Installing Security Cameras at Home: What You Need to Know

Everything you ever wanted to know about home surveillance

If you’ve ever considered installing surveillance cameras around your house but assumed they would be too expensive or hard to set up, you’ll be happy to learn that’s not the case. In fact, there are lots of inexpensive options. And most—thanks to Wi-Fi technology— are pretty easy to set up, control and monitor from the comfort of your computer, smartphone or tablet.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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Get the features you want

Do an Internet search for “surveillance cameras” and you’ll find a dizzying array of products and options with many different price points. We surveyed the current crop of cameras for you and found that most have a lot of the same features and can be had for only $50 to $200. So before you start shopping, think about the features that would fill your camera needs.

  • Tilt and Zoom: Some cameras let you remotely control the direction they’re pointing at, which might be important depending on how large an area you want to keep an eye on. Most with this feature will rotate up to 350 degrees, which is like having eyes in the back of your head!
  • Wide-Angle Lenses: If you would like to monitor a large area but don’t want your camera to call attention to itself by moving around, look for a camera with a wide-angle lens. These cameras tend to be smaller than their pan-and-tilt counterparts, making them easier to hide.
  • High-Definition Video & Photos: With most cameras, you can capture and store high-quality video and photos on an SD card, a cloud service (remote server), a DVR (digital video recorder), or your smartphone or tablet.
  • Motion Detection: Many cameras are activated by motion and will start a recording, send an email or app alert to your mobile device, or both.
  • Night Vision: Thanks to infrared technology, the ability to see intruders after dark is possible with all the cameras we looked at.
  • Free Mobile Apps: Downloadable apps let you watch live video, capture video and photos, and control pan-and- tilt functions on your camera remotely over the Internet.
  • Two-Way Audio: This feature makes it possible to communicate with the person you’re watching, allowing some surveillance cameras to double as baby monitors.
  • Indoor and/or Outdoor Approved: Some cameras are water-resistant and rated for outdoor use. This can mean the difference between noticing somebody lurking outside and seeing somebody after they’ve already broken into your house.

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Do Fake Cameras Work?

Sometimes a realistic-looking fake camera might be enough to thwart would-be intruders. See the security camera in the first photo of this article? It’s a fake! Made by several manufacturers, they can be had for $10 to $30 for one or more units. The one shown here is the UniquExceptional Fake Security Camera. It can be mounted anywhere and has 30 illuminating LEDs that turn on after dark, making it look even more real. You won’t be able to watch anyone lurking around your house, but a “camera” like this might just prevent a break-in.

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