Should You Buy a Video Doorbell?

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A video doorbell is really nothing more than a regular doorbell with a built-in video camera. But is the price tag worth it in the end? Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a video doorbell, like the Ring or SkyBell HD.

They Can Act as a Digital Peephole

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While you could just walk over to the front door and look through the peephole to see who rang the doorbell, a video doorbell can act as a glorified, Wi-Fi peephole of sorts. When someone rings the doorbell, you can just pick up your phone to see who’s there, all without leaving the comfort of your couch. That way, you can see if you really need to answer the door, or if it’s just UPS with your fifth Amazon package of the week.

RELATED: Why Is My Ring Doorbell Missing Live View?

You can also get notifications and see this live view when you’re away from home. You can even do push-to-talk and communicate with the person on the other side through the speaker on the doorbell. So if the UPS guy comes when you’re not home, you can tell him to just leave the package at the door.

They Double As a Security Camera

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While video doorbells can be convenient to use, they’re also great for keeping your home safe and catching any bad guys.

The Ring Doorbell and SkyBell HD can both start recording whenever someone comes to the door with their built-in motion sensors. That way, if someone with bad intentions walks up to your house–even without ringing the doorbell–you’ll get a notification and have their face on camera. Though frankly, just having an obvious camera at your door could spook them away too.

You Need a Decent Wi-Fi Signal

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Since video doorbells like the Ring and SkyBell HD don’t have an Ethernet port, they have to connect to your Wi-Fi network. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but there are more caveats than you think.

RELATED: Ring vs. Nest Hello vs. SkyBell HD: Which Video Doorbell Should You Buy?

First, you have to make sure that the video doorbell is fairly close to your router, especially since your doorbell is on the outer perimeter of your house. Usually, the ideal placement for your router is in the middle of your house, which means your doorbell could be on the outskirts of its coverage.

Secondly, exterior walls can do a lot of damage to Wi-Fi signals. These walls are made of many different materials in order to keep the inside insulated, like metal, plaster, dense fiberboard, etc. Just stepping outside my front door instantly drops my Wi-Fi connection speed by about two-thirds. So the closer your router is to make up for the lost signal, the better.

Installation Difficulty Is a Crapshoot

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The Ring Doorbell is really easy to install, since it can be powered from battery, and doesn’t need to be wired up to an existing system. You just screw in a mounting plate and stick the Ring on it.

However, you can also hook up your existing doorbell wires to your video doorbell if you want, which gets a bit more complicated. Some doorbells even require this, like the Ring Pro or SkyBell HD, since they don’t have an internal battery. This doesn’t seem like a huge deal, since it’s only two small wires that you’re connecting, but if your existing doorbell is located in a place where a video doorbell wouldn’t fit, you’d need to re-route those wires to a location on the wall where the new doorbell would fit, which can sometimes be a pain in the rear end.

They’re Not Cheap

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It’s really not that difficult to decide whether or not you want a video doorbell–I’m sure most people would love to have one, but the biggest barrier to entry, like most smarthome products, is the cost.

For example, both the Ring Doorbell and SkyBell HD are priced at $200, which isn’t cheap enough that you could buy it without really thinking.

However, if it’s a device that you’ll get a lot of use out of and always have people coming to your door, or if you just want a security camera with eyes on your front door at all times, a video doorbell can actually be a worthy investment.

And sure, you can get standalone outdoor security cameras that don’t have the doorbell component, like the Nest Outdoor Cam, but you’ll still be paying the same price. You might as well get a doorbell as part of the deal, too.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.