FThere are always a lot of questions about the possibility of a networked doorbell. Right now, April 2015, ring is running a lot of television commercials, and that is generating a lot of forum discussion.
So here’s a FAQ on what’s currently available. I expect many things will change going forward so this FAQ will have to be either updated or may eventually just get out of date. But for August 2015, it’s current.
THE BIG PROBLEM: WEATHER
The biggest problem for any doorbell system is the part that outside. Obviously this is less of a problem if you live in an area with temperate climate. But if you live in an area that gets very cold or very hot, many sensors will have difficulty. So just keep that in mind when looking at the options.
OPTION 1: PURPOSE BUILT ALL IN ONE UNITS LIKE SKYBELL. TYPICAL COST $200 AND UP
Right now, the networked doorbell units you can buy include video, probably to help justify their high cost. Unfortunately the video doesn’t work great. Also these will not integrate out of the box with smart things, although you might eventually be able to get a web service connection, or IFTTT.
Discussion in the following topic:
OPTION 2: PURPOSE BUILT TWO PIECE UNITS LIKE EVERSPRING. TYPICAL COST $150 AND UP.
One zwave device company, everspring, has been making a two-piece Zwave doorbell for several years. The problem is weather. They are normally a maker of inexpensive devices, and they just haven’t been able to come up with a weatherproof casing for the outside button that meets the price range they are trying to hit.
You used to be able to buy this doorbell in the United States, but it has since been withdrawn because of too many returns. The picture is still on the manufacturer’s site, but is no longer sold in the US.
You can still buy it in Europe, but of course it operates on European zwave frequencies, so if you buy one from a German site it will not integrate with smartthings in the US. They seem to mostly be in use by people who have an atrium entrance where the button is outside the unit but still inside the building.
The failure of this device, which was on the market for several years, is probably why there aren’t a lot of other similar devices available now.
OPTION 3: PURPOSE BUILT BUTTON ONLY 2GIG DOORBELL ? (Probably won’t work with smartthings)
The CONTROL 4 Version has been around for a while, is nicely weatherproof, is very expensive, and uses a proprietary dialect which only works with control four. So you will see them available, but I don’t know of anyone who has one working with smartthings.
However 2gig has just released an under $40 version for their GoControl panel. The GoControl panel uses zwave, but I suspect the doorbell itself does not. If anyone has tried it, let us know.
Also, some retailers are just describing it as a Z wave device, while others say that it talks to the go control panel and it is the panel that issues the Z wave commands. I have been unable to find a zwave conformance statement for this. If anyone has one, let us know if it’s actually zwave or if it’s a proprietary panel communication.
edited to add after further research it looks more and more to me like this doorbell is not a Z wave device, in spite of some retailers saying that it is. I think it transmits on the Honeywell/aDemco frequency, and so likely cannot be used with smartthings. But if anyone knows differently, let us know.
OPTION 4: AEOTEC SIREN?
when Aeon Labs first announced their new siren, they said it might be used as a doorbell when set to very low volume, and they promised an add on pushbutton. However when the siren was actually released to market, no add button was available. My own guess, and it’s purely a guess, is that they ran into the weatherproofing issues for the outdoor piece.
They’re now promising a separate doorbell device to be sold in the summer of 2015. A few early units were available for sale in May 2015, but then it was withdrawn again. So we’ll have to wait to see what that looks like.
More discussion in the following topic:
OPTION 5: A SMART WELCOME MAT. TYPICAL COST UNDER $100
Boats docked at a marina often use a smart pressure Mat as a doorbell. These mats are made to be weatherproof although you still need to wire them to a contact sensor that includes the actual zwave antenna. (So typically you spend around $40 for the mat and another $40 for the device with the antenna.) You could even put the antenna inside a plastic relay box, or run the cable all the way inside the house. It just gives you a lot of options.
Once the contact is closed by someone standing on the mat, you then need to do something to create a chime. This might be through networked connection to a sound system, or even sending a text to a phone.
So essentially this approach gives you the weatherproofed outside piece, and then you need to do something programmatically to create The chime.
More details in the following topic:
OPTION 6: HACKING THE INDOOR PIECE BY ADDING A NETWORKED SENSOR. TYPICAL COST UNDER $100
Over the years, many people have hacked the indoor piece of A two piece doorbell by adding some kind of sensor that was attached to a Z wave antenna. This might be a contact sensor, it might be a magnetic sensor, it might even be a sensor that simply detected the vibration from the chime sounding.
A vibration sensor can probably be put on the outside case of the chime and work. The other methods would require opening up the case of the chime to get close to the internals.
Because I am always concerned about electrical fires, I personally would be fine with a vibration sensor on the outside of the case. As soon as you open the case and put a battery operated device very close to the wiring of the chime, I get nervous. But that’s just me.
There are many threads in the forum and videos on the Internet showing different hacks of this type. So if you look around you should be able to find a lot to consider.
Or just try a vibration sensor. That would certainly be the easiest for this option. Here’s a very simple, no wiring required example using a vibration sensor:
OPTION 6B: USE AN ACOUSTIC SENSOR
This is the same basic idea as 6. There are very few acoustic sensors on the market because of all the false alarms, except for the ones that listen for a very specific pattern, like glass break detectors. Quirky has announced one, but never released it.
There is one that has been on the market for about two years. Quality is supposed to be good, but it’s very expensive:$150 for the multisensor. There’s an API, but I don’t know if anyone’s integrated it with SmartThings yet. You might be able to use the text to IFTTT method.
Not perfect, but still interesting, especially for a no wire solution.
OPTION 7: KUNA LANTERN. $199
If you’re truly just looking for the ability to see who is at your door, the Kuna lantern ($199 at Amazon) is an interesting option. This is what I ended up going with.
The Kuna replaces your existing porch light. It is a Wi-Fi device, right now no direct integration with smartthings although some community members are looking into it.
The Kuna combines a porch light, motion triggered camera, one way intercom, and a panic button siren.
When someone approaches the light, you get a little chime sound notification in the app on your phone or tablet. You can then open the app and see live video. You can speak to the person through the speaker, although you cannot hear what they say. You can also push a panic button icon and a very annoying siren starts.
In my case, this is perfect. Since I’m in a wheelchair, I can be slow to get to the door. This way, I get the sound alert, I see who’s there. I can tell them through the speaker to wait just a minute and I’m on my way. Or if it’s a package delivery I can tell them to just leave it by the door. If by chance I was away from home and it looked like someone trying to break in, I could hit the siren to scare them off before they ever got the door open.
They offer cloud recording for a fee; I haven’t tried that. You can do a screen capture and get a still that way if you’re looking at the app. Or you could set it up at home with an iPad running the app and reflector on a mac and use airplay to actually record the video, but that would probably only be worth it if you already had the devices. Like I say I haven’t looked into their cloud recording. I have a separate security system so don’t really need it for that.
But as a substitute for a video door bell, I like it a lot. The position of the camera in the porch light is actually better, I think then one at doorbell height.
Anyway just one more option. Further discussion of the Kuna here: