How do Doorbell Cameras Work?

Posted June 29th, 2022 by SimpliSafe

Doorbell cameras are an easy way to protect your home without such a large upfront investment. They help you see what’s going on in front of your home and also work to deter a home invasion. Most doorbell cameras have special features to aid with monitoring, and can be hooked up to a bigger smart home security system hub or can be used on their own. But, before investing in a doorbell camera, it’s a good idea to understand how this technology works in order to find the right video doorbell for you. 

What are Doorbell Cameras?

Doorbell video cameras—also known as video doorbells—are placed near regular doorbells (or, where a regular doorbell would go) in order to see what’s happening on your doorstep. They come with a number of features, but ultimately, are used to record who or what is happening outside, whether or not you’re home. Of course, they also function as a regular doorbell, meaning someone can ring it to let you know they are outside. 

The Benefits of Doorbell Cameras

Doorbell cameras have a lot of benefits, especially for the cost. Not only have they been reported to  deter porch pirates and potential home intruders, but they offer some excellent footage for recording any type of evidence as well as good deeds. For instance, video doorbells have caught heartwarming footage that’s gone viral, as well as frightening footage that can potentially alert the person monitoring the doorbell that something needs to be done. 

Ultimately, video doorbells can also be used to make sure your family members, friends, babysitters—anyone going in and out of the home—are able to get safely inside and are safe outside, too. They could also help monitor your children in the front yard or check that the people ringing your doorbell are who they say they are. 

How Do Doorbell Cameras Work?

Many video doorbells connect to Wi-Fi but may not work wirelessly. This means they’ll need a powersource (your initial doorbell wiring) to work, unless they can be battery-operated. But, these days, most people like the convenience of being able to purchase a wireless doorbell camera that can be hooked up 1-2-3. 

Once a doorbell camera is installed—which you can do on your home or with the help of a professional—you can use it right away:

  • When someone rings the doorbell, you’ll hear the chime inside. Some doorbells will start recording footage the moment someone steps into the doorbell’s range, in case the person there has no intention to ring your doorbell.

  • When someone is at your door—for whatever reason—you’ll be alerted via your smartphone or whatever device you have connected to the doorbell. This will allow you to live-monitor what’s happening. Or, you can have the footage to check later if need be. (For instance, you were alerted that someone was at your door to deliver a package, but then you come home and the package is gone!)

  • You can sometimes communicate with who is at your doorstep via a two-way audio system. Want to greet the family when they come home, or ask the delivery person to leave the package around the back of the house? 

Additional Features of Doorbell Cameras to Consider

Video doorbell cameras are capable of doing a lot on their own. But, they typically come with plenty of other features that you can take advantage of in order to use the doorbell to its fullest potential. But, these might come at an extra cost, so be sure to check what’s included with your video doorbell purchase/subscription, and what you’d have to pay extra for (and, at what cost):

  • Professional installation and/or monitoring

  • Motion sensor

  • The ability to contact 911 if you witness a crime

  • High-quality video/large range of detection

  • Compatible with a smart-lock system so you can unlock the door remotely after you see who is there

  • Ability to connect to other smart home security equipment and/or devices (for instance, Google Home for voice control)

  • Night vision

  • Real-time and recorded video footage (and, check the storage to see how much memory you have to store)

  • Two-way audio

Frequently Asked Questions of Doorbell Cameras

What is the Range of Video?

The range of video you’ll get from a video doorbell depends on what doorbell you buy, but generally, it’s between 155° to 180° and up to 50 feet. You’ll want to know how far the doorbell camera can see, and how wide. For instance, SimpliSafe’s video doorbell has a 162° wide angle field of view. Most video doorbells also ignore motion that’s far away, ilke cars driving by in the street. 

How Long Do Video Doorbells Record for?

Most video doorbells are not recording footage all day long, though some do. Instead, they typically only record when motion is detected, but luckily, they begin recording a little ahead of an event potentially happening. 

For example, if someone steals a package, their camera should start recording before they actually steal it, to give you a better sense of the crime. You’ll also want to check how long the device stores footage for, so a video isn’t deleted before you had a chance to review it or send it to the authorities. 

How to Install a Doorbell Camera?

Video doorbells usually need a power supply to work, like SimpliSafe’s Video Doorbell Pro which works an existing doorbell setup and needs an 8-24V AC transformer and this is the case for many smart doorbells. Otherwise, the power supply would have to come from a battery or solar energy. If it’s a battery, you’ll need to constantly be aware of when you’ll have to change it. 

Why Does My Video Doorbell Need to Connect to Wi-Fi?

Doorbell cameras need to connect to Wi-Fi in order to be able to utilize all the features they come with. 

Is a Subscription Required?

Most doorbell cameras can function without purchasing a subscription, but if you want to get the full use out of it, you’ll need to purchase add-on features. Always check what comes without the subscription and what requires a subscription so you can accurately compare prices. 

What are Some Downsides with Doorbell Cameras?

Doorbell cameras offer loads of benefits, but there are some downsides that are worth considering. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your video doorbell is sturdy—that it stands up to inclement weather and that it can’t be easily stolen. 

And, because most video doorbells work with Wi-Fi, this means they can potentially be hacked or lose functionality if your Wi-Fi goes out. Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you’re not paying an arm and a leg for all the features that make the investment worthwhile in the first place.

All things considered, the benefits certainly outweigh any potential problems. 

Is a Doorbell Camera Right for Me?

Doorbell cameras can cost anywhere from $40 to $500 depending on the features, technology, and the company you’re buying it with. The more affordable the camera, the more likely that less features are included, so it’s important to compare.

The SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro is $169, which is affordable compared to other brands.