The Ultimate Guide to Smart Doorbells

Smart doorbells are great not only for seeing who’s at the door from the comfort of your sofa but also add another layer of security to your home! Read all about smart doorbells in our guide below!

Smart doorbells are getting more and more popular due to the consumer market becoming more involved with the Internet of Things or IOT (noun: “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”).  For instance, asking your Alexa or Google Assistant to turn the lights off without having to move a muscle is the perfect example of IOT, as one device communicates with another via the internet to complete an action with the command of your voice.

Smart doorbells work in a very similar way as when activated (in numerous ways depending on the brand and model) it sends a notification onto your smart phone via the designated app. But are smart doorbells secure and how do they work?

 

Smart doorbell with video camera

 

How do Smart Doorbells Work?

Smart doorbells work much like a standard doorbell; they sit on the wall outside your home and have a button to press so visitors can ring your doorbell and alert you to their presence.

The difference is you can see who is visiting your home even if you’re not there as they are fitted with cameras, and many are fitted with two-way audio systems. The majority of smart doorbells work with Wi-Fi and link through an app on your smartphone or even through your smart home hub. This means that you can access and control the doorbell all from the comfort of a smart device.

 

Are Smart Doorbells Worth it?

Yes. Not only are they super helpful when you’re not at home and a package is getting delivered, with a smart doorbell you can tell the delivery driver where to leave it, but also for home security.

Above all smart doorbells help improve the security of your home as someone is always ‘home’ or rather you the homeowner can always monitor your home. Here are a few reasons on the benefits of installing a smart doorbell.

 

The Features of Smart Doorbells

Smart doorbells hold many different features depending on the make and model that you choose. Choose from features such as live video, two way audio, interconnectivity, the list goes on and on. We discuss a few of the most popular smart doorbell features below.

 

Video Recording

The video camera element on a smart doorbell adds an extra layer to your home security as it allows you to see who is at your front door without having to open the door. If there is a shifty character at the door, opening it will leave you vulnerable to a potential attack and home invasion but with a smart doorbell you can simply choose to not answer the door, keeping you and your home secure. If you are worried about a burglar approaching your door or if a burglar has attacked your home, you can show the police video evidence which will significantly increase the chances of them catching the culprit. Similarly, just having the video capabilities acts as a deterrent to any would be burglars as it makes your home a risker target and increases their chances of getting caught.

If you are expecting a delivery, you can see exactly the time of day it was delivered and where the worker left your package. As well as that you can rewind the video to see if any friends or family visited whilst you were out and can see the exact time the kids get home when they ‘promised’ they were back before curfew.

 

Two-Way Audio

Many smart doorbells are fitted with a two-way audio system meaning you can talk to someone who is stood outside your home through you smart doorbell when it is paired with a smart device. Any potential burglars are more than likely to make a run for it if you speak to them through the smart doorbell once knowing that you can see and hear every move they are making.

Can’t make it to the door in time for the speedy delivery driver with your parcel? Not to worry, with the two-way audio you can let them know you are on your way to the door or if you’re not home tell them to leave it in a safe place to avoid a time-consuming trip to the post office.

 

Smart Locks

Not only are smart doorbells compatible with your smart phone and smart home system they are also compatible with smart locks. Smart locks in connection with a smart doorbell unlock your door through facial recognition. For one this combination is great if you have your hands full and your keys are lost in the bottom of your bag and secondly, you can never get locked outside as you won’t need your keys!

For more information on smart locks check out the Ultimate Keytek® Guide to Smart Locks. 

 

Installing a Smart Doorbell

Smart door bells will need to be installed on your front door or next to it and are often pretty simple to set up. Installation will depend on whether your doorbell is wired or wireless as to whether you’ll be able to install it yourself.

With wired smart doorbells they will often rely on existing doorbell wiring with a standard 18 Volt AC supply to power the camera. To install a wired doorbell, you will need to turn all power off at the fuse box, re-wire the existing wiring and then connect everything together. This can be quite fiddly and not to mention dangerous work for a DIY novice, so we always strongly recommend hiring a professional to install a wired smart doorbell.

 

How Do I Install a Battery Powered Smart Doorbell?

1.      Charge the Doorbell’s Battery

Some battery powered doorbells come with a USB cable to charge the doorbell whereas others have interchangeable batteries that can be charged separate to the doorbell. Either way ensure that the smart doorbell is fully charged before you attempt to install it.

 

2.      Identify What Parts Have Been Included

Most, if not all, smart doorbells come with a mount that you secure to the wall or door, however not all of them might have the right fixings. If you are planning to install the doorbell onto a brick wall, do you have the correct anchors for the screws included or will you need to purchase them? Either way.

 

The Best Smart Doorbells for 2021

  1. Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
  2. Nest Doorbell (Battery)
  3. Ring Video Doorbell Wired

 

Best Overall Smart Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2

Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is one of original smart doorbells on the market that offers a wide range of features. We’ve chosen it as the Ring Video Doorbell 2 as our top smart doorbell. It is currently achieving a 4.3 star rating on Amazon with 194 reviews (September 2021)

 

Features

  • 1536p HD video recording
  • Live viewing
  • Two way audio
  • Noise cancellation
  • Motion sensors
  • Smart product compatible
  • Alerts and notifications

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 features 1536p HD head to toe video with a live view feature and infrared night vision so that homeowners can manage their properties security with a crystal-clear view. The two-way talk feature is very handy and includes noise cancellation so you and your visitor can communicate easily and when you can be bothered to engage you can actually turn on the Quick Replies Feature which plays a pre-recorded voice message. With built-in motion sensors you can set up alerts to your smart phone, tablet, or computer every time the motion sensors are activated and with the new 3D motion detectors, the notifications are even more precise and relevant. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 also works in conjunction with Amazon Alexa including all Echo devices and Alexa enabled devices such as the Fire tablets, to create the perfect interconnections within your smart home.

 

Installation

If you already have a working doorbell, the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 can be installed using your compatible doorbell wiring but we would always recommend hiring a professional for this unless you have adequate electrical experience.

However, if you do not currently have a doorbell you can purchase a plugin adaptor that will allow you to power the doorbell through a power socket in your home that is close to the front door. This takes away the need for wiring and means that you’ll most likely be able to install the doorbell yourself.

 

Monthly Costs

Basic functionality such as live video and response to motion alerts doesn’t require a monthly subscription, but for video playback, recording and storage you’ll need to subscribe to the Ring Protect Subscription. They currently have 2 levels of subscription:

Protect Basic: 30 days of video storage for a single ring device for £2.50 per month or £24.99 a year.

Protect Plus: 30 Days of video storage for an unlimited number of devices for £8 per month or £80 a year. If you have different ring devices such as the doorbell and security cameras, this is the subscription that you will want to choose.

 

Price

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 can be purchased through the ring website for £219.00.

 

Best Wireless Smart Doorbell: Nest Doorbell (Battery)

This smart doorbell is definitely a contender for 2021 and even might hit the top of the list in 2022 as the doorbell is currently on pre-order but this camera has some amazing features that blow others out of the water and is considerably well priced! The first wireless smart doorbell from Google and it doesn’t not disappoint.

 

Features

  • 1080p HD recording
  • Live viewing
  • Smart notifications
  • Two-way Audio
  • 3:4 video ratio with vertical field of view
  • HDR enabled with nigh vision
  • Pre-set automated responses
  • Alerts and notifications

What really sets this doorbell apart is the smart alerts. This doorbell can identify the difference between people, packages, animals, and vehicles and can notify you accordingly. So, if you’re at work and waiting for a package to be delivered to home, this doorbell will not just simply notify you that motion was detected but will specify that a parcel was delivered. Designed with a vertical field of view with a 3:4 ratio means that the camera on the doorbell sees people head to toe and can see any parcels that are on the floor which not only makes it super effective but is great for added security. HDR helps to keep the picture crystal clear whether in the day or at night, so that security is maximised. With two way audio a staple on most Google products, the Nest Doorbell goes above and beyond again so that you can now not only live talk to someone but can also use a menu of pre set responses for even more convenience.

 

Installation

As a battery powered smart doorbell, installation is as easy as 2 screws and an app set up, but you do also have the flexibility to have the doorbell hardwired if you wanted to. Installation however could not be simpler as Google have professional installers on hand nationally to help install your Google Nest products. Find your Nest pro installer here.

 

Monthly Costs

Whilst optional you currently only have 3 hours of event history without the Nest Aware subscription, which is significantly less than others which often offer up to 24 hours. However, with the Nest Aware subscription you have access to more advanced settings and controls, so it is definitely worth the extra monthly cost. There are currently two subscription levels:

Nest Aware: 30 days of video storage for £5 per month or £50 a year.

Nest Aware Pro: 60 days of video storage for £10 per or £100 a year plus 10 rolling days of constant 24/7 video recording so that the doorbell doubles as CCTV.

 

Price

Currently available for pre-order on the Google store for £179.99, this smart doorbell is an investment but with the features and security benefits it’s definitely worth its weight in gold.

 

Best Budget Smart Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell Wired

Our top budget pick for 2021 is the Ring Video Doorbell, at only £49 this little doorbell with the big brand name has all of the most essential features that you will want in a smart doorbell but at a fraction of the price. With over 1,528 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4 star rating (September 2021) this is definitely a good pick for those not wanting to splash the cash but still get a great product.

 

Features

  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Live viewing
  • Two way audio
  • Night vision
  • Alerts and notifications

The two most important features on this doorbell are the live video and two way talk, meaning that you can still see, hear, and communicate with whomever might be at your door, from wherever you are. The 1080p HD video and night vision feature ensures that night or day, your ring doorbell shows a crisp, sharp image. With the accompanying ring app, you can access everything from your smart device from wherever you are, even if you’re not at home.

 

Installation

It can either be wired into existing compatible doorbell wiring (we suggest with help from a professional) or can be installed with the plugin adaptor that allows the doorbell to be powered through a power socket close to the front door.

 

Monthly Costs

Basic functionality such as live video and response to motion alerts doesn’t require a monthly subscription, but for video playback, recording and storage you’ll need to subscribe to the Ring Protect Subscription. They currently have 2 levels of subscription:

Protect Basic: 30 days of video storage for a single ring device for £2.50 per month or £24.99 a year.

Protect Plus: 30 Days of video storage for an unlimited number of devices for £8 per month or £80 a year. If you have different ring devices such as the doorbell and security cameras, this is the subscription that you will want to choose.

 

Price

You can currently purchase this smart doorbell on the Ring Website for £49 on its own or get a package deal that comes with a door chime for £69.

 

Smart Doorbells vs Security Cameras

Like most things there are pros and cons to video doorbells and they are often looked at in comparison to home security cameras. Take a look at our pros and cons list of smart doorbells and home CCTV below:

 

Advantages of Smart Doorbells

1.      Easy to Operate

Smart video doorbells are user friendly as it usually requires just one interface and an easy to use app on your smartphone.

2.      Feature Variety

Smart doorbells now come with a wide range of features including two-way audio and can be programmed to work with your smart door lock.

3.      Affordability

Smart doorbells are less expensive than a complete CCTV system and require only one device to install and set up.

4.      Motion Detection & Notifications

Smart doorbell features are usually accessed through their bespoke app. Smart doorbells include features such as motion detection so it will either automatically start recording and/or send you an alert directly to your smartphone when movement is detected.

5.      Wide Angle Lenes

Most smart doorbell cameras feature a wide angle lens so you can be sure to see who is outside your door.

 

Disadvantages of Smart Doorbells

1.      Fixed Point of View

smart doorbells lack in the fact that they require additional cameras and set ups if you have multiple access points that you require monitoring around the home.

2.       Cost

A good quality smart doorbell can be a lot of money and can be very expensive depending on the features you want, which when compared to the normal £10 it costs for a normal doorbell it can feel like a massive expense.

3.      Difficult Installation

With wired models, installation can be hard and often help from a professional is often required, which is another expense to think about it.

4.      Subscription Costs

To get all of the benefits of the smart doorbell you will have to pay a monthly subscription which can cost up to £100 a year just so you can store video for longer than 24 hours.

 

Advantages of Home CCTV Security Cameras

1.      Coverage

You will often find that home CCTV bundles will come with multiple cameras so you can monitor your home from all angles.

2.      Camera Quality

CCTV cameras are more often than not include a higher video resolution than its smart doorbell counterpart.

3.      Storage

CCTV cameras benefit from a wider range of storage options as most smart doorbells rely on their own storage software.

 

Disadvantages of Home CCTV Security Cameras

1.      Complex set-up

CCTV cameras are more complex to set up than smart doorbells as there is often multiple devices that need installing.

2.      Cost

CCTV cameras for the home often run at a higher price tag than video doorbells.

3.      Less Adaptability

Home CCTV systems are not as updated as smart doorbells and so lack some of the top of the range, new features the doorbells include.

 

Smart Doorbells FAQs

Smart doorbells allow the homeowner to become notified via an app on their smartphone as to when someone arrives at their home and even communicate with from anywhere in the world. Smart doorbells can even be used in conjunction with smart door locks so that the homeowner can unlock their door via the app also.

Yes, as with everything connected to the internet smart doorbells run the risk of being hacked.

No, not all smart doorbells require Wi-Fi but the majority of the features need Wi-Fi to work such as notifications and two-way audio.

Yes, many smart doorbells charge a monthly fee for storing the video it captures. Whilst not often compulsory with the model that you purchase, you will need to sign up for a monthly subscription to be able to fully utilise the benefits of a smart doorbell.