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When we purchased our home in 2016, we knew security cameras were a must. We wanted to have a way to monitor the porch to protect our packages from porch thieves since we’re frequent online shoppers. Fortunately, we’ve never had a break-in or a box taken from our doorstep since moving in.
Having security cameras around the exterior of our home gives us peace of mind. And we even installed several indoors in areas we don’t use much so that we can keep an eye on those locations. The outdoor cameras are fun because now and then we’ll see a bunny or neighbor cat visiting our front door.
Looking to install some cameras around your home too? Based on our personal experience, we’re here to help you choose the best places to put your security cameras as well as what type of features you should look for in a camera.
- How Do Security Cameras Work?
- What Features Should I Look For?
- Where Should I Place A Camera?
- How To Install Security Cameras
- Should I Conceal The Camera?
- WiFi Security Cameras
First, you have the option of using wired or wireless security cameras. Larger properties and businesses typically use wired cameras. These systems use cables for power, internet connection and video transfer. Cables connect the cameras to a recorder, which you then attach to a router.
A wireless camera is much easier to install because there are no cables. You can install these cameras anywhere within range of the base station, which connects to the router (sometimes with a cable). The system transmits video footage wirelessly to the recorder or app.
When shopping for a camera, think about what you want to do with it and what functions you’ll need it to do for you. They all come with various features, but significant things to consider include:
- Night vision – enables your camera to see, even in the dark.
- Motion detection – while some cameras trigger recording only upon sensing motion, others are either constant or set to time intervals.
- Audio detection – This can be convenient because you can speak to the intruder and warn them that authorities are on the way. They may leave before doing any harm.
- Wireless – since thieves can cut wires (and potentially disable your system that way), wireless equipment has become the norm.
- Motion detection zones – You can select areas of the view angle that should detect motion and begin recording. Zones come in handy if you place a camera above your garage that shows part of the street, but you don’t want your camera to record every time a car passes by.
- HD quality – high definition video can capture more details that may come in handy when apprehending a suspect.
- IP Camera – a camera capable of recording to the internet, where you can remotely access the footage. Compare this to a DVR camera, which records to a local hard drive that an intruder could steal.
Other Security Camera Features To Consider
In addition to the must-haves we recommend above, other things to check for include:
- Recording length – the longer the recording capacity, the more footage you can capture, but that may also affect online storage limits.
- Viewing angle, pan and tilt – a camera with a wider viewing angle will help you capture a wider area. Consider a pan and tilt option to cover even more ground.
- Operating temperature – For example, in Iowa, the winters can get below -10°F, so I needed an outdoor camera that could withstand the frigid temperatures as well as hot summers reaching around 100°F.
If your looking for entire camera systems (these are wired, CCTV systems), checkout our security camera systems reviews.
You’ll want to make sure you’re installing your camera(s) in optimal locations around your home. Here are some common areas targeted by burglars, consider these when deciding where to place your camera(s):
- Near the front door
- Near the back door (checkout our reviews of the best doorbell cameras)
- Pointing toward the garage/driveway
- Aiming toward any sheds or buildings on your property
- Around first level windows with low lighting
- In low traffic areas of your home with exterior entrances (basements, storage rooms, etc.)
By placing your cameras in these areas, you’re more likely to get a license plate number or facial recognition, which police may be able to use to catch a criminal. If a car is involved, a license plate may play a larger role in court than a face shot, since criminals can wear masks to cover their faces.
Need help finding a good outdoor security camera for your home? Check out our outdoor security camera reviews for specific brand and model suggestions.
How Many Cameras Do I Need?
Make a list of the areas you want monitored in and around your home. How many entrance points do you have? Do you have any garages or sheds? Is there a hidden area where intruders can conceal themselves easily? Answering these questions will help you determine the number of cameras you need.
Security Camera Placement Tips
- Cameras with a smaller field of view (less than 75°) work best facing an exterior door or parked car in the driveway or a doorway inside the home.
- Do not try and cover more than the camera can see clearly, or more than the area you’d like to monitor – since other movements, like cars on the street, could trigger motion.
- Cameras with a larger field of view (above 120°) are best to cover a wide area, like overlooking your driveway, backyard or an open concept floor plan.
- Installing cameras under a porch or hanging roof can help shelter the camera from elements.
- Put wire mesh around the camera as a layer of added security (without compromising the quality of the footage).
- Place cameras at least nine feet off the ground, so they can’t be tampered with easily (watch the video below to see why having your camera up higher can make a difference).
If you go with wired cameras, the company may offer professional installation, or you may consider hiring a handyman. The cost of a professional can vary, and the installation process will vary too depending on the cameras you purchase.
If you choose the DIY route, there are two common ways to install home security devices: peel and stick contact strips and screws with a drill.
Peel and stick contact strips are more common with indoor cameras because they don’t hold up to weather as well as screws do. Additionally, most people don’t want to screw holes into their walls. If the camera uses contact strips, you’ll want to make sure the surface is clean and dry before applying the sticky strip.
You’ll most likely be using a drill to screw the outdoor security camera to a fixed object. You may need a chair or ladder to get high enough up to secure the camera exactly where you want it mounted.
Most outdoor cameras require a few screws drilled into the outside of your house (or wherever you choose to mount the camera) through the camera’s mount. It’s pretty straightforward, but be sure to read your camera’s instructions to ensure you’re doing it correctly.
Most companies make the installation process fairly simple these days. You’ll want to consider the camera’s needs before installation:
- How close does it need to be to your router?
- Does it need to be near an outlet?
- Will it need wires attached to it and the router?
Answering these questions will help you determine the ideal place to install your camera. Having a wireless, WiFi camera makes the setup process much easier because there are no wires to worry about. If this is a possibility for you, we recommend it.
There are two thoughts here. If you hide your camera, thieves won’t realize there’s a camera they need to avoid, so they’re more likely to break into your home and be on camera. Plus, they won’t tamper with it and potentially ruin any evidence you may have obtained.
This is an excellent solution for convenience stores because burglars can almost guarantee the camera will capture their face. However, for home security, we don’t recommend this.
Instead, we suggest displaying your cameras in plain sight. Why? Because it may stop would-be thieves in their tracks. You want your camera to be in their face the moment they approach your door. Plus you’re more likely to get facial recognition or a license plate if you install the cameras strategically.
What if, instead, the criminal approaches another entry point to your home? We can’t guarantee this won’t happen, but many criminals will avoid your home because they suspect additional cameras around your home. The burglar will most likely move on to another house.
Plug-and-play cameras are versatile for many uses including home security, baby monitors and pet cams. These multi-use WiFi security cameras are easy to relocate, and many have two-way voice so you can communicate with those at home while you are away. Find out which wireless security cameras make our top 3.
If you experience any trouble setting up your camera, drop us a comment below, and we’ll do our best to help.
Have any questions on security camera installation?