In this weekly column, hosts Brandon Doyle, Doyle Real Estate Team with RE/MAX Results, and Colton Pratt, project manager, walk through smart-home products and showcase their capabilities while reviewing pros and cons.
With the advances in cameras, wireless and cloud-based technology, it is now very affordable for homeowners to setup their own home security camera system and monitor them remotely.
Many manufacturers are now offering affordable or even free cloud hosting at a fraction of what it would have cost to set up a similar system in the past. High-powered batteries and wireless communication allow owners to place cameras at entrances and corners of the home without the hassle of hiring an electrician to run wires.
Battery life on these new cameras range from six months to two years depending on the model, settings and amount of activity in the area. However, I wouldn’t trust the life expectancy on the box.
The Blink XT2 camera claims that it’ll last two years using two AA lithium batteries, but I did not find that to be the case at all — after only two months, the battery has been depleted to around 25 percent. Arlo and Ring both offer solar panel add-ons for their cameras that help keep the batteries charged. However, that still won’t allow you to do continuous recording; for that, the camera needs to be plugged in.
The cameras can detect motion and provide real-time notifications to your phone and view past footage. Some companies such as Ring require a subscription. However, Arlo provides 30 days of video playback with an Arlo Smart Plan, the Arlo Ultra comes with a free one-year subscription, and Blink gives you seven days for free.
Each company has upgraded plans available that are month-to-month; however, you’ll save money by paying for a year at a time.
With an Arlo Ultra camera, the video can also record locally to a Micro SD card in the hub, that way you’ll have a copy of the video even if your internet connection is down or if the camera is stolen completely. Arlo even has a theft replacement program for cameras purchased within the past year.
Arlo Ultra, Blink XT2 and Ring Spot Camera all have speakers and microphones built in, allowing for two-way communication, and are set to start recording when motion is detected.
Arlo can detect if it is a person, package, animal or vehicle, using AI, which is included in select subscriptions and has zones that can be adjusted.
Ring security cameras have the same option to adjust zones, but only if they’re hardwired or plugged in; with the battery-operated version you’re only able to adjust sensitivity. I found that the Ring camera was often set off by passersby, insects and even the reflection of headlights on the lowest setting, which was rather annoying.
Overall, if you’re looking to setup a multicamera system with remote monitoring Arlo Ultra is probably your best bet.
Ring Spotlight camera is an OK alternative, if you’re already paying the subscription for their video doorbell and want to add a couple more cameras, but it is best-suited for locations where power is available.
While the Blink XT2 is a cheaper alternative, I found that you get what you pay for there: The video quality is lower, and it’s only able to record a maximum of 60-second clips.
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — Re/Max Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.
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