I’ve reviewed video doorbells and video home cameras this last year, but never a door viewer. While the Yale Look Door Viewer looks like a peephole replacement, it’s more than that. For the Yale Look to successfully work in your home, it’s basically got to double as a doorbell replacement too. Its chime sounds like a doorbell and it has a little bell icon on it to encourage people to ring it. That’s just the beginning.
I should warn you that this is a very long review. It’s a little bit longer than most reviews I write simply because it’s broken up into two sections: The physical installation and the philosophical installation. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.
Who is Yale?
Yale probably isn’t a familiar brand name to most Canadian Smart Home enthusiasts, though they may be to homeowners in general. Yale is actually on the cusp of celebrating 150 years in home security excellence. They aren’t new to Home Automation either. In fact, the Yale Look Digital Door Viewer is the next generation of their existing innovative technology. They’ve been making digital door viewers for a couple years now with similar set up and functionality. However, this one is arguably the best one since it integrates a doorbell style button system.
The first thing I want you to do is disregard most of the videos you see online about installing the Yale Look. Almost every install video I saw required you to start drilling holes as though you’d purchased a new door. That’s got to apply to maybe 5% of us? I mean, I’ve even seen new front doors for sale with the peephole doors pre-drilled. Don’t worry about any of that. The Yale Look’s main cylinder is the exact width of a standard peephole so don’t go reaching for the drill thinking you’ll have to do damage to your door.
Starting with the Yale Lock is pretty easy. I’m going to assume that you have a peephole on your door already. If not, I’d recommend just finding a video online on creating a proper drill hole for peephole installation in your door.
The installation of the Yale Look is pretty straight forward. The main thing you need to do, however, is make sure that the battery is fully charged prior to operation. The package comes with a USB cable and the battery charges and plugs in that way. Charging should take a few hours at most. I left mine overnight while I went to sleep. There’s a little indicator light that will turn green when it is fully charged.
The first thing you’ll have to do is remove your existing peephole. Chances are on a newer, metallic door, it was just screwed in so it’s as easy as loosening and unscrewing it. If the original installer went tight enough, you might need a pair of channellock pliers to loosen the inner piece. If you have a wooden door or one that has been painted a few times (including over the inner peephole,) you should probably take a box cutter or razor blade to sever the paint line so that you don’t wreck the whole paint job on the way. You should also make sure that you’re protecting the paint job or the door itself so that if you’ve got pliers up against it, it doesn’t get scratched.
Once you’ve removed the peephole, slide the exterior camera’s cylinder and attachment from the outer hole to the inside. Careful not to get the wiring connector snagged. There’s a little piece of protective plastic over the main connector, but the wire itself is unprotected. With any luck, this should be a comfortable, yet snug fit. As I’d mentioned earlier, the width of this cylinder is the same width as a standard peephole cylinder.
From there, just follow the rest of the directions on paper. You need to install the base and then hook the doorbell end to the camera inside. The camera also houses the battery pack itself, which just slides into the side. The only difficulty you might have is properly clipping the camera to the base. It’s not very forgiving so make sure you’ve lined up the bottom and the top first because it’s pretty difficult to take the base off and install it again if you’ve already got it halfway in.
Otherwise, if you’re not drilling a new peephole, this should literally only take you about 5-10 minutes. Getting this to work with your phone should only take you about as long. That’s what we’ll do next.
Where’s the App?
You may have difficulty finding the Yale Look app in the App store. Here’s the problem why. Keyword searching “Yale” is bound to bring up a ton of apps that relate to Yale University itself. Even “Yale Look” might not get the desired result. Keyword searching Yale’s parent company “Assa Abloy” is probably the quickest way to go.
Once you have the app, you do need to make sure you’re running a semi-recent version of your device’s operating system. Yale’s apps are the first that I’ve seen that need AT LEAST iOS 9.0 running.
Sync is pretty easy. Once you’ve signed up for Yale’s services, just go to add a new device and follow the instructions on screen. If your Yale Look has never been used before, it will flash red and blue on an LED Indicator inside. Don’t worry if you don’t see video at first. That’s normal. There are no welcoming video screens or introductory logo teasers. Do not expect to see any video feeds off the camera screen until the end of installation.
You need to connect to its local WiFi network and then connect back. Installation isn’t quite that idiot-proof though. One of my eureka moments was sitting at the WiFi sync screen wondering why nothing was happening only to realize that I had to scroll farther below to find a “next” button in order to complete the sync. It’s completely off view so it will look weird at first that nothing’s happening. This is why. It’ll finish installation itself after that.
The camera itself is geared for 24 hour use. Capable of streaming in full HD, the 105 degree angle camera also features night vision functionality so that it does not miss out on anything day or night. A two way communicator microphone is in the middle so that you are able to talk to whomever is ringing the doorbell no matter where you happen to be. Lastly, the chime is what activates the whole thing. When your guests ring that bell, the communication and video links begin. If they do not ring, a motion detector is right underneath the camera and will send you notifications at the sense of movement.
Using your Yale Look
The Yale Look is a very simple device to use whether remotely or in person. If somebody uses the ringer button, it will pop up a notification on your phone as well as notify you in person. If you’re home and go to the door, you can access realtime video of the outside with the push of a button. If you’re remote, you can bring up the video on your phone.
Since Yale Look comes with a two-way communicator, you can speak to whomever is at the door no matter where you are. I can finally start telling the Purolator and FedEx guys to leave packages with my neighbour next door so I don’t have to keep going to the depot on their hours to pick up.
If anything does go awry or you’re wondering whom it was that you missed, you can rewind and pull up to 7 days worth of data from Yale’s servers directly. They allow you to keep and store a running 7 days worth of footage on their end free of charge.
If you need even more, Yale’s very generously provided an SD Card in the package for you to store and record locally too.
The Other Phantom Menace
After hanging out with the Yale Look as my doorbell for a little while, I noticed one very strange but very important thing I’d like to share with you. Your WiFi connection around the area of the Look needs to be strong. I’d say it needs to be stronger than any other video doorbell or front door WiFi enabled device I’ve ever seen. Without a decent WiFi connection, you’ll easily not get notifications.
I also found that the Look also suffered from phantom (maybe not so much phantom as delayed) ring syndrome. I would try to test and ring the doorbell and nothing would happen. Then, 30 minutes later, the doorbell would ring and I would get notification that somebody was at the door. This was a bit odd but when I placed a range extender immediately next to the front door, it seemed to fix itself. Whether coincidence or necessity, I’d really recommend making sure you have a stable enough WiFi connection next to your door whether you’d like to use this.
Changing the way your neighbours ring the doorbell
Matt Paligaru the home automation enthusiast and every day Matt Paligaru have the same baffling question: How do you convince your visitors to use this? In order for Yale Look to work, your neighbours need to ring it instead of your existing doorbell. It will be an interesting transition.
You’ll have to somehow disable your doorbell (easy enough. Anybody can swing a hammer and then write “Out of Order” on a piece of paper right?) and then show that the new one is actually on the front door. The Yale Look itself does a great job of visually showing someone what they need to push, but we’ve been conditioned as a society that for generations, you look BESIDE the front door to ring a doorbell, not on it.
You can argue door knockers as comparison, but how many houses that aren’t as old as your grandparents still have those these days? Your biggest challenge as a Yale Look owner will be this. Installation and synchronization is a snap. Your understanding of how this works is a snap. Making everybody else use it is the tricky part.
Overall, between Look and the Yale Assure Locks themselves, you’ve got a fairly great setup for security and protection at your front door. After all, a company that’s famous for keeping bank vaults secure should be able to do the same for your entry doors too.
The Yale Look Door Viewer is now available at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca