Striving for the Ultimate “Smart” Home Using the Latest Tech! Part 1
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
My Quest to Increase My Home’s Intelligence
My primary purpose is to tell what I have and what I felt was needed to make my current home “smart.” In addition, I am hoping I can provide helpful advice and information. I have accumulated various experiences when making my last house a smart home and then bringing the smartness to our new home.
First, let’s start by defining a “smart” home or what I envision it to be. I picture putting my home to work for me. I come home; the garage door opens automatically, the lights will come on automatically, the locks will open, my house is clean because my smart vacuum has cleaned it. The thermostat adjusts according to occupancy and weather outside. Is my home entirely smart with all of these options?…… No! But it is well on its way to being more intelligent.
When we listed our old home, we described it as having many “Smart” features. We had a doorbell camera, an intelligent lawn watering system, a smart thermostat, a smart garage door opener, and intelligent locks. I had installed everything myself and had it all working to my specifications. I was anxious to bring this and more to the new home. Of course, to consider your home “smart,” one must have a doorbell camera. I was adamant I was not going to have this item as a wireless option. I wanted this to be hardwired into the existing system as my experience with a rechargeable battery system was unpleasant. It always seems like the battery is dead or dying, and going through the charging process can be a pain. There is no doubt a certain amount of ease in buying and installing a wireless option. I wanted to remove the need to recharge.
People swear by Ring as a valid option, but I had no issues using Arlo (A Netgear Company). I have used Netgear products for many years, and the pricing is reasonable. Arlo makes a wired camera with a variety of features and is a direct competitor to Ring. Installation can be easy, but it can also be challenging. If your current transformer is powerful enough to power the wired version, your task will go smoothly. If it is underpowered, you will have an item that will not work out of the gate. Our previous home, a 2009 build, had the underpowered 16Volt 10VA transformer. After installing the doorbell, I quickly found out the underpowered transformer was insufficient to keep the doorbell running. It was somewhat tricky finding this transformer in both of my homes, but they were eventually located in the basement roughly South of the door within the ceiling area. Searching in the basement ceiling area revealed the transformer’s location.
I learned I would have to upgrade to a 24V 30VA transformer to get this item to work. The critical takeaway is to shut off the power before making any DIY changes. If you feel comfortable with electricity, proceed ahead when the power has been disabled. You can find many videos on video doorbell installations, and Arlo provides videos directly within their application. If you aren’t comfortable working with electricity, hire this out. Again, proceed ahead at your own risk. I am only sharing my experiences. Once I had replaced the transformer, the product worked like a charm. I was prepared for a possible complicated installation when moving into the new house. This house was nine years older as it was built in 2000. I was pleasantly surprised when installing the Arlo camera and finding it worked immediately. This was one of those few times where something goes off without a hitch.
What does having an intelligent doorbell do for you? Beyond the typical use of viewing who is at your door and communicating with them directly with 2-way audio, there are other advantages. Arlo Smart is a service you can subscribe to, and if you are an avid user of Amazon, this particular doorbell has package/object detection. You will get immediate updates the minute the delivery hits your doorstep. I generally receive a snapshot view on my phone or Apple watch showing me the front porch. You can make immediate plans to fend off the porch pirates.
The field of view is pretty wide at 180 degrees, so you get a very decent picture of everything in front of the door. All of this is done in high dynamic range (HDR) video quality. You can set the doorbell up to focus on three specific areas and ignore the rest when alerting you to any action within the field of view. Why is this important? You can limit the number of motion alerts should you have too much activity from a possible nearby road (passing traffic). The focal area can be precisely set to limit the attention to the vicinity directly in front of the door. Motion detection and night vision are both standard features. The product is wired directly within your system to use a digital ringer for the doorbell or the mechanical bell with your current system. The phone application is very intuitive, and if you subscribe to the Arlo Smart service, you will be allotted 30 days of cloud storage of video content.
I have read several Arlo Doorbell Camera reviews, and most are pretty positive. Out of the box, you are given three months of Arlo Smart service as a free trial, after which the monthly fee is a very reasonable $2.99/month. I have seen the wired version of this camera as low as $99, which makes it highly competitive with other comparable cameras in the marketplace. The video quality consistently rates relatively high in the reviews due to its 180-degree field of view and high resolution. If you are anything like me, you like to read positive things about your merchandise before and after the point of sale. I believe they call this positive product reinforcement. Part 2
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