Household security is becoming smarter and cheaper. From as little as £25, you can equip your home with a video doorbell so you see who’s at the front door – whether or not you’re at home.
Video doorbells - also known as smart doorbells - tend to be Wi-Fi-enabled, and come with a camera (frequently HD), speaker and microphone. Other features can include infrared LEDs, so you can get a better picture in the dark, and motion detection.
But is it worth getting a video doorbell? If you’re thinking of investing in one of these smart home devices, we’ve done some of the legwork for you – here are the pros and cons:
Video doorbells: PROS
1. Greet your guests remotely
Knowing who’s at the door without actually having to answer it is the main benefit of a video doorbell. So, whether you’re at work, on holiday or in the bath, you can see whoever comes knocking.
The devices record and play audio, enabling two-way communication. This has several advantages. If you’re having a parcel delivered, for instance, you can issue instructions to save yourself from those pesky ‘Sorry we missed you’ cards. You’ll also never miss friends calling, and if you have children at home, you’ll know if and when they get home safely.
It also means that you can choose not to answer the door to any callers you’d rather not speak to.
2. Improved security
Having a video doorbell is likely to put off intruders. For one, you’ll have a saved video of anyone who calls round; some can be triggered within a certain distance of your front door, so they don’t even have to ring the doorbell. And you can also give the impression you’re at home even when you’re not, speaking to your visitor as if you’re there in person.
3. Smart home connectivity
If you have other smart features in your home, it’s a good idea to check if you can use your smart doorbell in combination with them. For example, if you want to physically let somebody in – such as a friend or a pet-sitter – you could use your compatible smart lock.
You may also be able to link it to assistants such as Alexa or Siri, or smart displays such as Google Nest Hub.
4. Potentially cheaper home insurance
When applying for home insurance, providers tend to look favourably on households with a good level of security. So, having a smart doorbell could also help to reduce your premiums.
Video doorbells: CONS
You can see there are several good reasons to invest in a smart doorbell. But now let’s look at the potential downsides.
1. They can be expensive
While it’s possible to get a video doorbell for as little as £25, as with most things, you get what you pay for, so it’s probably worth shelling out for decent kit – especially when it comes to home security.
According to Which?, anything that costs less than £50 is unlikely to be worth the money.
2. There is a risk of getting hacked
As with all connected devices, there’s a risk that your video doorbell could become hacked. The worry here isn’t so much that someone acting maliciously could access the video, but rather that your network could become compromised. You don’t want anybody being able to open your front door through hacking your doorbell, for instance.
Again, for this reason, it’s best to avoid going for cheaper models. Do some research to find out which models have the tightest security, for your own peace of mind.
3. Phantom visitors
If the doorbell you choose is a motion-sensing model – such as a Ring device – then your doorbell could be more active than it needs to be, sending you on a wild goose chase. It’s usually possible to change the sensitivity, but you could still risk getting false alarms now and again.
4. Some models are easy to remove
Ideally, you want a video doorbell which isn’t too conspicuous and blends discreetly into the doorway. Otherwise, rather than deter intruders, your smart doorbell could catch their attention; some cheaper, battery-powered doorbells might be easily removed or stolen.
Again, the solution here is probably to invest in a better model, potentially one that is a wired doorbell. However, you’ll probably need this professionally installed by an electrician, which comes at a further cost.
5. You need to be aware of privacy laws
A court case has led to concerns that owners of smart doorbells could face fines if neighbours say they are a breach of privacy.
In October, a judge ruled that security cameras and a smart doorbell that a man had installed in a house in Oxfordshire invaded a neighbour’s privacy. The man now faces a hefty fine for breaching UK data protection regulations and harassment of his neighbour.
In response, the Information Commissioner's Office told BBC News that owners of smart doorbells “should respect people's privacy rights and take steps to minimise intrusion to neighbours and passers-by."
So, should you buy a video doorbell?
Ultimately, the decision whether to buy a video doorbell is up to you. It’s worth setting a budget that you’re comfortable paying and researching the equipment properly before you commit. When it comes to home security, there’s no sense in cutting corners.
But if you’re happy to spend a little extra, a smart doorbell could provide you with convenience, and valuable peace of mind.
For more information about how to protect your home and belongings, go to Solved.