Keeping an eye on your home while travelling

New technologies are making it possible to keep tabs on your home when travelling. There are cameras that detect motion in your home and trigger an alert such as Canary, a product I previously reviewed. (

Using an app on your phone, the cylindrical-shaped device alerts you when it detects motion in your home when in view of its camera’s wide-angle lens. While it worked well most of the time, it occasionally emitted a false alert. When you do receive the alert you can get a live view of your room on your phone from wherever you happen to be. Should you see an intruder you can sound an alarm from the device, something that might surprise the intruder, but not necessarily call the police.

While not a substitute for a serious home alarm, it provides some protection for a lot less money and is a good complement to a professional alarm. It costs $280. A subscription to maintain its recordings on the company’s cloud from 2 to 30 days costs $4 to $30 per month. Otherwise there’s no monthly cost.

Now that you are watching inside your house, there’s a new product that lets you monitor your front entryway and answer your door from wherever you happen to be in the world.

It’s a product called Ring, which is a combination doorbell, camera and intercom. Ring is a small box about the size of a pack of cigarettes that replaces your front doorbell. It contains a wide-angle video camera, a lighted doorbell, a speaker and microphone and a motion detector.

It connects to the Internet network in your home and alerts you whenever someone approached your door. Whenever that occurs the app on your iPhone or Android phone opens and displays a real time image of your front entryway, with your visitor in view. You can greet the person, exchange information or send him on his way. While you may be hundreds of miles away, he is not aware of that and likely thinks you are home.

There are multiple uses for this product. First and foremost is safety. If you are home, you no longer have to open your door, or have a muffled conversation through a closed door when a stranger is there. If the person at the front door is an unsolicited salesperson, you can simply speak through the intercom to tell them that you do not purchase or make donations at your door. (Unless of course, the caller is a Girl Scout selling cookies. Then you may want to grab your wallet and race to the door!)

On the other hand, if a package is delivered when you are away from home, you can tell the delivery person where to leave it or when to come back.

The camera has a very wide angle that gives you a broad fisheye view. It can be mounted on the door or on a wall. I mounted it on a wall 90 degrees to the front door right over the hole where my doorbell was located.

It took me about an hour to install, first requiring me to connect it to my phone’s WiFi and then to my home’s WiFi.  Ring includes the special screwdriver, a Phillip’s screwdriver, screws and mollies, and a drill bit designed to work with cement and stucco.

Following video instructions that are part of its app, I removed my old doorbell that had 2 low voltage wires. Then I drilled 4 holes through the stucco siding, tapped in mollies, and screwed the mounting plate to the wall. Once the mounting plate was firmly screwed down, the two wires were attached to terminals on the plate.

The main unit is supposed to be pushed against the plate and then is intended to slide downward, with its slots locking onto 4 little plastic clips on the plate. This proved to be quite difficult, because the clips were so small and fragile, and the plate did not lie perfectly flat against the wall. As a result the unit could not be slide downward all of the way and be locked in place as designed. Ring’s advice online was to remove a weatherproof rubber gasket if not needed. Since it was under a porch roof, I did that and that fixed the issue.

Ring did work for a few days and then my doorbell started ringing by itself. I contacted their customer service, and the agent indicated my Ring unit needed to have a diode installed where the doorbell wires attach, and apparently my unit became damaged because that wasn’t done. It also made no mention of this in the video. A replacement Ring is on the way, and I’ll update this story once I receive it and use it for a few more days.

Ring generally gets good reviews on Amazon, so I’m hoping this story has a happy ending.

UPDATE November 1 – I received a new RING and installed it, this time with the diode connected across the terminals that the doorbell wires attach to. Unfortunately, that resulted in a steady buzzing sound coming out of the doorbell speaker in my home. So back to their customer service.

by Phil Baker