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Security Cameras: What You Need To Consider Before Purchasing and Installing

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 2, 2019
Security Cameras: What You Need To Consider Before Purchasing and Installing

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When it comes to security there are a lot of things to think about. The truth is that no matter how careful you are, there are times when you cannot be there to watch out for everything. Most people still have to go into town for work at the very least. You may need to go somewhere to visit family or have an occasional vacation.

There are a lot of security cameras out there that are competing for your business.  We are going to explore a few options in this post but first, let’s discuss some points that you need to keep in mind when deciding which one to buy.

The main purpose of this post is to get you thinking about your situation and the factors that need to be considered so that you can choose the system that is best for you. You may want to research some other systems beyond what I discuss.

Internet Connectivity

Some cameras rely on the internet or a local area network to record or function correctly. This is especially true with wireless cameras which are of course more convenient and easier to conceal.  Some camera systems tie up more bandwidth than others so you need to consider the limitations of your current connection. Even if you have a fairly fast connection, having a camera system online is going to slow it down some and if that is noticeable or not really depends on other internet needs and demands in your household.

Indoor Verus Outdoor Use

Indoor cameras are less expensive because they don’t have to be built as sturdily or to resist the weather. Knowing this can help you decide on a system that gives you the best value for your dollar. This rule is true regardless of what brand you are buying. The more expensive brands are still less costly if you can use an indoor version.

Dummy Cameras

There are a lot of fake cameras for sale. You might ask why someone would want this but the truth is pretty simple. A lot of thieves and the like are easily deterred. Just seeing the blinking light of what looks like a camera is enough to keep some at bay. Most people are not going to stick around to see if it is real or not.

Even people that have some real cameras use dummy ones to make it look like they have cameras in more places than they do. After all who is going to be able to tell the difference without going to a lot of trouble? Since fake cameras are so inexpensive, they can help extend out your security system that is made of much more expensive cameras.

Since dummy cameras run on batteries, they can give the impression that you have back up power for your security system even if those up to no good know that the power is out in the area.

Some readers may prefer to get a dummy camera that looks exactly like the real cameras they have in shape and color. I am not sure how much it really matters in most cases.

Here are a few examples of dummy cameras that would fool a lot of people!

Armo Fake Security Camera

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This 2 pack of fake cameras features a flashing light on each for added authenticity. The stickers are an added bonus that you can put in your windows or at entry points. Each camera takes two AA batteries.

WALI Dummy Fake Security CCTV Dome Camera

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These cameras look a lot like those you see at businesses. They are flush mounted and can be installed indoors or out. These would be good for hanging under a porch or inside your home on the ceiling at entry points. These also take 2 AA batteries each.

Power Options

You have to ask how you want to power your security systems. Batteries have to be changed out or charged up but electricity can go down at times. Regardless of the fear of a grid down power situation, it seems like in my area there are very few outages that last for more than a few hours. I think in some places the power companies have got better about response times and preventing outages by maintaining lines better.

Some cameras you might even want to have multiple power options for better security regardless of the power situation you are dealing with. During an outage may be when you are most worried about security, especially if the outage is extended.

Game cameras run on batteries so they can be kept going if you have a supply of batteries and a way to recharge them. Most of the more high tech cameras are going to require some standard power. This means you would have to figure out a way to use an alternative energy source such as solar panels. A project like that can get complicated, especially when cameras are spread out a lot.

Cloud or DVR Back Up?

Since our internet connection is very slow up on the side of the mountain, any system that is always sending information to a cloud drive is not going to work for us. My husband found the Amcrest system and did a bit of research before we purchased it.

This system records footage to a DVR drive. We had to supply a hard drive ourselves but that is not too hard to install. This saved us some money since we had an extra drive on hand. You can buy a version that has the hard drive pre-installed if you don’t have one on hand. I have to say that you do choose and install your own hard drive you get to choose the size. Since you are going to be recording a lot of video, it is important to get a fairly large drive. Amcrest supports up to a 4TB hard drive. If you go with another system, check to make sure what size you are limited to.

The Amcrest System is used by a lot of businesses. My husband noticed this after we bought ours. For the money, it is a good system and it doesn’t require the internet to run everything.  There are many sizes of systems and camera styles. If you already have some cameras from a different company there is a chance that they might be compatible. Always check before assuming you can combine systems and brands.

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Nest Camera System

I have to put these on here because although they cost a bit compared to others I know for a fact that they work well. My neighbor after installing one at her business had it alert her to an intrusion. You could see the people with bolt cutters trying to break in. The authorities were called and she avoided having things stolen by a bunch of meth heads.

I like that you get an alert and can see your place in real time no matter where you are. These images are saved to the cloud so they can be used for evidence or for apprehending a culprit after the fact.

You can get discounts for buying multiple cameras and they do have indoor and outdoor versions so you can take advantage of that. This system relies on the internet heavily so during a major situation they are not ideal. For everyday use protecting your perimeter, they are top of the line.

Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera

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The nest camera does have to be plugged into an outlet. The operating temperature is -4 F to 104 F so in more extreme environments this might be a problem at times. Keep in mind that if it is sheltered slightly or attached to a heated building, it may be able to handle conditions where the temperature is more extreme. Direct sun and 100 F outside temp would not be a good thing for this system. Nest cameras are compatible with the Alexa devices if you like to use that type of device in your home or business.

Camera Placement

It can take awhile to get cameras placed where you can see what you want. You should consider access as well. Thieves and the like can destroy or damage security cameras if they are within easy reach. While you would hope that the video is being relayed to a safe and secure file for later retrieval, you are not going to get anything past when they do their dirty work. This means that you have to take on putting your cameras where they cannot be easily reached. This is something you might need some help with.

Each entry point to your home or any area is a good place to start putting cameras. Some people like to have a camera for each driveway and then one for every exterior door.

It may take some trial and error to get the placement of your cameras exactly how you want them. Don’t expect to get it right the first time. With anything new, you have to work out the kinks. I know a lot about learning curves because of helping build a house and homesteading. It can be painful at the time but eventually, things usually come together!

How many cameras?

The amount of cameras you need to take on the security needs of your family depends on how big an area or home you are trying to protect. If you know that you want a lot then buying a security bundle that has 8 cameras might be a better value overall. Most systems you can easily add to using the same camera brand but buying 2-4 packs to add on is a better bargain.

I suggest walking around your place and keeping a tally and notes of what areas you want to cover and then use that as a guide when ordering. If you can’t afford them all at once then I advise covering the areas that are most critical and then adding the others in later or using dummy cameras.

Buy a system that has enough channels for your needs.

Some security camera systems have a set number of channels when you buy them. This means if you buy a base unit that comes with 4 cameras and it has 8 channels, you can only add 4 more.  If you think in the future you want 16 cameras then buy a base that can handle it even if you just start out with 4. If you don’t do this and then want to expand later, you will need to buy an additional base or replace the lower channel one with one that is capable of meeting your security demands.

Night Vision & Infrared Lights

While the technology of night vision is less expensive than it once was, it still adds to the cost of any camera system. There is something to be said for making sure the system you put together has good enough resolution under low light conditions to actually be useful. An alternative is having some lighting that comes on at night. The lighting by itself, especially if it is a motion sensor light that stays on for a while after it detects movement, will deter potential threats.

You can add extra infrared lights near your cameras too if you need to improve night vision capabilities of systems at key locations. They are relatively low in cost and probably more economical than replacing any camera with a better one.

Game Cameras=Remote Location Security

I like game cameras for the following reasons:

  • Can be used at very remote locations where there is no power.

Most of the cameras I have seen take a few AA batteries so you can use rechargeables. Of course, you need to set a reminder to check your batteries once in awhile if you place the cameras in places where you don’t go often.

  •  Pics are saved on inexpensive and easy to store SD cards that are easy to view and sort as needed.

If you don’t have an SD card reader you can get a USB SD card reader for a few bucks.

  • Simple to use and move around. 

Game cameras allow you to change locations as often as you want without too much hassle. The ones we have bought in the past come with a few small bungee cords. All you have to do is slip an SD card in, make sure it has batteries and set the time. Some cameras may have more advanced features if you want something beyond the basics.

Below is an example of a much more advanced game camera than what we bought. I have not used the Browning line of game cameras but I wanted to find and include a high-quality name brand game camera here rather than the low-end one that we bought to get started on security.  If this is a bit out of the budget, they make less expensive cameras that are still supposed to be top notch.

Browning Strike Force Trail Camera

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Resolution & Image Quality Versus Bandwidth Demands & Cost

Have you ever wondered why security camera footage can be so blurry when you see it on TV? Well, that has to do with the resolution level it was recorded at. HD video has not made it to everyone. There are a lot of cameras out there that don’t have the resolution of modern ones.

The higher the resolution the more you can expect to pay but in exchange, you get a clearer picture. HD cameras can vary a lot in the resolution so if you are buying a system make sure that the rated resolution is okay for you. 720P is going to look different than a camera rated to 1080P.

Remember that higher resolution also means that video footage takes up more storage space on any drive it is stored on. If cameras are connected to the internet and images and video are stored on a cloud drive, the better the image quality, the more the demand on your internet connection and speed.

Security cameras are only part of a good defense for your property!

While I love the idea of good security, it is really easy to think that one thing is going to take care of more than it will. Having a camera system is great but it is only part of a strategy. Cameras have to be powered and that can be hard or impossible in some situations. Make sure that you take other steps to protect what is dear to you. Here are a few other things that should be on your security checklist.

  • Check visibility. Be aware of how well others can see your place. Also be aware of any potential spots where someone or something could hide.
  • Good fences are important. It doesn’t matter if you live in town or out in the country, if you have a house then a fence is an excellent way to mark and defend your perimeter. Some people are opportunists and a fence makes it a little harder for them. A fence can also help keep out predatory animals.
  • Be more on guard if there has been civil unrest nearby.
  • If you can, consider a dog. Even a smaller dog can make a lot of noise and that is sometimes enough to make someone move on to an easier target. Noise draws attention and while some people may go as far as to hurt a dog to gain access to a place, there are a lot of people that while they may steal something, actually hurting a dog is not something they can bring themselves to do.
  • Use privacy shades, window films, or blinds so people cannot see what you have as well. There are window films that will allow you to see out well but not let someone see in.
  • Educate other members of your family on how to be more situationally aware and to let one another know if anything seems amiss.
  • Don’t be too flashy during a major situation. If times get tough you do not want people to think that you have a lot. What doesn’t seem like too much right now to you can seem like everything to someone that is desperate. This goes for everyone in your family too.
  • Consider landscape lighting and motion sensor lights. The options for these are many and there are some that are really pretty and decorative. A lot of these style of lights use solar energy so they are great for saving on your energy bill.

For more info on perimeter security, you may want to check out my previous post.

What security cameras do you recommend? Have you been in a situation where a security camera helped you or your family?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].

Feel free to reach out with any comments or suggestions about this post or anything else that is on your mind!

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4 Responses to “Security Cameras: What You Need To Consider Before Purchasing and Installing”

  1. “Remember that higher resolution also means that video footage takes up more storage space on any drive it is stored on”. This is true and that’s why I went with a 2 TB hard drive. The difference in price vs a 1 TB HD is around $40. Again, spend a few extra bucks. I’m guess-ta-mate that I can save up to 6 months of triggered activity from the cameras on to the HD. You could also save captured video on to a zip drive or on to a RW CD for those videos you want to keep 🙂

  2. I purchased 4 Sony 5mp infared security cameras and have been happy with the overall quality of the images recorded. The software lets me mark individual areas that notify me via an app to my phone if anything passes through that area. The DVR also alarms when the marked area is compromised. I added 2 additional IR Illuminators to increase the range of Infra red vision. The higher resolution images also let me zoom in on recorded images with great resolution. With the addition of driveway sensors and two dogs it would be pretty hard to get within 125 ft of my home.

    Now I’m planning a backup battery system to use for the camera security system. I’m leaning on going with a larger 60 ah gel battery than the standard battery box or UPS type systems for increased time when power goes out. Christmas is coming around, so still have time to make a decision.

    All cameras are not created equal. Remember, you get what you pay for.

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