Video Doorbells are a valuable part of any home security system. The benefit of being able to see who is at the door and to answer it, even when you are not home, can’t be over stated. First, it allows you to avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation by going to the door with a stranger on the other side. Second, intruders often like to come to the door to check if anyone is home before breaking in. The fact that they would be captured on camera first is a huge deterrent when combined with the fact that it is an indication that the household might have other security measures in place as well. And finally, it is a convenience to be able to talk to the person at the door, even when you are not home. You can give instructions to a package deliverer, or greet a friend.
Many new doorbells have hit the market in the last couple years. The first one to become popular was the Ring. It is still the market leader in terms of volume, but there are many strong newcomers to the space with compelling feature lists.
The Ring has four models of doorbell cameras with the introduction of their new Door View Cam. It also has an ecosystem of other innovative cameras to provide a comprehensive cloud based video system. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the largest of the Ring Doorbells, which can be an issue when space is a premium. The reason for it’s size is probably to accommodate it’s built-in battery. This is great in situations where there was no doorbell or when there was only a wireless doorbell, because most of the other doorbells require the power from a doorbell transformer. The ring battery can be charged every couple of months with a mini-USB port, but can also use the traditional wired connection that other products use, making it the most versatile of the doorbell cameras. The list price of the Video Doorbell 2 is $199.
The Ring Doorbell Pro has the same basic features, but in a sleeker package that feels a little better constructed. It does lack the battery only option, but so do most of the other doorbells on the market. The list price of the Video Doorbell Pro is $249.
In new construction situations, one might opt for the more expensive, Ring Video Doorbell Elite. It is powered by POE or Power-Over_Ethernet, so rather than a traditional doorbell wire and transformer, it required a POE injector with connectivity to your ethernet switch or router. While this excludes it for most retrofit applications, its advantage is that it does not rely on a strong wi-fi signal outside your door. The $499 price tag makes it by far the priciest alternative though.
Another innovative product from Ring is the ring Chime and Chime Pro. The Chime Pro can be used as a wireless extension to here the doorbell in other parts of the house or as a sounder in the cases where an existing doorbell did not exist. Additionally, it acts as a wi-fi range extender to boost your wi-fi signal in case you don’t have a strong enough signal at the front door.
UNBOXING: When you open the box of your new Ring doorbell you do get a nice surprise. It comes in as a complete kit with wedge plates to mount it at different angles and even different faceplates for changing its color. Beyond that it includes a level to make sure you installed it straight, as well as all the necessary hardware, and even a screwdriver for installation. After removing the old doorbell button and connecting the two wires to the new Ring, you download and open the Ring App. It steps you through registering the device and adding it to your wi-fi network. Finally, you can send an email invite to other family members to add the Ring to their smart-phones as well. Another feature of the Ring is the neighborhood feature that gives you the ability to share a video clip of suspicious door activity to warn others in your neighborhood.
CONCLUSION: The Ring is a well thought out product and an essential security tool. The list of Pros is extensive. The only con is that there is sometimes a delay between when a person rings the doorbell and when you are able to talk to them. This is usually a result of the speed of the wi-fi connection at the doorbell and can usually be fixed with a better signal. I certainly recommend this product.
Smoke detectors fall under the category of life safety devices and are the most prevalent such device. Smoke detectors are required, by code in virtually all buildings, but especially where people sleep. According to the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA, Smoke detectors should be placed, “inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.”
These smoke detectors are typically installed by an electrician at the time the home is built. When this is the case, they are usually powered by the house power and often have 9V batteries to provide back-up power in the event of a power outage. It is recommended that the batteries be replaced according to manufacturer guidelines, which is usually twice per year.
These devices certainly save lives by alerting people to get out of the house, but they don’t have as much benefit when no one is home. In that instance, a monitored smoke detector is the answer. In the past, people would have needed to place a monitored smoke detector next to each of the existing hard-wired smoke detectors to get full coverage, but today a number of additional options exist.
The Gentex 503F is a good solution in new homes that have hardwired security systems. It is a combination Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector and can be installed in the place of one of the electrician installed smoke detectors. It is therefore wired to the other smoke detectors so that one one of them goes off, if will be set off along with all of the other smoke detectors in the house. The difference is that this device has relay outputs that can be connected directly to the security system so that the fire can be communicated to the central station and to the fire department.
Nortek Security has a wireless device called the FireFighter. According to their website “It is the easiest, most cost effective way to add smoke alarm monitoring to your … control panel. FireFighter’s unique technology monitors the existing UL smoke detectors within the home. When an alarm is detected a wireless signal is sent to the control panel which in turn contacts the central monitoring station. With interconnected hardwired smoke detectors found in most homes today, only one FireFighter is needed to monitor ALL the smoke detectors within the home.” That was their words, but I’ve got to say, it does what they say. It is a brilliant invention and makes a comprehensive smoke detection system very affordable for almost any security system that supports wireless sensors. It comes in different frequencies to enable compatibility to most major brands of panels.
If you don’t have existing smoke detectors in your home, then all of the major alarm panel manufacturers also make monitored smoke detectors that are compatible with their systems. These smoke detectors should still be installed according to the NFPA 72 guidelines mentioned above. These smoke detectors can be either wireless or hardwired. One of the most commonly used hardwired monitored smoke detector manufacturers is System Sensor. they make a wide range of smoke detectors as well as heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
System Sensor Heat Detectors come in two varieties: fixed temperature and rate of rise. the rate of rise heat detectors from System Sensor trip when the temperature rises by 15 degrees or more per minute. Fixed temperature, as the name kind of implies, trip at a certain temperature, 135 or 194 degrees, depending on the model you choose. they also make heat detectors with both fixed and rate of rise. By the way, I learned the hard way that you can’t test their fixed temperature heat detectors, because once tripped they are ruined.
Security goes far beyond and alarm system. To me, security is everything involved in protecting your home and the people and things you care about. It is a holistic approach that provides not only protection, but also the peace of mind that comes with it. While security certainly includes standard elements such as:
- Alarm Systems
- Security Cameras
- Home Automation
- Fire, Flood, CO Detection
It also includes:
- Cyber Security
- Identity Theft
- Accident Prevention
- Environmental (Fire, Flood, CO) Monitoring
- Physical Security (Door Locks, Security Window Film)
- Personal Security (Pepper Spray, Weapons, Sounders, Strategies)
Our goal is to unleash the power of technology to homes and families in three ways:
- Explain the benefits of products and services in easy to understand terms so that you can determine their potential value to you
- Review and compare these products in terms of simplicity, power, price and reliability
- Provide ideas to improve the safety, security, and simplicity of your home