What to Look for When Buying a Home Security Camera
Get a dog, or hire a private guard.
Those used to be your only options. One was unreliable, and the other was expensive. If you were a Lord or Lady, maybe you could get yourself a castle with a moat. But that was it.
Nowadays, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to protecting your family and your property. Neighborhood watch programs, stickers, DIY security systems, gated-community security personnel, signs, fortification, professional monitoring, and more.
But security cameras are by far your best choice for their affordability, ease of use, and accessibility.
And as an added bonus, they work.
That said, you don’t want to just grab the first one you find. There’s an art and science to properly buying a security camera. Questions to ask. Things to consider.
So how do you choose a security camera system for your home?
You start here.
The Case for Cameras
As the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie. And the numbers in support of security cameras are overwhelmingly positive:
- 4,500. That’s the number of burglaries in the US each day.
- 40%. That’s how many burglars claim the crime was a spontaneous decision.
- Over half. That’s how many burgled homes that are hit again within 4-6 weeks.
- 60%. That’s the segment of convicted thieves who say they avoid properties with a visible security system.
- 87%. That’s the percentage of burglaries considered ‘preventable’ by law enforcement and security experts.
- One quarter. That’s how many American homes actually use a security system.
And finally, 300%. That’s how much more likely you are to be robbed without a security system in place.
The FBI says that a full 83% of would-be burglars check for a security system while considering whether to break into a property. Its presence is a big deterrent.
The most important feature of a home security system? External cameras (32.3%), followed by motion sensors (28.6%) and flood lights (24.5%), according to a recent study.
So if you’re thinking about whether to buy security cameras, the data suggests it’s an emphatic ‘yes’.
Security Camera Buying Guide
There’s no shortage of providers and manufacturers, but their products aren’t a cookie-cutter solution. The perfect fit for me might be the worst possible choice for you, and vice versa.
You’ve got to carefully consider your situation.
What’s Your Budget?
You can easily spend thousands of dollars on security cameras with fancy advanced features that you may never use.
There are also plenty of budget options available, although you usually get exactly what you paid for.
And keep in mind that you’ll likely need to purchase more than one camera to ensure adequate coverage of your home or business. Are you willing to spend $1000 on a single camera? How about eight of them?
Are there any additional fees like video storage or monitoring?
Price shouldn’t be your only criterion, but it is a consideration to remember when comparison shopping.
In or Out?
You’ll next want to think about where your cameras will be located.
Some are designed for indoor usage only, while others are weather-proof for outside placement.
And while an outdoor camera might work inside, you’ll quickly destroy an indoor camera that isn’t water-proof if you set it up outside.
Know what you’re buying, and know where it’s going.
Consider the Power Source
Wired cameras plug into your electric system just like any other device, and as such will probably require professional installation or an existing outlet. This can increase the cost, but you’ll never have to worry about a dead battery.
Wireless cameras run off batteries that generally last at least a year, and you can install them anywhere quickly and easily. But they do require occasional maintenance and battery replacement.
Be aware that extreme heat or cold can affect battery life.
Cameras can either save video footage to a local hard drive or micro-SD card, or wirelessly to cloud-storage similar to Dropbox.
Analog solutions are less exposed to hackers, but can fill up faster, while internet solutions will generally offer larger — if not unlimited — storage, but may carry higher risk of exposure.
What’s most important to you?
Type of Camera
There are a few you’ll encounter, including:
- Bullet Cameras. These long cylinders are affordable, but typically only point in one direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a consideration to remember.
- Dome Cameras. These have a larger field of vision, and generally include the ability to move around and zoom in or out.
- Doorbell Cameras. As the name implies, these fixed cameras replace your traditional doorbell. Anyone ringing the doorbell is in its frame.
To keep your data safe — including any actual video footage as well as your personal details — purchase only from established, reputable providers of security cameras and equipment.
You’ll also want to find a solution that offers data encryption, so that even if someone gained access, they wouldn’t be able to decipher it.
Modern security cameras can come with a bevy of advanced features. Know what you want, and why it’s beneficial. Features to look for include:
- Motion detection. A camera that only starts recording when motion is detected saves you money on storage costs and prolongs battery life.
- Night vision. 65% of robberies happen during the day, but that means 35% occur when it’s dark.
- 2-way talk. Can you talk to and hear someone on the other side?
- Mobile app and smartphone alerts. Can you watch from anywhere? Does the system notify you when activity is detected?
- Video and audio recording
- Live streaming. Can you watch in real-time?
- Floodlight. Would-be burglars don’t want to be seen.
- Built-in siren or alarm. A great deterrent in addition to the camera itself, as the element of stealth and surprise is eliminated.
- High resolution. More resolution means more detail and the ability to zoom in without losing definition. Look for HD (1080p) or higher.
- Field of view. Aim for at least 130 degrees.
- Self vs professional monitoring. Who’s watching the footage should your camera detect motion or an alarm go off?
Do you need all of those? Maybe, maybe not. Only you can determine that for sure. Know your must-haves, nice-but-not-necessary features, and don’t-needs before you start shopping.
Buying security cameras — the right security cameras — is one of the best things you can do to increase the safety and security of your home.