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Tips for choosing Smart Doorbells in 2022

One easy way to safeguard your residence against property theft, home invasion, porch pirates, and unwanted solicitors is to identify who is at your doorstep before you open the door. A video doorbell lets you not only see and speak with the person outside but also record footage of visitors that approach your door while you’re away or unable to answer. These devices typically use Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone and offer high-tech features, such as cloud video storage, motion detection, sirens, and interoperability with smart locks and other smart home devices. Here’s what you need to look for when choosing a video doorbell for your home. The category is evolving quickly and we plan to update this story regularly as we test new devices with new features, so make sure to check back often.

Wired vs. Wireless Video Doorbells

The first thing you need to decide is if you want a wireless doorbell that runs on batteries or one that gets power from low-voltage wiring. Naturally, a wireless doorbell is the easiest type to install because it doesn’t require that you turn off your home’s power or mess with any wiring. The downside to wireless doorbells is that their batteries tend to deplete quickly; they last anywhere from two to six months. If you live in an area with cold weather, expect to recharge or replace your batteries more every couple of months. You also run the risk of your doorbell shutting down at an inopportune time with battery-powered models.


Wired doorbells are not as easy to install as their wireless counterparts (the process still isn’t difficult), but you don’t have to worry about them losing power unless your whole house does. Because most homes already have doorbell wiring, installing a video doorbell is as easy as removing your old doorbell, disconnecting the two wires, connecting your new doorbell to the wires, and attaching it to the outside of your house. In most cases, you can connect the doorbell to an existing chime box as well.

Wired doorbells draw power from two wires that connect to a transformer that steps down your household power to between 16 and 24 volts. If your home doesn’t have doorbell wiring, you can still wire it yourself using a plug-in transformer or hire an electrician to perform the setup. Either way, the process requires some drilling to run wires from the inside of your home to an exterior location.

Smart doorbell design and features

Video doorbells come in all shapes and sizes. The least expensive models tend to be bulky and available in only a few color choices, while many of the more expensive models are inconspicuous and available in a variety of finishes. Battery-powered models are typically larger than their wired counterparts.

Most smart doorbells equip a video camera that sends an alert to your phone along with a live video stream when someone presses the doorbell button. You access those recordings via the same mobile app you use to install the device, configure wireless settings, and set up alerts. Doorbells with features such as 1080p video (or better), motion detection, two-way audio that lets you speak with whoever is out there, and on-demand video streaming tend to cost the most. To avoid false alerts from passing cars, high winds, and any critters that may roam around your property, look for a doorbell cam that offers customizable motion zones.

Other capabilities to look for include face recognition technology that identifies visitors by name; motion-sensing technology that knows the difference between people, cars, and animals; color night vision video (most doorbell cameras use infrared LEDs to provide up to 30 feet of black-and-white video); and a choice of chimes that help you differentiate between a doorbell press and a motion trigger. Some of the latest doorbell cameras even offer a pre-buffer feature that records several seconds of activity before the triggering event or doorbell press; this enables you to see what happened just before.

Video doorbells don’t typically offer local storage for recordings, so you likely need to subscribe to a cloud service to view your motion- and doorbell-triggered video clips. Expect to pay $3 per month or more for a plan that gives you access to 30 or more days’ worth of video that you can download and share. If you want to view older footage, make sure you download those clips as the cloud storage overwrites old files after that period.

Video Doorbells vs. Smart Home Security Cameras

Video doorbells and home security cameras offer many of the same benefits. Both show you what is going on outside of your home; offer motion detection and motion-triggered recordings; and, in most cases, let you speak to whoever is out there. That said, security cameras lack the doorbell component. If you’re downstairs doing the laundry and your phone is upstairs, a security camera won’t tell you that someone is at the door, but the doorbell will (when someone presses it).

Moreover, unless they are battery-operated, outdoor security cameras require a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet for power, which may limit potential mounting locations. Wired smart doorbells use existing low-voltage wiring and are relatively easy to install (they don’t require a ladder, for instance).