How Many Security Cameras Do I Need?

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Get the security camera coverage you need, indoors and outdoors, with these tips.

two sets of hands installing security cameras on the corner of a room where the two walls meetfilistimlyanin/Getty Images

As a safety and security expert, I have lots of experience installing home security cameras for work and at home. Figuring out how many cameras you need and where to place them is an important security decision. Here are some guidelines to get you just the right amount of home security for your needs.

How Many Security Cameras Do I Need?

Before purchasing security cameras, think about the layout of your property and which areas you want to be covered. There’s no sense in buying more cameras than you need. Keep in mind some camera systems use local hubs for recording footage and each hub is only compatible with a certain number of cameras. So if you buy a lot of cameras, you may need an additional hub.

Most people need two to four outdoor security cameras and one or two indoors. But the right number for you depends on your goals. If you just want to monitor your porch for that neighbor who always steals your newspaper, all you really need is a doorbell camera. On the other hand, full coverage of your property will involve a more involved setup.

Cameras at your front and back doors offer a good view of who’s coming and going. Then you can add cameras on each side to cover the rest of your yard. Next, add an indoor camera to each living space you want to monitor.

Nix cameras for any rooms where the occupants expect privacy, like bedrooms and bathrooms. Most states have laws against filming in these areas. Check your local ordinances to see what’s OK and what’s not.

How Many Outdoor Cameras Do I Need?

If you have a big yard, outbuildings or barns, four outdoor cameras may not be enough. You don’t necessarily need to cover every square foot of your yard, just the areas you want secured. A patch of grass on the far corner of your property doesn’t need a camera, but the door of your storage building almost certainly does.

Think about the “security hotspots” in your yard. Consider:

  • Front door/porch;
  • Side door;
  • Back door;
  • Shed;
  • Kid or pet’s play area;
  • Pool;
  • Garage/carport;
  • Barn;
  • Outdoor entertaining area.

Each hotspot will probably need its own camera unless they’re adjacent. I use one camera to cover my garage and shed doors because they’re only a few feet apart.

How Much Do Security Cameras Cost?

Security camera cost varies by brand and features. Additional factors are pro vs. DIY installation and storage.

DIY cameras

Prices on DIY security cameras typically range from $30 to $300 each, depending on features. These are usually wireless and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi. They store footage in the cloud, or locally on a memory card or DVR-style recording system.

The Arlo Pro 4 camera costs around $200, with a four-pack available for about $500. Considered more of a top-of-the-line DIY security camera, it features 2K video; people, vehicle and package detection; and a wire-free hub-less setup.

The Wyze Cam Outdoor runs $80, or $278 for four cameras. The lower price means you give up a few things. The Wyze camera offers 1080p HD video instead of the Arlo Pro 4’s 2K. It also lacks people, vehicle and package detection. And you need a base station for the Wyze cameras, costing an additional $20.

You can save money on indoor cameras by purchasing a 360-degree camera for each room. These cameras sense motion and then swivel to film whatever’s moving. The Wyze Cam Pan v2 is a top-of-the-line 360-degree camera that costs around $40.

With DIY security cameras, remember to factor in the cost of video storage. These cameras offer cloud storage subscriptions if there isn’t a local option, or some will let you choose between local and cloud storage. Subscriptions usually cost $5 to $10 per month.

DIY cameras don’t require elaborate installation tools. Most can be installed in a few minutes with a screwdriver.

Professionally installed

Professional installation costs vary. Expect to pay around $100 to $400 per camera. The average home usually costs a little more than $1,000 for a professional installation.

These systems typically come with a local storage option built into the overall price. Some home security companies, like Vivint and Frontpoint, offer cloud subscription plans for their pro-installed cameras.

Unlike DIY cameras, some professionally installed cameras offer monitoring through security companies. This service usually costs around $10 to $15 extra per month. When the monitoring company detects an intruder, it will contact you and, if needed, the authorities.

Best Places To Put Security Cameras

Here are some things to consider:

  • Place outdoor security cameras up high so troublemakers can’t easily tear them down. About nine feet is high enough to discourage tampering.

  • Make sure trees, bushes, flags and other yard items won’t block camera views.

  • Indoors, put 360-degree cameras as close to the center of the room to provide good coverage of the area.

  • For the best view of an entire room, place standard cameras in a corner, midway up the wall. Mounting them to the ceiling can leave a large blind spot underneath the camera.

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Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford is a technology and internet safety and security expert for SafeWise.com and has contributed her insights to dozens of national publications, both in print and online. Her goal is to make gadgets less mystifying, one article at a time.