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David Engel
301-857-1867
dengel@towerhillrealty.com
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David Engel
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dengel@
towerhillrealty.com
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Part 1 - How to Turn Your Home into a Smart Home

My home is smarter than your home. Not really. But I'm working on it! For the past several weeks, I have watched tons of online comparisons of the various smart products on the market. I have been to Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond to see what inventory is carried locally. I have looked at product web sites and searched Amazon for deals. I finally made my 1st purchase and I'm happy to share my experience with you.

Prior to my 1st purchase, I had many questions and I felt the need to outline what a SMART HOME was to me. And how much does it cost to get smart? Will I be able to make my home more energy efficient and safe? Do I need a hub and voice assistants? And which one: Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Home? How can I get my music louder or softer just by talking to the air? On top of that, can my music play when and what I tell it to play? Can I see on my phone who is at my door and in my backyard? Can I turn on and off the lights in my house when I'm out? Will my thermostat change temps automatically as I head out for vacation or to work? The answer is that there is a lot of technology available now and currently evolving to make any home a smarter home, more energy efficient, and more secure at reasonable costs. As a recent home purchaser, I am taking this one step at a time and I will let you know how smart my home actually gets.

As my first step into purchasing and installing smart products I decided to focus on safety and security. I bought the Ring Video Doorbell Pro for $249 directly from Ring. It comes with a 30 day free subscription which archives all the activity going on that Ring captures. So you can go back and see who was at your door last Tuesday at 6 pm, for example. I have since paid $100 for an annual subscription which includes saving videos taken on multiple Ring devices, the ability to download and share these recordings, and a 10% discount on a subsequent purchase. I used the 10% discount to purchase two floodlights (also with cameras) which I will discuss in a future article.

The doorbell installation was simple but not problem free. I did require a service call to Ring in order to trouble shoot why my old doorbell failed to chime. As far as the basic installation goes, I simply removed the two screws on my current doorbell and disconnected the two wires. I reconnected the wires to the Ring device and then screwed in the Ring over the spot where the old doorbell resided. Ring Pro provides a few shells for the outside. I chose black and then they give you a little screw driver to secure the shell on the device. You need to follow the directions using the app to set up the Ring Doorbell to your home's WiFi. As long as you know the password, that part was easy. Lastly, I needed to open my current doorbell chime and connect a few provided wires to the chime. After a few minutes of installation, I was up and running. However, I was getting a low voltage warning on the app and a low signal strength notice. The signal strength was improved by switching my WiFi network to my second setting that Verizon provided. Solving the low voltage problem required a service call to Ring. It turned out that the low voltage was the cause of having no doorbell chime.

The customer service provided by RIng was good, although, I often get frustrated talking to non-U.S. service technicians. I held my frustration in check and powered through the trouble shooting exercise. If you have a doorbell now, you most likely have a little transformer device connected to your electrical panel. This device powers your doorbell chime. If it is not located at the panel, you will need to trace wires from your doorbell chime to find the transformer. My transformer was only providing 10VA and Ring requires at least 16VA to 24VA. I went to the doorbell section at Lowes and they had only one transformer so I grabbed it. I brought it home, replaced the old transformer with the help of YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEFHY5tkWHU), and bingo! I now have the chime working. Note that Ring does sell a chime that you can place on an electrical outlet if you do not have a doorbell or want to place the chime somewhere else than where it is currently without the transformer hassle. They also have a version of the chime that extends the WiFi signal.

What do I dislike about the Ring Pro? The visual range downward does not allow you to see what is at your doorstep. You can see the UPS girl with the package knock on your door and see her leaving without it. But you cannot see directly down to your door mat. The other current dislike is the slight delay when a live situation is announced and you want to have a conversation from your phone to the person at the door.

What do I like about the Ring Pro? I like that I could install it myself. The video quality is very good. It still acts as a regular door bell. The range of view east to west is very large. You can narrow and expand the area for visual activation very easily. If you want to be notified when someone encroaches on the driveway area you can set that up easily. There is a very cool neighborhood setting that allows you to share videos of sketchy people you catch stealing packages or presenting scamming deals to you at the front door. You can set the neighborhood radius to as small as you want or you can include your entire zip code. And the Ring app is great.

Overall, I think the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is smart and my family has come to depend on it. We like knowing when a package is delivered and when someone has been near the front of our house. My next article will either be about the Ring Spot Lights or Samsung Smart Things. As of now, I am not sure which will be installed first. Either way, it is fun stuff. Let me know if you have any questions. Come by and say hello anytime. I will be watching!

 

Smart Home, Part 2 – Seeing My Outdoor Security in a Whole New Light

In order to increase my security perimeter around the home and provide a good lighting source, purchasing the Ring floodlight cams seemed like a good second step in making my home smarter. Using my 10% discount from Ring for ordering the 1 year video capture service and using the group discount from Ring for ordering 2 floodlights, I saved $100 on the purchase.

For the first placement, I replaced the broken floodlight on my garage in the front yard. The coverage is somewhat duplicated from the doorbell, but with the Ring app, I can easily control the visual coverage without too much overlap. I then installed the second unit in my backyard.

Even though the electrical junction boxes were present in both locations, I hired a licensed electrician to install the floodlights. I wanted to make sure this was done properly and I’m glad I went this route. The junction box in the garage area was cut into the soffit and would not make for a good spot to hang the light. The electrician sent me to Lowes to pick up a round junction box that would fit the Ring device. It was around $6 for a plastic version and worked just fine to place the lights on the side of the house under the soffit. Other than that, the wiring is a simple replacement from the existing wiring. It should take 15 to 30 minutes to install each floodlight. If I needed to install another device and if the wiring was easily accessible, I would do it myself.

With the power turned back on, the Ring starts talking and instructs you to use the phone app to set up the floodlight and link it to your account. The app takes you to your "settings" to connect the Ring to your wifi and then goes back to the Ring app. From the app, you can adjust the motion settings and the light settings. The floodlights are added to the dashboard of the Ring app, so you only have one control panel showing each device. The range of options are good. The live view is available from the control panel and it is recorded if you pay for the extra service.

The devices are attractive. They come in both black and white. I choose white. They are easy to install. The led lights are powerful. The video quality is excellent. The length and width of visual range is excellent. Because it is on a swivel base, you can direct the camera a little lower than the doorbell. The lights are also on individual swivels. As you decide where to place the device, understand that the further from your router, the more the device will be challenged with the wifi signal. It has a siren feature that is manually activated from the app. It is loud enough to startle a perpetrator and alert the neighbors. I am very happy with my decision and would recommend the Ring products. Having done much research on smart home features and products, I may not be any smarter, but my home surely is!

 

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