How do wireless doorbells work? A beginner's guide to these new home essentials

Just how do wireless doorbells work? Find out all you need to know with this guide from our expert

a ring wireless doorbell
(Image credit: Ring)

How do wireless doorbells work? If you're asking that then you may be considering buying one. But, the real question is, do you even need one of these when your current doorbell does the job just fine?

The answer really depends on what you want to use a doorbell for. If it's simply to alert you to someone at the door, while you're home, then a simple classic doorbell may be just fine.

But if you want a doorbell that will show you who is there ahead of time, that alerts you wherever you are, that lets you talk to the person who is there so you don't miss deliveries, and that also acts as a home security system – then choosing of the best wireless doorbells may serve you well.

So how does all that work? This guide aims to help clear that up for you.

How do wireless doorbells work?

How do wireless doorbells work?

(Image credit: Future)

Wireless doorbells may seem complicated when compared to their less evolved traditional doorbell predecessors, but in reality they're now more straight forward to setup and use then ever – despite packing in a wealth of useful features.

Video doorbells will either be wired in for power or run off a rechargeable battery - you'll need to weigh up wired vs wireless doorbells to make the right decision for you. They also feature a camera, microphone and speaker as well as LED lights. All that means the doorbell can be rung as per classic doorbells, but this will then activate the camera and microphones and WiFi connect to you via your device. All that works using an app on your smartphone – which is also what you use to guide you through the doorbell setup.

All that means you can see and talk to whoever is at your door from wherever you find yourself, presuming you have an internet connection on your smartphone. 

How does it get to my phone?

If you already have an automated home you may find some devices connect directly to your phone, using Bluetooth, while others go through your WiFi. Video doorbells use WiFi as this means they can also connect to the internet. That way you are able to connect to the feed from the video and audio when away from home. 

Since these video doorbells help you to avoid missed deliveries and also let you monitor your home as a security device, being always connected is essential to get the most out of all that.

Many will require you to pay for a cloud storage subscription which means all that footage is kept online so you can access it from any device you sign into, wherever you are. It also means you can scroll back through footage, making it a viable home security device.

How can I talk with someone using my video doorbell?

As mentioned the video doorbell features a high resolution camera and a single or multiple microphones. That camera is usually smart enough to also offer HDR meaning it will balance the picture to account for light which might otherwise make the person appear dark and unclear. All that should mean you can see who's at your door clearly. Some even use smart algorithms to alert you if the person is at your door with a package. And nearly all have night vision so even in the dark you can see.

Some wireless doorbells are smart enough, with multiple microphones, to be able to cancel out background noise and enhance the voice of whoever is talking at your door. You can use your phone to talk to them and they hear you through the doorbell's built-in speaker – just like being on a phone call together. Some can even be set to automatically play audio messages for people that press the bell while you're out or busy, for example.

How do wireless doorbells work?

(Image credit: Google)

How can a video doorbell be a security camera?

The other big appeal of video doorbells is their security capabilities. Most are able to detect movement and alert you when someone is on your property, even if they haven't pressed your doorbell. Most let you set the area of sensitivity to keep false alerts, from passing cars and pedestrians, for example, to a minimum.

How this detection works varies from device to device but many will simply have the camera on low-power mode to pick up movement. The better options use specific infrared heat sensors to pick up a person or pet in the field of view. That means even in the dark there is no hiding from these doorbell's detection abilities. 

Since seeing who is at your property is a big part of the security appeal, you will need video storage to make use of this feature properly. Some doorbells store the video on a memory card locally while others store it in the cloud at an additional subscription charge. So it's worth keeping that extra cost in mind if you want to take advantage of a video doorbell's security features fully.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a veteran journalist and editor of over two decades where he has written about everything but specialises is technology, science, health and fitness, smart homes and health. He contributes to Real Homes, T3, Tom's Guide and TechRadar, among many other titles. As a father of two, any spare time he gets is enjoyed surfing, reading, hiking, camping and generally getting out in nature.