5 things to know before getting a digital doorbell

PHOTO: Pexels

Doorbells used to be simpler things. A press of a button then a chime sounding through your home informs you that someone’s at the door. These days, doorbells have evolved to become more than just a canary.

Digital doorbells (aka smart doorbell, video doorbell, doorbell with camera) now encompass everything from cameras and motion sensors to two-way audio functions that let you talk with whoever’s at the door without actually going to the door.

Shopping around for this tech accessory to keep tabs on your front door? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Not all digital doorbells need hardwiring

Digital doorbells with video and audio recording functions aren’t allowed to be installed in HDB flats.
PHOTO: The Local Inn.terior

Wired digital doorbells are ones that are connected to an existing power source, offering you endless power (as long as you pay your utilities!) with no downtime.

For those who aren’t adept at DIY skills, these can be tricky to install yourself since you will need to deal with electrical wiring. And if you’ve purchased a digital doorbell directly from countries like the US, you will need a transformer to convert the voltage value.

If all the wiring sounds too complicated for you, there are digital doorbells that come with either rechargeable or removable batteries are much easier to install without any wiring work.

Unlike with wired digital doorbells however, you have to deal with some downtime because of recharging or having to change batteries. Depending on the model, battery power may also deplete quickly. These battery - operated models also tend to be larger and less sleek.

2. HDB dwellers, it is actually illegal to install a doorbell with surveillance functions

PHOTO: Unsplash

Digital doorbells with video and audio recording functions aren’t allowed to be installed in HDB flats.

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We clarified this with HDB regarding the use and installation of digital doorbells. HDB states that doorbells with surveillance functions such as video and audio recording (which most digital doorbells come with) are considered as CCTVs.

As most of you know, you aren’t allowed to install CCTVs at the main door of your flat if they are facing the common corridor or common areas. This is to protect the privacy of your neighbours.

You may only install CCTVs when you are facing a safety issue e.g. harassment from unlicensed moneylenders. Even then, you will need to submit a request to HDB for approval and all requests will need to be supported by a police report.

The CCTV installation is also only allowed for a period of 6 months and has to be removed thereafter.

Regulations for digital doorbells in private condominiums and landed properties are less restrictive. For the former, installation of digital doorbells with surveillance functions may be subjected to your MCST rules.

3. You may have to pay to use certain features, like storage and intelligent detection


Some digital doorbell brands offer extra features if you pay for a subscription. For instance, Google’s Nest Hello has a paid subscription service called Nest Aware or Nest Aware Plus that offers up to 60 days of event-based recording.

It saves clips to your cloud when your camera detects motion or sound. Without Nest Aware, you will only be able to view your camera’s live feed without any recording.

The Arlo Video Doorbell is similar. It has a AI subscription-based service called Arlo Smart, where users get to access 30 days of cloud recording to store and view video clips.

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Subscribing to Arlo Smart will also give you better video quality (up to 4K) as well as more intelligent/advanced detection.

Cloud storage is a great bonus, offering you lots of room to record, store and review footage.

But if you don’t wish to pay for such a service, there are alternatives like Eufy Video Doorbell 2K that comes with local storage or the 360 D819 Smart Doorbell that allows the recordings to be stored in an SD card.

The Arlo Video Doorbell also offers local storage if you pair it with a base station. The downside to them is that you will likely need to manually clear your storage space. How regular you have to do so depends on usage and the motion around your front door.

4. When researching video quality, don’t just focus on resolution


While resolution is the most obvious spec to look out for if you want quality videos or live streaming (we recommend at least 1080p HD), you will also want to look at aspect ratio, which tells you how much you can see.


Conventionally, digital doorbells have an aspect ratio of 16:9, while newer models including the Wyze Video Doorbell and the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 are moving towards a 3:4 or a 1:1 aspect ratio.

These aspect ratios help to offer a top-to-toe view of whoever’s at your door. See below for illustration:
Other specs to look out for include night vision: Whether the camera is able to provide quality feeds even at night.

Most digital doorbells such as Nest Hello and Arlo Video Doorbell come with infrared night vision, which offers clear videos at night but only in black-and-white colour, while other models like the Ring Doorbell Pro 2 offer colour night vision by using whatever ambient light is available to create a “false colour” image.

5. You get to connect your digital doorbell with your smart home

PHOTO: Pexels

For those who wants a doorbell that can connect with the rest of your smart home ecosystem, consider a digital doorbell that supports either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, which are the two most common smart home managers/virtual assistants for now.

One way you can benefit from this integration is to use Alexa or Google to announce that someone’s at the door even without a physical chime. Or you can stream your video feeds on Echo Show or cast them to your TV screen using Chrome Cast.

Here’s a list of the brands we’ve talked about in the article and whether they support these two virtual assistants:

  Amazon Alexa Google Assistant
Ring Yes Not quite
Nest Hello Not quite Yes
Arlo Yes Yes
Eufy Yes Yes
360 No No
Wyze No No

ALSO READ: Singaporeans love their digital doorbells and home cameras, but afraid of getting hacked

This article was first published in Renonation.sg.