Best answer: The Arlo Essential battery will last up to six months, or up to a year with the Essential XL Spotlight Camera. Although that estimate depends on how often and when the camera is activated, with nighttime footage burning through the battery twice as fast. It can last indefinitely if you connect your Essential Camera to an Arlo solar panel.
- Six months or less: Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera (opens in new tab) ($100 at Amazon)
- Up to a year: Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera (opens in new tab) ($130 at Amazon)
- Never worry about battery life: Arlo Essential Solar Panel Charger (opens in new tab) ($50 at Amazon)
How long will the Arlo Essential battery last?
Many wireless or wire-free security cameras have removable battery packs, so you can buy a spare and swap it in with almost no footage downtime. That isn't the case with the Arlo Essential, which we named the best Arlo camera for people just starting out at home security. It has a built-in battery, so you'll need to unmount and recharge it indoors when its battery runs out, then climb back on your ladder and mount it again. So knowing how often you'll have to go through this process is pretty important if you're considering buying one.
The Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera (opens in new tab) has a six-month battery estimate, but Arlo explains on its help page (opens in new tab) that this prediction "is based on usage of 4000 seconds per month, 30 seconds per stream, and day/night event splits of 2:1. Battery lifespan varies with device settings, use, activity captured, and environmental factors."
On that same page, Arlo predicts that the Essential XL Spotlight Camera (opens in new tab) will last "one year without charging", though with the same caveat about usage per month and night activity.
How to extend your Arlo Essential battery life
How long your Arlo Essential Camera will last will depend on how busy it gets detecting motion and how long you set it to record in response to motion. Arlo's 4000-second allowance translates to about 67 minutes of recordings per month, or just over two minutes per day.
You'll likely burn through this pretty quickly unless you set limits to how long your camera records in response to motion; however, this may cut off a recording in the midst of a break-in, so you may decide to live with a shorter battery life.
Your Arlo burns through more battery at night is because the spotlight and infrared sensors have greater power demands. This also applies if you place your camera in an area that doesn't get enough sunlight, as it may end up having to use the infrared sensors all day to compensate. That could shave entire months off of its battery life. Using special features like two-way audio will also demand more energy output.
Along with cloudy climates causing potential problems, temperatures below 32ºF (0ºC) will drain your cameras' battery life, so definitely take into account the weather where you live.
Another important factor is your video quality settings in the app. Selecting "Best Video" quality will improve the resolution but reduce battery life below the six-month estimate, so you can compromise with "Optimized" or "Best Battery Life" video settings. Of course, you may be disappointed that you can't get Arlo's marketed video specs and battery life simultaneously.
The most important thing most people don't consider, however, is camera placement. The further your Arlo Essential from its router, the more energy it will have to expend delivering its footage. Arlo recommends you place it no further than 300 feet (90 meters) from your router, and you'll likely want to be much closer. Particularly if your house is made of particularly thick material, as this can dampen the connection between your camera and router even at a short distance.
If all of this sounds like too much to worry about, then you have several options to consider. You can buy the XL model and double your battery life, even if it won't actually hit its 12-month battery estimate. You can invest in the compatible Arlo Essential Solar Panel Charger (opens in new tab), which will keep it fully powered at all times but also make your camera much more noticeable. Or, you can invest in another wire-free Arlo Cam with swappable battery packs, making recharges less of a hassle.
Six months or less
Wire-free and hub-free
Buy an Arlo that gives you reliable specs and features for a low price that works directly over Wi-Fi without needing an expensive hub. It works with Alexa, OK Google and IFTTT, and has color night vision, a built-in siren, outdoor weather resistance and a 130º FOV.
Up to a year
The Arlo Essential XL Spotlight Camera doubles your estimated battery life, a must if you plan on using the top video settings or live in sub-optimal conditions. It has the same features and specs as the regular Essential, including color night vision and smart home support.
Never worry about battery life
Comes with power cord and mount
Using this solar panel not only saves you from having to unmount your camera every few months to recharge it — leaving you exposed — but also saves you a bit of money from your electric bill.
Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.
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