Original Ring Doorbell Hardwired But Not Charging – Fixed

<TLDR: I increased the power being provided to the Ring doorbell but using a different AC adapter (similar to a transformer that most doorbells use) and the device started charging>

I have one of the  original ring doorbells, installed it around November 2015, making it 4 years and 3 months old.  I had temporary issues around July 2018 with our wired door chime buzzing whenever someone rang the doorbell.  It hasn’t done it in a long time and it appears it was due to a firmware update that was later fixed.

Fast-forward to the past month when I noticed that the battery charge was showing as low in the Ring app.  I’m used to the battery level getting lower during the cold winter months as batteries don’t generally work great in sub zero temperatures.  Even during the polar vortex with weather down to -30 F last winter, I never had to take the device inside to charge it.  The battery level did get pretty low at times, but as soon as the temperature warmed up a bit, the battery started to recover the charge.  The battery only gets a trickle charge, so it can be slow to charge back and often is below 100% during the winter time.

This time, I did not see the battery charge going up even when the temperature got above freezing.  I called Ring customer support and they suggested I reset the device and see if that helps.  To reset the device, you push and hold the orange button on the back of the device for about 20 seconds.  I had to reset the connection in the Ring app, removing the old connection and creating it as a “new” device.  It wasn’t too complicated to do, but unfortunately, the battery continued to drain.  While I was resetting it, I did plug it and charged it indoors up to about 60%.  Each day, it would lose around 2% charge and when it got back down to around 10%, I called Ring support again.

Ring support looked through my device history and said that it definitely is not properly holding a charge, but there was one or two days were it gained 1-2% charge.  This tells me that it is getting some charge from the hardwired connection, but it is not nearly enough to keep from discharging as it gets colder outside, even though it hasn’t been that cold recently (right around 32 F).  There also is not an excessive amount of alerts, as greater than 20 events per day could put a strain on the battery.  I’m well below that.  I reset the motion sensor to the shortest possible range, now getting about 10 alerts per day.

Ring support also commented that the wifi signal is on the weak side.  They said that can strain the battery, in order to maintain the wifi signal.  She asked if I noticed any problems with video resolution, but I haven’t noticed any problems.  I explained we do have a mesh network but the closest Ring doorbell doesn’t always connect to the nearest node.  I said it seems the biggest issue with wifi signal strength is that the doorbell is mounted to a brick stonework and that the stone appears to greatly reduce wifi signal transmission.

I’m not sure how much low wife signal strength hurts battery life, but we did have a chance in our wifi network in the summer of 2019.  We had to move our wifi router to the opposite end of the house from the ring doorbell, but to make up for signal issues, we added a mesh network with multiple nodes.  It generally works fine inside the house, and the Ring doorbell has never disconnected.  When not connecting to the closest node, the strength (RSSI) would typically show as around -60.  Sometimes it would get as high as -71, but usually it was in the low -60’s.  After the call, I did move the node in that part of the house as close to the Ring doorbell as I could.  While it isn’t the m ost convenient location for a node, it does seem to be working better, with the wifi signal strength currently showing at around -48.

AT&T support did ask me to try their mesh network hardware, free for 100 days, and then if it helps, I could purchase it for $199 instead of the usual price of $299.  I passed on the offer for several reasons, including my belief that wifi signal strength is not causing the problem.  And I figured I could move one of the nodes I already have to be closer to the Ring doorbell, which seems to have worked to get the signal strength closer to -50.

Customer support did not have any other suggestions.  They denied that any recent firmware updates could have impacted the charging, saying I have the most current firmware update.  I’m still not completely convinced that there weren’t some changes to the firmware updates since last winter that may affect charging rates.  I’m not sure the average customer support person would have access to that information either, so who knows.  I suppose only if Ring starts getting a rash of support calls due to batteries not charging or not holding a charge well enough to remain functioning, they won’t be looking into the problem.  I have seen a few other posts online about batteries not charging or just not holding the charge as well, but who knows if their problem has the same cause as mine.

So customer support said because my device is out of warranty, and I don’t have the protect plan, the only thing they can offer me is a 35% off coupon for a purchase of a replacement product on the Ring website.  The original ring doorbell does not have a removable battery, so I can’t test whether it is just the battery is old enough it won’t hold a charge.  They did fix that problem with the Ring Doorbell 2, but having a removable battery.

I did see recent threads online saying that the Ring doorbell will not charge at below freezing temperatures, and that the battery may stop functioning completely at -5 F.  That wasn’t exactly my experience in previous winters, so I’m not sure if that is a change or just someone else’s experience with the Ring product during winters.

The only other option I’m considering is if perhaps my doorbell transformer is not the maximum power that the Ring doorbell can handle.  My doorbell had a very unusual electrical circuit, and I have no experience with doorbell wiring aside from what I found in my house.  The changes I made provide an AC current of 16VAC  and 500ma.  For the original Ring doorbell, it said the current needs to be AC and anywhere between 8VAC and 24VAC, but doesn’t specify anything else.  I’m not sure if increasing the current to 24VAC or a higher number of ma would work better.  I can’t seem to find any good information online either.

For now, I think I’ll just be waiting until the weather warms up a bit and see if it starts charging.  In the meantime, I’ll just bring it inside and charge it for a few hours every month or so.

If I wind up replacing it, the choice is whether I want to get another Ring, or try something different that may have a longer lifespan.

Update 2/20/20
I went ahead and bought a new transformer/AC adapter.  My doorbell is wired in a weird way so this fix may not apply to others.  Instead of being directly hardwired into the house’s electrical with a transformer, it is attached to an adapter that plugs into the wall outlet in the basement.  It originally was a DC adapter, with which the Ring doorbell will not work.  I replaced it with an AC to AC adapter at 16VAC and 500ma.  It took a little searching around, but I finally found on the Ring website that for the original Ring doorbell and Ring Doorbell 2, the transformer parameters are:

8-24 VAC (40VA max) and 50/60Hz, DC, halogen, and garden-lighting transformers not compatible

For the Ring Doorbell Pro, the parameters are:

16-24 VAC 30VA (40VA max) and 50/60Hz, DC, halogen, and garden-lighting transformers not compatible

I’m not an electrician, but I know that DC current is measured in amps and volts, with the product of the two being how many watts, which is the amount of power a device uses / needs.  When it comes to alternating current, I’m completely naive.  I know there is some relationship between volt-amps and watts, but when you look it up on wikipedia, it gets pretty advanced fast with root mean squares and such.

So, my original plug adapter  was rated 16VAC and 500ma – but I’m not sure how AC current would be rated – is it 8 watts or 8 volt-amps, and if it is alternating current, does the actual power fluctuate?  Maybe someday I’ll educate myself to understand it.

So, if my Ring doorbell is not charging due to a firmware update (or some other issue), perhaps my AC adapter is just not providing adequate power.  I could either increase the amp rating from 500ma or I could increase the VAC rating, or both, with the product not exceeding 40VA.  Increasing from my 8 volt-amps or watts, or whatever it is, seems like a huge jump to get to 40VA.  I looked around and there are some plug adapters made for the Ring doorbell that are 18VAC and 500ma.  That’s pretty close to what I already have.  I went ahead and bought a new AC adapter on ebay that was rated as 24VAC and 500ma.  I figured the VAC is a 50% increase, while the volt-amps (assuming it is just the product) is still well below the 40VA maximum.

I changed out the AC adapter today, and amazingly, the Ring Doorbell is charging, and it seems maybe it is charging faster than it used to.  So, the problem is fixed, at least for now.

So that leaves a question as to why it had stopped charging (some rambling ahead – with no real conclusions).  It could be the Ring doorbell itself was starting to wear out in some way, but I don’t think that is likely.  It could be there was a firmware update which led to different charging rates.  I was told it was a firmware issue when I started getting buzzing noises from my wired chime after someone rang the doorbell.  That problem resolved itself after a few weeks, and I assumed it was a new firmware update that corrected the problem.  Perhaps it was not a firmware issue at all, but something else which may be related to why my device stopped charging more recently.  The last possibility I’m considering is whether my 16VAC adapter I installed was wearing out in some way or not producing as much current.  It was still providing enough to light up the device where it showed as hardwired, but it wasn’t enough to keep the device charging.  If I had some sort of volt meter, I could probably have told whether the current output was matching the range it was supposed to be.  If the old adapter was still putting out the same level of current, but the device wasn’t charging, it would lead me to conclude it is either a firmware issue or something wearing out in the device itself.  I would have been very upset if I had bought a new Ring doorbell, only to find it wasn’t charging either.  I would have assumed it was a firmware issue, but given that the problem is fixed with a higher power adapter, I’m not leaning towards the problem being my adapter was failing.  I’ll never know, but I’m glad the problem is resolved without buying a new device (which likely would have become more frustrating in addition to the cost).

 

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