Peace of mind for your home and your family is a big worry in today’s society. We worry about our home, family, and pets when we are away.
Home security companies like ADT and others offer home systems with door and window alarms as well as camera systems. What if you don’t want to, or you don’t have the finances to invest in a full-fledged home security system or pay large monthly fees for a monitoring service?
More and more, people are setting up their own home security system, and that system starts with a security camera.
Security cameras used to require all sorts of special equipment, like special wiring and monitors. You had to either have a paid monitoring service or have someone on-site to watch the footage.
The internet and smart devices make viewing footage so much easier. The fact that most people already have an internet-connected device makes it easier for people to start monitoring their home and get live updates when they are away, without the need of an actual person monitoring anything.
On top of that, Wi-Fi has made camera setup easy and convenient because fewer cords are needed. Battery-operated Wi-Fi security cameras don’t have to plug into anything at all.
Several types of home security cameras are on the market today. They all offer something a little different. For a more in-depth look at the options, check out a partial listing below:
IP Camera — An Internet Protocol camera, aka IP Camera. As opposed to a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera, which sends a signal to a specific place and a limited set of monitors, IP cameras transmit digital signals over the internet. Many come with built-in analytic software.
Box Camera — A standard video camera, named for its boxy shape. Indoor or outdoor models are both available. One plus is that box cameras have many lens options.
Dome Camera — Named for its dome-like shape, this is a camera, lens, and mount, all rolled into one package. These indoor/outdoor cameras are well used in variable environments that can get dirty, like industrial buildings. Its aesthetic dome shape also makes it more tamper-proof.
PTZ Camera — This camera type is named for its functions: pan, tilt, and zoom. With this type of camera a remote operator can move it around, likely via a mobile phone app. With a movable camera, you can set up an scheduled, automatic moving pattern or just move it as needed.
Bullet Camera — Named for its bullet-like shape, this is another lens, camera, housing combo.
Day/Night Camera — As the name implies, this camera can be used at day or night; hence, it works well in low light settings, where others may not. As light increases, infrared (IR) filtering decreases.
Thermal FLIR Camera — This camera uses heat sensing to tell the difference between humans and objects in dark, smoky, dusty, or foggy settings.
Wide Dynamic Security Camera — This type of camera is able to handle a wide range of lighting levels because it balances light levels on a pixel-by-pixel basis. It can capture clear images and face shots with bright light behind, or darkness in front of the subject.
Wireless IP Camera — This is just like an IP camera, but wireless, using Wi-Fi instead of a wired ethernet connection.
Most cameras offer event-based recording, triggered by motion detection. You can also set up continuous recording.
So, you have the camera part figured out, but what about storage? How will your videos be stored and viewed. When it comes to home security, there are a few different storage options you will want to keep in mind.
DVR — A Digital Video Recorder is the same kind of recording many use for television. It is used for analog cameras, not IP cameras, and must be wired in.
NVR — A Network Video Recorder that stores video data, but can be wired or wireless. Instead of connecting via cables to the camera, it connects to IP cameras using the local network. Video quality is better than DVR at the same resolution because NVR just saves data that was processed by the camera. DVRs process the data at the DVR.
MicroSD Card — A small card that saves up to 128 GB of footage.
Hosted Cloud Storage — Remote storage for IP cameras, hosted by a company at a price.
Camera costs start at about $30 and go up to thousands of dollars. You can buy them individually or in bundles to save money. This really all depends on the quality of the camera and how much you are willing to spend.
The camera itself is a one-time purchase. Whether you pay ongoing monthly or annual fees depends on how you decide to store your camera footage. There are free options if you opt for easily-accessible cloud storage, but many companies have paid subscriptions based on how long you want to keep your video clips before they expire, how much storage space you are allowed, and how many cameras you have recording. (Yes, some cloud storage options will charge a PER CAMERA recording fee.)
If you already have a preferred smart home technology or provider, you should check with them first to see what cameras they provide. Some companies have their own camera preferences that work best or are already easily programmed within the system. Others have cameras that can be integrated, but it will take some setup.
If you have several cameras all in different locations ( a camera at home, one at your office, and one at a vacation home) cloud storage will likely be easiest. You won’t need to worry about three different recording systems; you can access it all in the same place.
Monthly cloud recording can be expensive because you are paying for convenience and accessibility. If you opt for a DVR or NVR system for your storage, you will also be paying a lot, but this will be an up-front payment, instead of a monthly subscription fee.
If your internet network isn’t secure, or you are worried about cloud security, many people will use DVR recording or SD card recording. You will have a physical connection and your footage doesn’t have to be sent via the internet.
Home security cameras come in a range of resolution options, generally 480p, 720p, 1080p, 2k, and 4k. Prices and bandwidth needed will increase with each jump in resolution. 720 is considered HD and 1080 is considered Full HD. Most shoppers looking for regular home use will opt for either of these.
Most current cameras are meant to be accessed via either a mobile app, purpose-built computer program (that needs cd-installation), or web-based platform that you login to on the internet.
Consider whether the company’s cameras have the features that you need, like night vision or pan and zoom features. Also consider one-time and ongoing recording pricing. As always, we recommend talking with friends and family about their experiences, and reading any verified consumer reviews available.