If you’ve spent even a small amount of time surfing the net over the past couple of years, no doubt you’ve seen lots of instances of porch pirates and other baddies committing crimes on the front entrances to people’s homes.
Although many people continue to commit these types of illegal activities, a lot more of them are getting caught with the help of doorbell cameras.
When used with other elements of an overall home security system, doorbell cameras can add potent crime-fighting punch to your home by making it a much harder target.
Here are some things you’ll want to know and think about before deciding which system is best for you.
Think about these before shopping for a doorbell camera.
Homeowner vs. Renter. If you own your home, you have almost limitless options when it comes to doorbell cameras. Your biggest challenge will be deciding which options to include based on what you want your doorbell camera to do.
Keep in mind that doorbell cameras are either wired or wireless, and if you’re a renter, you may need to check with your landlord to see if they have any issues about drilling holes in walls or other mounting concerns with a wired system. If you are a renter and get your landlord’s permission to install a wired system, make sure you get that permission in writing. In some instances, your landlord may even pay for a system as an investment in their property.
Compatibility. If you already have other security systems installed in your house, you may need to check to see if adding a doorbell camera will be compatible with what you already have in place. Wireless doorbell cameras work in conjunction with Wi-Fi networks. Hardwired doorbell cameras are powered by connecting wires to an existing doorbell.
If you have any degree of home automation currently installed, it shouldn’t be too difficult to connect your doorbell camera and sync it with your existing home security and automation equipment.
In some cases, you may want to buy a whole-house security and automation system with a doorbell camera as one of the pieces that fits in with other functions such as remotely locking your doors, turning on lights, opening your garage door, and controlling your thermostat, among others.
Installation. Many doorbell cameras on the market are purposely made for DIY installation. These are typically powered by a battery, meaning there are no wires to mess with.
Other systems require hardwiring by connecting them to your existing doorbell system. Detailed instructions are often provided, but if you don’t have the tools and experience, it might be better to pay a few dollars and have the installation done correctly.
Before you hire someone, check your doorbell camera warranty requirements. The warranty could be voided in some cases if you don’t use an approved vendor.
Costs. System costs vary widely, and you may need to do some trading off to get what you want in exchange for what you can afford.
Features to Consider
You have lots of options.
Motion Detection. When your doorbell camera detects motion, it sends you an alert so you can see who is there and decide how to respond. Some higher-end systems let you set pre-designed zones for monitoring, so you don’t get alerts from passing cars or people walking by on sidewalks. Some systems also can distinguish between people, pets, or other objects, so you don’t get unnecessary and continuous alerts.
Resolution. Cameras are sold with anywhere from 480p to 1080p. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image, but you’ll likely pay more.
Night Vision. Lots of things happen when the sun goes down, especially in the winter when days are shorter. This feature lets you see clearly who is at your door 24/7.
Field of View. Some cameras only let you see 90° (to the front only), while others may give as much as a 180° view.
Two-Way Audio. This allows you to communicate through your doorbell camera. This is a great feature. You can speak to anyone who comes to the door, either giving delivery people specific instructions or scaring away porch pirates by talking to them.
Storage. When you upload footage to the cloud, you can keep a history of motion alerts for 30 days or more, giving you lots of video evidence you may need to catch a crook. Some doorbell cameras offer limited free cloud storage but most of them charge an additional fee. Other cameras only provide local storage via a microSD card which can usually accommodate anywhere from 16GB to 128GB cards.
Warranties. Most doorbell camera systems carry a one-, two-, or three-year limited warranty, and some even have a limited lifetime warranty. Others also have a customer satisfaction and a replacement guarantee if your equipment is stolen.
Weather Resistant. How well will your doorbell camera hold up against the elements? Extreme heat and cold protection are things you should look for if you don’t live in a temperate climate.
Cost and Companies
On the low end, a low-resolution, battery-operated system usually costs $100 or less. Prices can range up to $500 for a hardwired video doorbell with several features.
You may need to also consider installation costs and if you’re storing images on the cloud, expect to pay a monthly fee.
Competition has exploded among manufacturers in recent years. Some of the best quality and most well-known doorbell camera brands include:
The Bottom Line
You can get a lot of value for a relatively small investment in a door camera system. The key is to decide what level of security and features you want, compare manufacturers, warranties, and costs before buying the best system for your needs.