries during daylight hours with enough power to last through the night without additional power being supplied.

Dakota boasts that the BBT-2500 IR beam sensor has a potential range of up to half a mile. Though this may be possible under absolutely ideal conditions, in practice, the system range is limited to around 300 feet, with a central control unit located within the half-mile radius. Because the system runs a single narrow beam from emitter to receiver, it has no detection area, but this has the advantage of reducing false alarms caused by ambient noise or external activity such as low-flying birds.

Protecting your truck yard or car lot with an IR beam sensor requires a system with, ideally, a self-contained power supply, narrow focus and long range. The BBT-2500 has all three of these attributes, with a solar-powered battery, a narrow-focus beam and a sensitive receiver assembly that is not quickly spoofed by nonhuman interference. Placing a central controller within half a mile allows you to expand the network to provide comprehensive coverage of a very long perimeter and monitor alerts from a remote location.

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Useful for both indoor and outdoor applications, the ENFORCER IR Beam Sensor uses a single beam to monitor large areas for human activity. It works in both AC and DC modes, for maximum efficiency during operation, and covers an area out to 90 feet from the sensor's location.

The ENFORCER projects a single beam that you can angle across a 10-degree range to cover a large area in front of the sensor. The beam radiates invisibly at between 10,000 and 30,000 lux, which you can adjust according to the ambient light levels and for daylight or nighttime operation. A single red LED indicates the infrared beam sensor is operating in standby mode, and a green LED comes on to indicate when the beam has been tripped.

With an internal terminal block and two power modes, the ENFORCER is simple to set up and operate. In standby mode, while the IR beam sensor is waiting to be tripped, the emitter draws power at 10 volts, which instantly jumps to 24 volts when the beam senses an intruder. This quick surge of additional power when it's needed permits a maximum response time of 100 ms, or one-tenth of a second, which is much faster than a human intruder can react.

You can use the ENFORCER infrared motion sensor indoors or outdoors. The emitter and relay have sturdy nylon-and-polycarbonate exterior housings that protect the electronic components from rainwater and wind-driven debris. The tough design is vibration resistant and keeps working across a range of temperatures from -13 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The ENFORCER kit comes with its own mounting hardware, so it's quick to set up and use in open spaces at ranges of up to 90 feet.

The ENFORCER is a well-rounded choice for guarding interior and exterior areas with a wide-focus single IR beam sensor. It emits invisible light at two intensity levels to compensate for extraneous light sources, and the simple, user-friendly LED indicator system lets you know how it's working at a glance. The ENFORCER is designed for fast installation, even coming with its own mounting screws, and it has a durable exterior shell that seals tightly against water and other contaminants. Taken together, these features make the ENFORCER a capable monitor for parking lots, factory floor spaces and retail areas. The device's indoor and outdoor capabilities also make it a natural choice for home defense.

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ENFORCER Twin Review

The ENFORCER uses two IR beam sensors per unit to keep watch over large and variable ranges. The flexibility of having multiple programmable ranges allows a variable power consumption profile that uses the least amount of electricity necessary for covering areas of different sizes. You can choose close-in support, which picks up motion in a narrow range, or long-distance monitoring, which is ideal for outdoor spaces and big rooms with multiple areas to guard.

Setting up security along a perimeter of almost any length is simple with the ENFORCER infrared beam sensor system. It uses two infrared beams to focus its attention on the areas you designate via the intuitive control interface, and it largely ignores activity taking place outside of its designated capture area. The emitters and receivers use a convenient laser designator system to take much of the guesswork out of the initial alignment during installation.

The ENFORCER operates across a range of frequencies and power levels, depending on the details of the area you intend to cover. The shortest ranges and smallest observation fields draw less power, 10 volts at 53 mA, than the largest fields, which never require more than 30 volts of direct or alternating current at 63 mA. The IR beam sensor system also permits an adjustable response time of between 50 and 700 ms, further reducing power consumption and creating a customized setup.

You can use the ENFORCER infrared motion sensor to cover ranges of between 90 and 590 feet. You can use the short-range, low-power 90-foot option for indoor work and close observation of potential trouble spots along your fence line. You can also broaden the range to the full 590 feet for wide-angle observation of a whole office, store or outdoor area where human activity has to be quickly detected.

Installing the ENFORCER system is fast, as the simple laser alignment helps you get the emitter and receiver lined up in a few seconds and the programmable interface provides a reasonably intuitive user experience. The predetermined sweep area places variable demands on the IR beam sensor's power supply, so it never uses more power than the minimum necessary. Finally, the very broad options for close and distant scan ranges let you set up the system anywhere you can and sweep over anything you need watched.

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Optex AX Review

The Optex AX-70TN uses a dual IR beam to detect motion over a maximum of 165 feet. With an adjustable range, the IR beam sensor is suitable for both residential and commercial use. However, with a short-range beam, it is not suitable for protecting large yards or construction sites, as you will need more than one to cover the area.

A simple numerical control (NC) contact system allows the Optex AX-70TN to send a signal when the IR beam is broken. This allows you to either set it up directly to an alarm or connect it to a computer for more complicated commands such as calling, sending an email and alerting the police.

A waterproof and weatherproof exterior makes the IR motion sensor suitable for outdoor use. The surface of the model uses rubber coating, allowing it to repel water and work well in heavy rain. It is also dust and bug proof, ensuring that you can leave it outdoors for long periods without maintenance. However, it is wired rather than battery operated, so you have to install it somewhere with electricity.

Lightning and surge protection help protect the infrared beam sensor during storms. It also has an anti-frost hood cover, ensuring that it can work in cold conditions. This allows you to set it up without grounding or creating a protective covering for it.

Adjustable IR beam interruption time and length allow you to adjust monitoring distance. The beam adjusts from 70 to 165 feet, allowing you to protect a small residential area or a large commercial one. The 70-degree beam is engineered for human detection and has a system for negating false and animal alarms, which makes it suitable for remote areas where animals might frequently intrude. Because the system does not detect animals, it works if you have guard dogs on the premises, and it will not set off an alarm if they break the perimeter.

The IR motion sensor also works indoors and is suitable for setting up a perimeter. With additional IR detectors, you can protect all of the entranceways and windows by setting up a perimeter around the outside walls. You can also protect a road or yard using the same beam.

The Optex AX-70TN is a versatile dual-beam IR motion sensor that works for both commercial and residential use. Because it is also suitable for indoor and outdoor use, it works well whether you want to install it in a single location or move it frequently.

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Optex BX Review

With two beams and a broad capture area, the BX-100PLUS IR beam sensor is able to cover large areas of indoor floor space and maintain long sections of outdoor perimeters. The system utilizes a variable power system that conserves energy during standby operation and powers a loud alarm when both beams are tripped. Indoors, the BX-100PLUS is able to project its beams across very large rooms, and its outdoor performance is adequate to protect whole sections of fence or to control broad access points.

The BX-100PLUS uses twin infrared beams to detect anomalous activity within a broad observation area. The infrared beam sensor reduces the rate of false-positives by tripping the alarm only when both beams are interrupted, which eliminates many small or distant objects as sources of false alarms. This ability to screen out much of the random noise of uncontrolled environments suits the system well for outdoor use.

During regular operation, the BX-100PLUS draws 10.5 VDC at 55 mA to maintain its IR beam sensors. This changes when both beams are interrupted, as the system jumps to 28 VDC and a maximum of 75 mA to power an alarm that achieves 70 dB at a 1-meter range from the emitter. This alarm is optional, as it can be deactivated by tossing a switch located inside the emitter cowling. This works as a deterrent, but the system has no ability to trip a silent alarm or connect remotely to a system manager or police agency, limiting the silent mode's usefulness.

You can use the BX-100PLUS infrared motion sensor indoors, where it projects to a maximum detection range of 200 feet, or outdoors, where ambient conditions cut its range by half the indoor maximum or 100 feet under optimal outdoor conditions. The emitter and receiver are quick to synchronize during installation, as they light up and emit an audible alert when the two components fall out of alignment, and the emitter allows for horizontal adjustments of up to 92 degrees after being fixed in place.

The two adjustable infrared beams of the BX-100PLUS IR beam sensor act as their own fail-safe mechanism. The device's alert tone is sounded only when both beams are interrupted nearly simultaneously, significantly cutting false alarms. The alarm may be disabled with a single setting change, or the beam may be adjusted away from the control area by as much as 92 degrees when no monitoring is necessary.

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System Sensor BEAM Review

The BEAM1224 IR beam sensor uses a combination emitter/receiver unit and a stationary reflector to monitor smoke levels in large interior spaces. The system is especially effective in monitoring conditions inside hangar-type spaces with vaulted ceilings, which have traditionally posed a challenge for infrared smoke detection. The reflector unit is unpowered, and the emitter/receiver unit is capable of dual-mode operation that lets it switch from standby to active mode as soon as smoke levels exceed its programmed threshold anywhere within its extensive range.

Using an innovative reflector-style single-beam infrared beam sensor, the BEAM1224 is able to monitor air quality on your shop floor by sending out an infrared signal that bounces back from a reflector you have mounted in a fixed location. By passing twice through the air, the system can gauge the concentration of fine particulates in the air, sounding an alarm when one of the four preset threshold levels are reached.

The BEAM1224 IR beam sensor system runs in either of two power modes. During normal operation, the system is set to standby and draws power at 12 VDC and a maximum of 17 mA. Once the alarm is tripped, the system goes into alert mode and raises the amperage to a maximum of 38.5 mA to sound the alarm. The system's four-wire design lets you set the target alarm threshold for any of four levels of smoke concentration. This makes it a good choice for use on production floors, where some airborne smoke is to be expected.

Optimized for large interior volumes, this IR beam sensor uses its beam to sweep out the air at a range of between 16 and 328 feet. This long reach gives the BEAM1224 the ability to monitor virtually all open interiors, including even vaulted rooms such as hangars and large warehouses. The system is also capable of providing coverage for the large open spaces common to indoor shopping malls and factory floors.

A single reflected beam is at the heart of the BEAM1224 infrared motion sensor. The system's unique configuration gives it the ability to cover large areas, using very little power, and monitor conditions where smoke is naturally present. Capable of working even inside volumes where smoke tends to rise and concentrate near the ceiling, the sensor is adequate for use in extra-large and irregularly shaped spaces.

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UXCell Active Review

One thing to consider when you're setting up IR beam sensors for perimeter defense is the reliability of the system you're using. The Active Photoelectric Detector from UXCell uses three pulsed infrared beams, two of which must be interrupted before the alarm is sounded, which cuts down on time-wasting false alarms. The system runs on either direct or alternating current, and each emitter/receiver pair can monitor a medium-sized section of open space.

By using three infrared beams to sense movement, the Active Photoelectric Detector screens out many of the distractions that can interfere with effective outdoor infrared motion sensors. By only tripping the alarm when two of the three beams are simultaneously blocked, the system cuts out interference from falling leaves and small animals, which usually only trip a single beam at a time. Human- or vehicle-sized obstructions, however, immediately trigger the alarm circuit. This system is not equipped with its own alarm, however, so it is necessary to install a separate device for audible and silent alerts.

The Active Photoelectric Detector system draws power from your standard building power supply, though the built-in converter dampens the alternating current to between 11 and 18 volts at 0.5 A. Operating on direct current, this IR beam sensor runs at a somewhat higher voltage, between 13.8 and 24 volts, during normal operation.

You can use the UXCell Active Photoelectric Detector to monitor medium-sized sections of perimeter fencing, or use it to cover large interior spaces. The infrared beam sensor unit can receive signals at ranges of up to 150 feet indoors or up to 60 feet outdoors. A 60-foot outdoor range makes this system inadequate for monitoring long sections of a fence, though it is entirely adequate for covering sliding gates and wide approaches, such as roads and driveways. Indoors, the system's 150-foot range makes it ideal for covering hallways, loading bays and medium-sized sections of warehouse or shop floors.

UXCell's Active Photoelectric Detector uses a discriminating three-beam system to reliably monitor traffic in large indoor and medium-sized outdoor spaces you need to protect. The system must be paired with a compatible alarm system, but it is broadly compatible with most security networks, which makes pairing the two simple and fast. The IR beam sensor's outdoor range is limited, but the system is adequate for almost any indoor space you want to secure.

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