Surveillance cameras are great for finding out who's at the door or nosing around the garage, or whose mutt is digging up your vegetable garden. But until recently only the rich and famous could afford them. Now you can buy and install your own wireless color camera security system for just a few hundred dollars.
The Mini-Air Watch kit we show (there are many other systems available) includes four cameras with a power supply for each, a receiver and the cables you need to hook up the receiver to a TV or VCR. Here's how the system works. Little color cameras about the size of your thumb are mounted facing the area you'd like to monitor (Photo 1). Each camera wirelessly transmits images up to 100 ft. to the receiver, which sends the images via cable to either a TV or a VCR (Photo 2). You select which of the four camera images you'd like to view by pushing a button on the receiver or the remote control (Photo 3).
You have the option of powering the cameras from a 9-volt battery or from a transformer that's plugged into an outlet (Photo 4). Battery power is only good for a few hours of camera work, so it's only for temporary use. For continuous use, it's best to install an outlet near the camera or plug the transformer into a remote outlet and run a low-voltage extension cord to the camera.
Don't take the 100-ft. range too seriously. It's a “line-of-sight” distance and you'll undoubtedly have walls or floors in the way. In experiments at my house, I was able to get good reception up to about 50 ft. with no more than two walls separating the camera from the receiver. Higher quality, more expensive cameras will perform better.
You can choose to record surveillance, although recording time is limited by the capacity of your recorder. For a few hundred dollars, you can buy recorders that only record when motion is detected or at intervals you set, from a few seconds to several minutes. The best units can record for hundreds of hours. You can even get software that allows you to monitor your home from the Internet when you're out of town. (What a fun vacation!)
You can find dozens of suppliers online that offer the whole gamut of home security cameras and recorders. Just do a search with “wireless security cameras.”