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IEEE 802.15.4 is the global standard protocol designed for low-power and low-rate wireless personal area networks. When applied to sensor networks, extra care should be taken due to their requirements for multihop communication with minimum energy consumption. In this article we first discuss potential problems with the energy consumption in sensor networks using IEEE 802.15.4. Then six representative categories of algorithms are presented. The algorithms reside in between the MAC and a network layer. All operations of the MAC are performed through the standard interfaces of IEEE 802.15.4 without altering the standard protocol. The energy consumption and latency of the algorithms are evaluated by analysis and experiments, and the feasibility of real implementations is also discussed.