The latest security cameras make it easier and more affordable to keep an eye on your home from virtually anywhere. Many modern security cameras have their own app, can be run using smart devices and even feature two-way audio. This guide will help you assess your basic security needs and choose the best home security cameras to protect your family and property.
Tip: While video surveillance can provide additional security to your home and office, make sure hedges, trees or other outdoor fixtures do not block the viewing angle. We also recommend keeping bushes and shrubs neatly trimmed so trespassers have nowhere to hide.
Basic Elements of Security Systems
To choose the best security camera system for your home, identify your biggest safety and security concerns. A basic video surveillance system is comprised of cameras mounted inside or around the perimeter of your home. A DVR with a channel devoted to each camera or viewing angle connects to a TV or computer monitor.
Some systems also include doorbell security cameras. If you install a video surveillance system, consider how many cameras you need, their resolution and how many hours / how much storage space of recorded video you plan to use.
- If you’re often out of town, consider security cameras that feature remote monitoring.
- For homes in areas where break-ins are a concern, the best outdoor security cameras feature security lighting to improve your field of view. Choose from stationary lights or lights with motion detectors.
- You may also want to consider a camera with excellent night vision or two-way audio so you can scare off intruders by letting them know you’ve called the authorities.
Remember, placement is key for effective security:
- Where: Covering the front door, back door and first-floor windows.
- Position: Above the door or window frame. Cameras installed over nine feet up are harder to tamper with or destroy.
- In plain sight: You want potential intruders to know you’re watching them.
- Weather-resistant: Pick cameras that can withstand the elements. Waterproof cams with night vision are sure to record everything you need.
How Many Cameras Do I Need?
The number of cameras you need depends on the area you’re covering and what you want to protect. It helps to draw out a basic map of your location, as shown below, to ensure you have everything covered. Identify and cover all points of entry and exit while minimizing blind spots in the field of view, and cover any key areas (bedroom windows, doors near valuables, etc.) you want to keep secure.
For basic observation, single-camera coverage should be sufficient. If you’re interested in identification of anyone approaching your location, position a camera on both sides of each entrance for footage featuring a complete view of the area.
Once you’ve determined the ideal number of cameras your location needs, pick a security system that comes pre-programmed for one, two, four, eight or 16 cameras.
Tip: Most security cameras can capture footage of identifiable facial features from up to 50 feet away. Any farther and the image isn’t necessarily reliable. Remember this when planning your camera locations.
- Structures under 2,000 square feet
- A four-camera set and four-channel DVR is a typically sufficient for small structures.
- Install the four cameras on each side of the building for full coverage.
- You can apply this system to homes and small businesses.
Observe and Identify
- Structures up to 3,000 square feet
- An eight-camera system can more adequately cover small structures.
- Install cameras at every corner and have clear coverage of your home's entry points.
- Field of view should cover all four walls, with an extra camera on the walls with exits.
- This will provide dual-sided coverage on both your front and back door.
No Blind Spots
- Structures over 3,000 square feet
- Sixteen cameras are good for homes over 3,000 square feet and those interested in expanding their systems soon.
Wired vs. Wireless Surveillance
Whether you install a wired or wireless surveillance system depends on the location you’re observing.
Key Features of the Best Wireless Security Cameras
- Popular for private homes
- Easy installation
- Flexibility to move camera locations
- Better for rental properties as you can remove them
Key Features of the Best Wired Security Cameras
- Ideal for large homes or businesses
- Require cable connecting cameras to a recording device
- Directly wired into the building’s landline
- Wired pre-programmed security systems offer longer recording times for footage and more cameras
A higher resolution camera increases video image quality. Surveillance camera resolution is measured in TVL (Television Lines).
- The typical home camera resolution is around 700 TVL.
- Higher resolution cameras can have a TVL of up to 1280.
Number of Channels/Resolution
The type of sensors used on the camera impact image quality.
- CMOS sensors are economical, requiring less power and are not as light-sensitive.
- CCD sensors have higher output uniformity and provide cleaner, higher quality images.
The amount of storage needed depends on the number of cameras you have, the camera type and how often you record.
Since security systems use DVRs, users can store hours of high-quality video on a hard drive. Depending on your system, your cameras can record 24/7 or you can program them to only record after motion detection.
Wireless security systems are available in a variety of recording times, hard drive size and channels, but wired cameras offer a much wider range of options. For example, the most common number of channels for wireless security systems is four, whereas the most common number of cameras for wired systems is 16.
Smart Video Surveillance and Other Video Cameras
Security camera systems with smart technology allow you to observe your camera's feeds from your smartphone via an app and receive alerts when they detect motion.
In addition to outdoor security cameras, it may be necessary to install cameras inside your home. Choose from hidden cameras, baby monitors and more.
- For around-the-clock surveillance, consider night vision cameras.
- If you have young children or family members with medical concerns, use baby video monitors and intercoms so you have easy communication throughout your home.
- Cameras with pan-pilt-zoom capabilities let you manipulate the cameras from your desktop.