20 Tips for Choosing a Security Camera System For Your Home

There are so many different cameras and systems available to purchase that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and end up purchasing something that you are not satisfied with. If you follow these tips, you will be satisfied with your purchase for many years. These tips were compiled after years of experience and trial and error.

In this article I will be recommending using one of the three cameras: Power or Ethernet (PoE), Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system, or wireless. In short, the main differences between a CCTV, POE, and wireless camera systems is how they are powered and how they connect to the internet.

Note: these tips are not in order of importance, as they each have the same level of importance

1. Decide the purpose of the camera.

Will this camera system be primarily used for active or passive monitoring? Passive monitoring is defined as looking at recorded footage later or when there is an incident. Active monitoring is defined as someone that is either viewing video live, or when alerted.

If you plan to use the camera for passive monitoring, consider using a wired system live a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system or a Power over Ethernet (PoE) system. If you plan to use the system for active monitoring, consider using a PoE or wireless system.

2. Decide the main objective of the camera system

Now that you’ve decided the purpose of the camera, you should decide what the objective of this camera. With this camera, be used to deter crime, or will this camera be used to observe or spy.

If you are interested in using the camera to help deter crime, consider using an outdoor camera. Consider using a bullet, or dome camera. You can use any system type: PoE, CCTV, or wireless.

If you’re planning on using the camera as a spy camera, I would recommend wireless cameras that appear to be normal, household items. For example, you can purchase a spy camera that looks like a phone charger. A spy camera also works for observation, but you can also just use a regular wireless camera.

3. Who will need to view the video?

This is an important question because it will narrow down the camera type significantly. When thinking about who will need to view the recordings, you have three options: just you, yourself and significant other, or you, your significant other, and neighborhood.

If you are the only person that will be viewing the recordings you can use a CCTV system. CCTV systems are closed and can only be viewed at the location of the system.

If you want both you are your significant other to view live and recorded video, consider using PoE, or wireless cameras. Most PoE and all wireless cameras can view recordings on the cloud.

If you want neighbors to view recording videos, I recommend finding a wireless camera that features this service. There only a handful of cameras that provide this feature, but it is a good feature to have.

4. Decide who is going to install the system/ how handy are you?

Be honest with yourself, who should install the security camera system. Are you a handy enough person install wires throughout your house? Do you know how to fish wires from the second floor to the basement?

If you are going to install the camera yourself, and you are not very handy you should install a wireless system. Wireless systems send audio and video through your Wifi, and most are very easy to set up.

If you are planning on hiring an installer, I recommend installing a PoE or CCTV system. Professional installers are trained in installing wiring in the toughest of places, and you can sit back and watch the installer work.

5. Decide how important is audio to you.

Is audio important is a great question because not all camera systems support audio. In addition, some systems only support one or two audio inputs.

If audio is important, consider purchasing a system that has built in microphones. In most cases, PoE or wireless systems will have microphones included with the security cameras.

If audio is not important, consider using a CCTV system. The digital video recorder (DVR) usually has one or two inputs for microphones. In addition, some of these systems require you to purchase the microphone as an add-on feature.

6. Check with your neighborhood home owner’s association, condo, or apartment managers.

Before purchasing any cameras, you must check with your HOA, condo, or apartment managers for rules and regulations for installing and having a video camera.

For example, when I lived in a condo, the general rule was that I had to get permission to install a satellite dish. Had I not received permission, I could have been fined or kicked out of the condo.

HOAs can also be tricky in what can and cannot be done. They may have bylaws stating you can’t record common areas.

It is best if you get permission before spending money on the security system.

7. Find a tech savvy person, if that isn’t you

You will save a lot of time, energy, and frustration in finding someone to help you with the technical aspect of the install. Once your camera system is installed, you will need to have someone configure your network settings and change passwords.

You must change your passwords for your router, security cameras, and security camera systems. Failure to do this can result in your system being hacked.

here is a quick breakdown of who should phone a friend:

  • Beginner: Save yourself sometime and find someone for the price of a gift card.
  • Intermediate: You can do it, but it may take you a few hours. That time could be spent doing something fun.
  • Experienced: You should have no problem installing it yourself.

8. Determine the exact locations you want to record.

Do you want to record inside, or outside? If you want to record outside, do you want to record the front and backyard? Rarely accessed areas, front door, etc.

In general, there are at least nine places you should consider placing a security camera. The will vary based on where you live and the system you choose, but nine is a start.

If you are planning on installing multiple cameras I would recommend installing a PoE or CCTV system. PoE and CCTV systems provide a better price per camera and won’t be as taxing on your internet connection.

If you are planning to install less than 3, consider installing any of the three systems.

9. Install the security system to meet your security needs

If you are planning on installing the most secure security system, I recommend installing a CCTV system. CCTV systems have no aces to the internet, and can only be hacked on location, at the DVR.

If you want a medium secure system, I recommend installing a POE system. PoE systems are more secure than wireless because data is being transmitted by a wire, but less secure than CCTV because the data is still being sent via a network connection.

If you are looking for the least secure option, consider a wireless system. These are considered least secure because all data is being sent via a Wifi connection. While it is considered least secure, three are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your wireless cameras being hacked.

10. Find your features

You will need to take some time to discover which features are most important when purchasing a system. Do you value push notifications, and remote viewing? If the answer is yes, you will need to consider PoE or wireless systems.

There are several security options available, and not all options are available on all cameras. Deciding which features are for you may take the longest.

11. Research the types of cameras that are available.

This is another important tip that many over look. There are three main camera types of homes: Pan/ Tilt/ Zoom, Bullet, Dome. Check out this page to see the differences between the three.

Deciding which camera type can have an impact on your security camera system.

12. Research the local laws.

You must check the local, state, and federal laws before installing a security camera system. Every state is different and what is legal here could be illegal where you live.

13. Find a camera that works great at night.

This may seem obvious, but not all cameras work great both day and night. Look for cameras that have a good viewing distance at night. I recommend finding a camera that has a viewing distance of at least 75 feet.

14. Plan where you plan to view the cameras.

Do you plan to only view the cameras after something happens, or are you planning to view live video? This is another question that will limit your options.

If you only plan to view the cameras after something happens, you should consider purchasing a CCTV system. These systems only store recordings and view live coverage onsite.

If you want to view live events as they happen, I recommend finding a PoE system that uses push notifications first, if you are unable to find a PoE system, purchase wireless cameras.

15. Are you comfortable drilling and fishing?

Drilling holes into drywall and wood studs is an important factor to consider if you are planning on installing a CCTV or Poe system. Fishing is the act of pushing a wire through drywall and trying to “fish” it out somewhere else.

If you are ok with grilling and fishing, then I recommend installing a PoE system, then a CCTV. If drilling and fishing is a concern, I recommend a wireless camera.

16. Field of viewing

The field of view, or how wide a camera sees, is another important factor to consider. In general, the wider the view, the more that camera will be able to pick up. Also, consider the horizontal and vertical field of views.

Vertical field of views dictate how high you should place our camera, and horizontal field of view determines how wide you can see.

Pan/ tilt/ zoom cameras have the widest field of view of 350 degrees, and bullet cameras may have the lowest. Check the field of view before purchasing your system.

17. Storage matters

Where are you going to place video recordings? Are you planning to keep all recordings locally, or place them in the cloud? This is important because of the additional costs, and physical hardware you will need to purchase.

If you’re going to store your footage, consider using a PoE or CCTV system. These systems automatically store to a physical hard drive. As your disk space fills up, you will need to purchase more hard drives. Also, remember that all disks fail, it’s just a matter of when. Disks are cheaper upfront but may cost you more in the long run.

If you’re planning on storing your recorded events in the cloud, consider using PoE or wireless systems. Newer PoE systems have the option to store both in the cloud and local. Wireless systems store completely to the cloud. Cloud storage may come with an additional monthly or yearly fee, but storage can grow as you do. Also, cloud storage is designed to be redundant, so that when a hard drive does fail, you will not lose any information.

I recommend storing all recorded events to the cloud.

18. How much do you want to spend?

Before looking at any of the security cameras, take a moment and write down the amount of money you want to spend. Once you have your number you will be able to select the best camera for you. It’s very easy to fall in love with a very high prices camera, but you can find a system at any price range.

Also, the more you spend does not necessarily mean it will be better. Also, consider purchasing a system that allows you to upgrade over time. If you are purchasing a PoE or CCTV system, look for the number of channels. Channels determine how many cameras you can connect to the system. The number of wireless cameras you can have depends on internet connection and router.

19. How much time do you want to invest in installing?

This question can also eliminate two of the three options immediately. If you want to install multiple cameras in under one hour, install a wireless camera. Many of these cameras can be installed by downloading the app and following the directions on the screen.

If you enjoy all day installations, PoE or CCTV systems are for you. The time it takes to install these cameras depends on several factors including: location of NVR, the number of floors in your house, location of the router, etc.

20. Do you need both wired and wireless cameras?

This is an important question because not all camera manufactures provide support for both wired and wireless installation. If you decided to use two different manufactures, then you must worry about two different systems, user interface, etc.

I recommend either finding a system that supports wired and wireless types or finding a camera that can function as both wireless and wired.

21.Find the right picture

How important is picture quality to you? If picture quality is not more important than other features, than you should consider a CCTV system. However, if picture quality is of importance, then you need to purchase either a PoE or wireless camera system.

CCTV systems transmit data via an analog coaxial cable. Because of this, the maximum picture quality is 451i, or standard definition. This definition is like the picture quality of 15 years ago, before high definition.

PoE and wireless systems transmit audio and video using digital data. Because of this, they are able to send high definition (1080P) or 4K resolution. this is the same time of resolution you see on your tv, computer monitor, or smartphone.

I recommend purchasing the systems with the higher video quality. SD is last generation technology, why not leave it there?

22. Additional costs

Another consideration is will I need any accessories or add-ons for my security camera system? For example, you may need to pay for cloud storage, or additional batteries. It is very important to plan out what you expect to pay over the next 6 months to have an idea of the products true cost.

A few of the most popular security cameras have add-ons that are important by add up. Think long and hard about systems that charge for additional services.

23. Internet considerations

The last thing to consider is your current internet subscription. Will your current internet subscription handle the addition of 2, 3, or 4 wireless connections? Do you currently own a router, or switch? Do you know how to add and remove devices? Do you have a guest network you can put your security camera system on? Can you purchase reliable internet what you live?

These are all important questions to consider when purchasing a PoE or wireless system. Most of these systems have minimum requirements for internet bandwidth, but I wouldn’t settle for the minimum. The minimum assumes you will not have any other connections.

If you answered no to these questions, first check with your internet service provider for additional costs, then factor the additional cost to the cost of the security camera system.

Conclusion

If you follow these tips, and answer the questions correctly, you should be able to find a security camera that meets your needs at the price range you are comfortable with. Before making a purchase, you should rank these tips from one to 23, in order of importance. For example, picture quality is going to be a top five for me, but the additional costs will be a 20.

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