A surveillance camera system, or CCTV (closed circuit television) system, is a useful tool for keeping your home and family safe. I like to think of surveillance cameras as pulling double duty – both offense and defense. Not only do they serve as a good burglar deterrent, but if anything does happen they can help law enforcement piece together events and find your intruder.
That said, choosing the best video surveillance system for your home is a complicated maze of features, prices, expansion packs, and other options that can leave your head spinning. Let’s break it down:
Wired or Wireless
Home surveillance systems are available in two flavors – wired and wireless. They’re exactly what they sound like: wired systems are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system, while wireless cameras work on battery power and via wireless signal. Wired systems are generally more expensive to install and more difficult to replace, but they are more stable and have excellent signal quality that won’t conflict with other wireless devices in your home. On the other hand, wireless cameras are easy to install, easy to hide, and less expensive to purchase and replace. However, other wireless devices (like a cordless phone) can interfere with their signal, compromising recorded image quality.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
According to the FBI, 79% of all home invasions begin at the front or back door, or a ground-floor window. If budget permits, weatherproof, outdoor surveillance cameras should be trained on all exterior doors and first-floor windows. These cameras are available in standard, bullet and dome variations, are rain and snow-resistant, and may even have heaters for cold weather areas. Additionally, dome cameras are resistant to physical attack, including strikes from a bat or hammer.
Most home camera systems record video for a set period of time (usually a few days), but you’ll need to choose the format. VHS (video tape) is inexpensive, but has the lowest quality and most outdated technology. Some systems also record to DVD or mini-disc, but most are now transitioning to DVR (digital video recorder) technology. A computer-based camera system records your video to the PC’s hard disc, making it fast and easy to review your video history. Some high-tech systems available today simultaneously upload your video online, so even in the event that your security is breached and your system is stolen or destroyed, you still have a video record of the burglars.
Many home surveillance systems today also offer virtual access to your video feed via the Internet or your smartphone. Generally, remote access, mobile alerts, or cloud-based features require monthly or yearly fees with your surveillance manufacturer.
You can get a CCTV security system for as little as $99, but this is probably a case of “you get what you pay for.” A good-quality, basic system (one camera) starts around $175 and can climb to thousands of dollars for multi-camera, indoor/outdoor, fancy systems with every feature imaginable. Most systems offer one camera in the base price, with additional cameras running $49-$200 each.
How to Choose?
There is no one-size-fits-all to home surveillance. The system you choose will be based on your budget, your home’s layout, your climate, your security concerns, and other factors. Start your search with a basic idea of what you want and a reasonable budget, and then get researching. Different systems, even those in the same price range, mix and match features differently, so keep looking until you find one that offers what you need at a price you can afford.
Outdoor Security Camera Buying Guide
Thinking of purchasing a security camera for your home? Check out our comprehensive Outdoor Surveillance Cameras Buying Guide for a complete analysis of surveillance cameras for your home to make the best choice.
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