Composites comprising of pyroelectric ceramics and electro-active polymers have gained importance currently as materials for thermal sensing applications, as their unique features and relevant properties can be tailored easily. In this work nanoparticles of PZT have been embedded into PVA/PAA copolymer matrix to form 0 to 3 nanocomposites. Films of the composites are prepared following solvent cast method after dispersing ceramic nanopowder homogeneously in the copolymer matrix with different wt % of the PZT powder. Relevant properties such as dielectric constant and loss factor, pyroelectric coefficients, thermal conductivity, and specific heat capacity as well as Shore hardness have been measured. The material figures of merit for pyroelectric detection have also been determined and reported. It is found that pyroelectric sensing properties of a film of the composite with 20 wt % PZT are comparable to those of commercially used β-PVDF film for the same application, but with a lower figure of merit. However, it provides greater mouldability and simpler processibility for the fabrication of bulk sensors and actuators. So this composite can be considered as a potential material for the design and fabrication of mouldable pyroelectric detectors and actuators. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 41142.