21 days with the Eufy SoloCam E40 + Solar panel project
I mentioned before that I’ve been working on a plan to guard a hilltop construction site. Basically most of what is needed is notification that a person is there so that the owners can pop in and look (there should be no traffic, it’s the top of a freaking hill with a gravel “driveway”,) secondary requirements are to grab any footage of people and plates.
TL;DR – consumer acceptable, hill bad.
There’s not a house for quite a bit, project is at the top of a hill, and we’ve got fiber internet… in a cooler. Around this we’ve deployed seven Eufy SoloCam E40 Outdoor wireless security cameras, 4 Eufy solar panels, and 3 aftermarket solar panels.
While a couple of the cameras have been in use at a different location for longer than 21 days, I’m starting the actual review with when all the cameras were installed and working and reasonably in the same setup.
During this past month the Eufy Security app was also updated to be less spammy. So if you’ve deal with the “refer a friend, win prizes” level of app it used to be, that appears to be gone now. Nothing like attempting to deploy these and getting that stuff.
Every Eufy cam we purchased required a firmware update before I was able to proceed. Each firmware update lasted at least 14 minutes and required me to stay connected to WiFi / around the cameras. I saw no way to parallel update these. 7 cameras had two failed updates which added another ~30 minutes onto the thing.
I was on a hill top in 20 degree weather for 3 of these, big nope on that later. Later I set them up at home and just changed the WIFi when I got to the location. This is where the first big problem occured.
The Eufy SoloCam uses a QR code on your phone to pull data about what the connection to the WiFi is going to be. This turned out to be unreadable in sunlight. I had to take the mounted cameras down, go to my car, place an umbrella and a coat over the windshield to block light before I was able to get the things to recognize. For the later 4 cameras I brought a box and a blanket and was able to do them where they were mounted.
Other outdoor cameras I’ve used have a tweeting tone that can pair things. I think Eufy needs to implement this since they have microphones built in.
Once the cameras were on the network, changed modes from battery to solar, and other than that one of the seven is set to special “don’t record this area” because there’s a tree limb that moves, all are about the same.
Installing the cameras + solar panel involves 5 screws (or 2 if you’re planning on moving it around later.) If you have a drill it can be done in about a minute. There’s not really a reason to document this beyond what they have. It’s easy.
The solar panel will require an adapter rubber fitting which is included. Should make it water tight.
21 days in
Camera 1 down
We received a low battery shutoff notice on one camera. I should note I got the notice it was dead, no notices that it was nearing dead. I don’t know that it sent anything to warn me. It had drained significantly faster than all the rest but also had the most construction and hill between it and the WIFi.
I’ll also note that something about the plug in this one is off.
It shut off, never came back on. I had the owner bring it to me and when I received it it had 71% power and was not having any issues charging with solar. Button pressed and paired to my work network and it seems fine. As this is a 31 minute drive and my car bottoms out going up the gravel driveway, this is not something I want happening again.
So shut off due to lower power, charged, didn’t come back on. Or at least didn’t come back onto that network.
Camera 2 goes down immediately after
While the first camera shut down and didn’t come up due to power conditions (really, I respect that it was dark for days, bad positioning, etc,) the second one’s last report was 90%+ power and it has just gone offline. It decided to do that a few hours after the other camera was removed from the site. Down for day two at this point.
Camera 3 probably just needs to be moved
Said it had a good signal when placed, doesn’t now. Works a bit inconsistently. I’m going to put the fault at just extreme distance that initially was reported as being fine. I should have known it wasn’t fine but yeah, hilltop. I knew there was no way it should have had that fine of a signal but I was watching a live stream. That degraded later evidently.
Video quality is surprisingly good. No complaints so far. Doesn’t register cars going by quickly however so not useful as a plate reader.
What should have happened
There should have been warnings left and right that the battery level was approaching critical. There weren’t, or if there were I did not see them. I’d like to be seeing notices at 25% battery.
Second camera that went down just should not have – it’s got the best signal, had mostly a full charge, all Eufy equipment, etc. I will not know on that until I drive back out there and hang out on a freezing hill for the third day in a row.
If you have access to the cameras, and can mount them high enough to not be grabbed, these are acceptable. There’s no back end recording so if someone sees this they can just pop them off and leave unless you actually are watching. I have only one camera that has completely drained on solar, 5 that are fine, and one that needs moved because it is draining (or it’s on the after market solar panel, I’m not sure at this point.)
Even with the less spammy app I really don’t like the interface. There’s nothing that allows you to do anything useful like blast video to an FTP or record it to the cloud. Most companies add that record to the cloud option at some point, and charge you about 22x what you could buy storage for. We’ll see if that happens.
I can tell no difference in power generation between the four Eufy and three third party solar panels we purchased.
They’re ok, but not what I would have wanted or chosen for this project. A house, guarding a garage, yeah… they would be amazing.