How to select Video Doorbell Camera 2023-Buyer's Guide
Discovering If Your Home Can Support a Doorbell Camera and Choosing the Right Model
When it comes to home security cameras, a video doorbell is a must-have. With its ability to capture everyone approaching your front door and a significant portion of your front yard, it offers unparalleled surveillance. However, it’s crucial to determine if your house can support a doorbell camera and which models are compatible. This comprehensive buyer’s guide will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision and never miss a package again.
Connecting to Your Existing Doorbell
Most video doorbell cameras utilize your current wiring and chime setup. During installation, you will remove your existing doorbell and rewire the electrical connection to the new camera. Although it may seem intimidating, it is relatively simple. However, remember to turn off the breaker that powers your doorbell connection before proceeding. If you don’t have a doorbell or can’t modify your current doorbell system as a renter, there are alternative options available.
Checking Your Doorbell’s Voltage
Video doorbells typically have voltage requirements, commonly ranging from 16V AC to 24V AC. Some models may support lower voltages, such as the Ring Video Doorbell 3, which operates with 8V AC to 24V AC. It’s essential to determine your doorbell wiring’s voltage, and you can do so through various methods:
- Checking the doorbell transformer: Transformers are usually located near your main electrical panel but can sometimes be hidden in unconventional places like the garage, attic, or a front closet. You may need to search around.
- Using a multimeter: This is the most accurate method as it allows you to measure the voltage of your doorbell’s wiring. Transformers can degrade over time, resulting in lower voltage than specified.
- Checking the inside of your doorbell chime’s case: The voltage information may be listed there.
Houses built within the last 50 years generally have the appropriate voltage. However, older houses may have low voltage or degraded transformers. To address this, you can hire an electrician to install a new transformer or consider doorbell camera alternatives.
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Identifying Your Chime Type
If you have a doorbell, your house likely has one of two types of chimes: mechanical or digital. Mechanical chimes produce sound using actual bells, while digital chimes play recorded tones through a speaker. You can usually determine the type of chime based on the sound it produces. Mechanical chimes have a fixed tone and resemble the sound of bells being struck, while digital chimes offer recorded sounds and may offer multiple tone options. Alternatively, you can open up your chime box for a visual inspection. A speaker inside indicates a digital chime, while pistons suggest a mechanical one. Knowing your chime type will help you choose a compatible doorbell camera, and you can check the compatibility list provided by manufacturers like Ring.
Considering Battery-Powered Options and Alternatives
If installing a doorbell camera is not possible, there are alternatives available. Battery-powered doorbell cameras, like Ring doorbells, offer flexibility but often come with fewer features compared to hardwired versions. These cameras require a wireless chime that you can plug in and necessitate regular battery monitoring and recharging. Other alternatives gaining popularity include over-the-door cameras and peephole cameras. These options provide a similar view of your porch and yard and alert you to any detected motion by visitors or potential package thieves. The Ring Peephole Cam is a notable doorbell camera alternative, although it requires an existing peephole. Over-the-door cameras offer easier installation and require fewer mechanical adjustments.
Deciding on Desired Features
Doorbell cameras vary in price and features, allowing you to choose based on your preferences and budget. Basic doorbell cameras typically offer features such as two-way audio and motion detection, ensuring you never miss any activity on your porch. These entry-level cameras are cost-effective, with some priced as low as $20, offering reasonable quality. Advanced doorbell cameras offer enhanced functionality, including intelligent alerts that can differentiate between package deliveries and familiar faces. With customizable settings, you can filter notifications to focus on specific events of interest. Expect to pay around $200 for advanced doorbell cameras, and consider subscribing to a monthly plan for cloud storage and additional smart features. Companies like Google (Nest Hello), Vivint, Arlo, and Eufy offer excellent options in the advanced category.
Choosing a Compatible Home Automation System
Most doorbell cameras are compatible with either Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or both. These devices often serve as the foundation for a smart home, offering integration with other smart devices like door locks, light bulbs, and electrical outlets. Some doorbell cameras also support IFTTT, allowing you to create customized automation routines between your camera and other smart home devices. Before making a purchase, ensure that the doorbell camera you choose works seamlessly with your preferred smart home ecosystem.
Considering DIY or Professional Installation
While most doorbell cameras require DIY installation, some models offer professional installation alternatives. Major security system providers like Vivint and ADT offer professionally installed doorbell cameras, although these are part of a comprehensive security system rather than standalone products. However, several companies collaborate with third-party contractors to provide professional installation for standalone doorbell cameras. This option is suitable for those who prefer not to handle electrical wiring themselves.
Ensuring a Strong Wi-Fi Connection
To ensure optimal performance, doorbell cameras rely on a strong and consistent Wi-Fi signal. The front porch area can be challenging to cover due to thick doors and walls, often leading to signal degradation. Most video doorbells require a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps for proper functionality. If your household consumes a significant amount of bandwidth for activities like gaming or streaming, higher speeds may be necessary. If your Wi-Fi signal is weak near your porch, consider using a Wi-Fi range extender to improve coverage. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are another excellent option, particularly for larger homes where the porch is far from the router. If your current internet plan doesn’t meet the requirements, upgrading to a faster plan can ensure optimal performance not just for your doorbell camera but for all your online activities.
A video doorbell is an essential component of home security and a smart home ecosystem. To make the most informed decision and select the ideal doorbell camera for your home and requirements, follow these key steps:
- Check your existing doorbell setup.
- Determine the desired features and choose between basic and advanced models.
- Ensure compatibility with your preferred smart home system.
- Decide on DIY or professional installation based on your comfort level.
- Verify a strong Wi-Fi connection to guarantee proper camera performance.
By considering these factors, you can confidently select a video doorbell camera that meets your needs, enhances your home security, and integrates seamlessly with your smart home setup