I’ve just set up the Ring Alarm Wireless Home Security Kit and here’s how it all went…
It is often said that the British have an unusual obsession with the weather, which is strange and as author Bill Bryson points out, all the stranger for the fact that the most striking thing about British weather is that there isn’t very much of it!
With South Africans the weather is most certainly the least of our worries which is good as it leaves more room for the more deserving obsessions: Load Shedding and crime, two pursuits which are developing hand in hand and strikingly there is plenty of both!
Up steps the Ring Alarm, a product that follows the hugely successful Ring Doorbells and Ring Floodlights which have rapidly been gaining market share across the globe.
I have been following the Ring products since the early days and the first Ring doorbell. I was always impressed but didn’t necessarily see a fit in South Africa as we don’t traditionally have an accessible “front door” and I didn’t really want to place an expensive unit to replace my cheap intercom system at my driveway entrance.
The Ring Alarm, however, seems like a product that will work for some of us……. although I’m interested to see if it is something that truly fits the South African market and our unique challenges.
Ring sent me the Ring Alarm Security Kit, which is a kind of introductory starter kit. It consists of the below items:
1 x Base Station – This is the hub that brings everything together. This unit connects to your router either via a wired or wireless connection and has built-in battery backup for up to 24 hours.
1 x keypad – This enables control of the alarm when not using the app or for users without app access
1 x contact sensor – this can be used on either doors or windows to wirelessly detect if they are open or closed.
1 x Motion Detector – The included motion detector is for indoor use and comes complete with sticky pads to fix onto walls, the device has a stated range of approx. 9 metres if mounted at 2.2-2.3 metres from the ground.
1 x Range Extender – A range extender is included in the Alarm Security Kit and can be used if you find that you are having communication issues between devices.
The Ring Alarm operates on a wireless network using Z-Wave technology allowing all ring products to communicate securely using 128 bit encryption. As with other Ring products everything has a sort of minimalist designer feel. Everything just looks kinda cool.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking, what about installation? Who’s gonna do that? Well…. you are!
Somewhere, I can’t remember where, I read that the Ring Alarm can be installed in less than 15 minutes. So I set a timer and unboxed everything. After that I decided where exactly I wanted everything to go, keeping the base station in a central location to help with wireless range.
Once those decisions had been made, I was ready to go.
I pressed go on the timer and started following the instruction manual that was included in the box. Straight away I thought there was no way I would get this done in less than 15 minutes.
The first step was to download the Ring – Always Home app and create a ring account. To be fair I should have probably done that before starting the timer!
I was especially worried when the setup required me to type in the One Time Pin sent via sms, which as usual didn’t come through until the third attempt and had already cost me a full five minutes!!
I pushed on and amazingly even with that, I was done in under 15 minutes.
The instructions are delivered step by step within the app and they are ridiculously simple. In fact the app would occasionally take a few seconds to load the next step and I would wait, knowing intuitively, what I needed to do next but determined not to rush ahead and make a mistake.
I needn’t have worried; the setup is so easy and obvious that I honestly think I could have done it without any instructions.
Due to the clever nature of the initial installation and the questions asked as devices are added, for most people there will be no actual “set-up”, other than a few preferences: volume levels and whether you would like indicating LEDs to be on or off.
There are some more advanced options that can be set though. There are schedules to automate arming and dis-arming at certain times on certain days which could be useful especially when you are going to be away from home for several days or more. There is also a geo-fence function which can be set per user which tracks your mobile device and sends you a reminder to arm the alarm if you move away from the geo-fenced location.
Other than that, the Ring Alarm is reassuringly simple, there is no complicated user interface and you do not have multiple menu driven options to get lost in. You set the alarm from your device and if it activates you will get a notification. Simple!
During the installation you are asked if you would like to sign up for Ring Protect which is a service that provides decent value once you have purchased more products from the Ring ecosystem.
Ring Protect is particularly useful if you have one of their video devices (Ring Doorbell, Ring cameras etc). It provides 60 days of video storage, captures snapshots, extended warranty (dependent upon which service you subscribe to) etc.
However, this is where I begin to have a problem. Most of us in South Africa will have an alarm that is linked via radio transmitter to our armed response company, and this is connected to our alarm system via a relay output which is triggered when our alarm activates. The Ring Alarm does not have a relay output and therefore cannot be linked to the radio transmitter.
Instead, you will need to pay an additional 3-10 dollars per month to pay for either Ring Protect or Ring Protect Plus to link your Ring Alarm to an automated control room which will call you or your security company to notify them of an alarm activation.
Now for me there are a few problems with this, firstly I was worried that this additional step will cost valuable time and secondly, unless you are paying for the more expensive Ring Protect Plus (this enables a cellular link in the base station to take over when the local network fails) you will now need to have back-up power for your network, to signal out during load shedding or power outages.
On the first point I must say that I repeatedly tested this and found that a panic activation resulted in a call from Ring Protect in less than five seconds and a motion or door contact activation never took longer than 20 seconds. I assume this is because Ring Protect initially gives a short period for you to cancel the alarm yourself before relaying to the automated control room. It is honestly very impressive. You may need to check that your armed response provider is happy to receive and respond to these automated calls, though.
That however does bring me to another potential issue. There is no panic button included with the Ring Alarm and although I see they are listed on Amazon they do not appear to be available in South Africa currently, so at the moment you need to use either one of the Ring Alarm Keypads (additional keypads are available from Ring for R999) or you can trigger the panic alarm from your cell phone.
Should you buy it?
That depends, firstly let’s be clear this is a great product. It’s extremely easy to set up, looks amazing and at R3999 isn’t badly priced. The Ring Alarm is perfect for anyone who wants to secure the inside of their property and who isn’t necessarily concerned with outdoor perimeter security.
If you live in an apartment or flat or if you have outbuildings or garages that you want to cover that your current alarm doesn’t, the Ring Alarm is perfect. It will notify you of doors or windows being opened or anyone triggering one of the motion detectors.
The limitations I believe appear once you want to cover the external perimeter of a home or building as the motion sensor supplied with the Ring Alarm security kit doesn’t seem to be weather resistant and has a very short range of approx. 9 metres. In fact, weatherproof versions of the motion detector and contact sensor do not seem to be available in South Africa at the moment.
If you can work with these limitations, then the savings from doing it yourself and not having to pay an installer are significant. I also really like some of the other Ring products such as the range of Ring doorbells, floodlights and cameras especially when you start to bring these into the Ring – Always Home app.
I expect that this is just the beginning for the Ring Alarm product in South Africa and I’m sure it is just a matter of time until we have access to the wider product range.
Pros and cons of the Ring Alarm
- Very easy to install and set up
- Fast and responsive
- Pet friendly motion detectors (for small pets below 22kg)
- Long range wireless with secure Z-Wave technology giving 128bit encryption.
- Low power Z-Wave should also provide long battery life
- Easy control and notifications from anywhere in the world via the app
- Affordable, especially when installation savings are taken into account
- Can be linked into third party home automation systems with ease
- Limited product range available locally
- No external relay. Unable to connect with radio transmitter
- Signal to either homeowner or security company is dependent upon back up power during a power outage if using Ring Protect and even the cell phone network fallback provided by Ring Protect Plus is dependent upon the local cell phone tower not failing during the same power outage
- No external siren. The Ring Alarm comes with a very loud siren located inside the base station along with speakers in the keypad which are also more than sufficient for within the property. The Ring Alarm does not however come with an external siren and currently there does not seem to be one available in South Africa.
Additional Motion detectors and door/window contacts are available from the Ring Takealot store and are priced at R599 and R399 respectively. You are also able to buy additional keypads (R999), Range Extenders (R499) and other accessories.
Here’s a promo code RINGR250 to get a R250 discount on your first order or buy it here https://za-en..ring.com/products/alarm-pack