Smart home security is a natural outgrowth of the move toward greater connectivity with your home and the Wi-Fi enabled devices and technology you use to make your life easier. Smart doorbell cameras aren’t as common as digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home just yet, but they’ve finally caught up in terms of the capabilities and features that make them truly valuable to homeowners and apartment dwellers alike.
Smart doorbell cameras differ from traditional doorbell cameras in that they’re designed to be more convenient and accessible. You can access your doorbell camera’s live video feed right from your phone to do everything from answering your door remotely, to accepting packages, to confirming your kids or guests arrived safely.
What to Look for in a Smart Doorbell Camera
To be truly smart, your doorbell camera needs a few basic features. These will keep you connected to your home as long as you have your smartphone and a decent signal. Ultimately, it’s the upgrade features that will help you differentiate between models and brands when making your choice.
At a minimum, your doorbell camera should connect to your Wi-Fi and have an easy-to-use app so you can stream the footage from your front porch remotely. Better options allow you to connect multiple smart devices like other smartphones and tablets to a single doorbell camera.
Look for a doorbell camera that keeps you connected even when you’re working or traveling. Some smarter options send you push notifications when someone rings the doorbell or if it senses movement on your porch, so you can be present even when you’re miles away.
Smart assistants are becoming more common in households around the world, and if you already have a preferred system or assistant that you use for home automation, make sure any new Wi-Fi enabled home devices can connect to it. Integrating your smart doorbell with your smart assistant allows you to get voice alerts when your phone isn’t readily at hand. Make sure you choose a smart doorbell that works with the system you already have in place at home.
Wireless vs Wired
Whether you get a wired or battery-powered doorbell camera will depend on what wiring capabilities your front door has available. If you already have the wiring for an electric doorbell on your doorframe or off to the side, you can install a new wired doorbell camera with relative ease. If you don’t currently have the wiring to power a wired doorbell camera, you may need to go the battery-powered route.
The caveat with wireless doorbell cameras is that they can run out of juice on you. Some manufacturers provide or recommend rechargeable batteries that will keep a charge for a few months, but if you’re looking for something more convenient, you may prefer to get your front door wired. With a wired doorbell camera, you don’t have to remember to switch your batteries out, and you’ll never accidentally lose your front door’s feed if they lose their charge before you can change them out. Some wired doorbell cameras also hold a charge in case the power goes out.
Being able to see at night is essential when considering which doorbell to choose, especially during winter when the days are short and the sun sets early. Night vision capabilities make your doorbell camera much more valuable to you—as you can see what’s happening just outside your door even if someone’s trying to catch you unaware under cover of darkness.
Look for a doorbell camera with a 180º view that also comes equipped with reliable night-vision and can easily switch back and forth between day and night modes. Motion-activated lights on your front porch or around your house might light the area enough to blind your night-vision mode. You need a camera that can automatically switch so you can see regardless of light quality.
Two Way Talk
A smart doorbell camera doesn’t just passively monitor the happenings on your doorstep, it gives you much more. It helps you answer your front door from wherever you are, which is why you need two-way audio capabilities. With two-way talk, you can greet visitors, tell your mail carrier where to leave your packages, or inform a new dog walker or house sitter where they can find your hidden key.
Motion detection is one of the most important features you need in your doorbell camera. With motion sensors built in, your doorbell system can alert you to movement on your porch with a simple push notification, so you don’t have to watch your camera’s feed. With a motion-sensing camera at your front door, you might also catch local wildlife around your home. You can also see if pranksters are playing “doorbell ditch” before they even get the chance the ring your doorbell.
Make sure the camera you choose has intelligent motion detection. You don’t want constant alerts just because it’s a windy day, so make sure you choose a doorbell camera that can filter out swaying tree branches, passersby on your sidewalk, and waving or shifting lawn decorations. For some cameras, motion detection also triggers the recording feature.
Cloud-based and Local Recording Storage
The ability to review your recordings later may make or break your decision to go with one doorbell camera over another. Being able to view your recorded snippets later is important if your home gets a lot of foot traffic or if packages tend to go missing from your doorstep frequently.
Most doorbell camera manufacturers require you to sign up for cloud storage if you want to be able to see anything other than a live feed of your front porch. When you sign up for cloud storage, you may only get a few options for how long you want to keep your recording history. If you want to store your footage for the long term, seek out a doorbell camera provider that offers long-term plans, like those that exceed a month.
For most people, 30 days of storage is more than adequate. Do your research when considering storage duration. You’ll want to choose an option with an easy-to-navigate interface that allows you to quickly find the date and time straight from the app. If you would prefer not to have the added expense of a monthly subscription, seek out a doorbell camera that can record locally. These options come with storage in the doorbell camera itself so that you can review historical recordings without a cloud-based subscription—meaning there’s no additional cost for short-term storage.
There are a number of do-it-yourself doorbell cameras with a very simple set up. These tend to be the battery-powered variety, but if you’re especially handy, you may be able to tackle setting up a wired doorbell camera yourself. Pay close attention to what the manufacturer recommends for their products.
If you don’t already have a wired set up near your front door, consider having a professional help you with the installation process. As this can be an added expense, see if you can find a provider that includes the installation when you purchase your doorbell camera. These manufacturers tend to have a network of local installers who are familiar with their products and can get you set up quickly.
Associated Security and Monitoring Products
Some of these doorbell cameras are stand-alone products, meaning they don’t integrate with a whole home security system. Other doorbell cameras are part of a lineup of other smart home devices that all work together to keep your home safe and comfortable.
If you’re thinking about adding other devices, you may want to broaden your search to find a doorbell camera that also operates in conjunction with a whole suite of interconnected home security products that were designed to work together. Some auxiliary options include Wi-Fi connected remote garage door openers, smart locks, outdoor security cameras, indoor monitoring devices, smoke detectors, and other smart home products—in addition to your preferred smart assistant.
Why You Should Consider a Home Security System
If you’re debating whether or not you need a security system, consider these statistics. In 2015, home burglaries accounted for roughly 20% of all property crimes.
- Break-ins are slightly more common during the day when you’re at work or school, and these crimes are 9% overall more likely during the summer months, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
- You can protect your family and property if you have a security system monitoring your home. Criminals looking to take advantage of empty homes are 300% more likely to break into homes that don’t have a security system installed.
- Outdoor cameras, smart locks, and motion-activated lighting let criminal elements know that your home is a poor target for their efforts. A smart doorbell camera on your front door is their first clue that your home is secure and someone is watching.
The Benefits of a Smart Video Doorbell
WIth a smart doorbell camera, you’re digitally closer to home no matter where you are. For some, a view of your doorstep can provide some much-needed peace of mind.
Confirm When Your Kids Get Home
If you have kids who come home from school or practice without any parents or babysitters present, getting an alert that lets you know that made it home safely. They get the autonomy they crave, but you get the comfort you need.
Monitor Package Delivery
A smart video doorbell allows you to monitor deliveries right from your phone. With a remote garage door opener, you can also have your mail carrier leave your packages in a secure location. If your packages tend to mysteriously disappear, you can confirm whether or not they actually made it to your home—or if someone has been sneaking off with your Amazon orders when they think no one is looking.
Answer Your Door Remotely
Traffic holdups, mixed up schedules, and simply running late becomes infinitely less stressful with a smart doorbell. You can answer your front door using your smartphone and welcome your guests in if you have a hidden key or smart lock.
Choosing Your Smart Doorbell Camera
With so many considerations, the idea of doing all the research yourself might seem overwhelming.
To make the decision easier on yourself, check out Vivint’s Doorbell Camera. It has a low, minimalist profile and comes with everything you need—including free installation and 3 days of locally stored playback that you can access from Vivint’s app.
- “Property Crime.” FBI. August 16, 2016. Accessed September 13, 2018. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/property-crime.
- Lauritsen, Janet L., Ph.D. “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. June 2015=4. Accessed September 13, 2018. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt.pdf.
- “Burglary Crime Statistics and Facts.” The Hard Numbers of Home Invasion. Accessed September 13, 2018. https://www.alarms.org/burglary-statistics/.