Home Video Surveillance Recommendations

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 09, 2009

In this report, we offer recommendations for selecting and deploying video surveillance in your home. Though technologically simpler than systems used in businesses, figuring out the right solution for one's home can be tricky. Most video surveillance equipment is designed for use in business. Even when you do Internet searches for "home video surveillance," most of the results are more appropriate for business, than they are for home.

There are 3 questions I recommend you keep in mind:

  1. How much do you want to spend?
  2. How hard will it be to set it up?
  3. What features do you really need?

How Much to Spend

Cost is usually the most important factor for home systems. There's generally not a history of repeated thefts or security problems with high value items (unlike businesses). As such, it's hard to justify spending thousands of dollars on security.

On the professional side, most security integrators are used to specifying systems that are $5,000, $10,000 USD or more - and that would fall more on the 'cheap' end.

Today, it's possible to deploy an acceptable security system for no more than $500 - $1,000 USD. [We'll make recommendations at the end]

How hard will it be to set up?

Most homeowners will install the systems themselves or with the help of a friend. This usually means that the IT or electronic skills are modest at best (if you are strong in these areas, this section does not apply).

This is reasonable given that most professionals will charge at least a few hundred dollars to come out for only a single visit.

The two hardest aspects of home video surveillance that I see are: 
  • Setting up remove viewing of the system: Almost every homeowner ranks remote viewing of their house as a top priority (for peace of mind, make sure their house or pet is ok while they are away). Doing this can be very difficult (also problematic to maintain if you replace your home router). The same tactics that your Internet provider takes to make Internet access easy makes remote access of your video surveillance hard. You'll need to setup port forwarding, DDNS and change ports on cameras (if you have more than 1 camera). Each brand of home office router has different setup options and naming conventions making this even more difficult to accomplish.
  • Connecting your cameras to a recorder/recording PC: Cameras often come with cables that are 6 feet / 1.5 meters (or less). If you need longer (and you often do), then you need to make or buy your own cables. Most people do not have the tools to make cables so buying is your best bet. The other option is wireless, though if you need to go through multiple walls, it frequently will not work.

What Features Do You Really Need?

This is a critical question because the range of options in video surveillance are significant - analytics, multi-month recording, integration with alarm systems, audio monitoring, low light viewing, super high resolution, etc.

The reality is that most homeowners need is only a small fraction of the features available in the professional market. Here are a few features that are commonly requested by homeowners:

  • Remote viewing: Basically all systems support some of form of remote vieiwing over the Internet. The most important differentiator is how difficult it is to view over the public Internet (i.e., when you are away from home).
  • Audio monitoring: This is often important for people with elderly parents, children or pets. Audio provides a way for homeowners to see and hear what is going on. The only practical (cost-effective) way to do this in a home is to use IP cameras).
  • Low light viewing: Most inexpensive cameras do really poorly in low light. The cheapest way to handle this is for the camera to have a ring of IR illuminators around the lens. This has big drawbacks for professional security applications (uneven illumination, limits in distance) but is cheap and ususally good enough if you are simply trying to illuminate a room.

At the same time, there are 3 features that are commonly needed in professional applications that are not crucial for most homeowners:
  • Long term storage: Business frequently store video for 1 month or longer. This is important because claims are often made by customers or employees weeks after an incident occurs. In your house, this is rarely the case. If there is an issue, you almost always know about it after the first few days or week.
  • Continuous storage: Because of liability concerns, many business record video continuously. This can dramatically increase storage use (300% to 800%) compared to recording on motion only. For most homeowners, as long as you get 1 or 2 representative images, that's enough.
  • High resolution: Businesses often need coverage of large areas and for large numbers of strangers. In these conditions, higher resolution (like megapixel cameras) can be useful. In homes, this is generally not the case.

Recommendations

Assuming you want to (1) spend less than $1,000 USD, (2) need less than 4 cameras and (3) are not technical, here's what I recommend:

  • Use IP cameras: You can find IP cameras for $100 to $200 USD each. While similar analog cameras are even less, the total cost and complexity for IP is cheaper. With IP cameras, the recording/viewing software will be provided for free and you can use your home PC [Note: you have to leave that PC on all the time so it can record]. IP cameras provide for transmitting the feeds by WiFi or using network cabling that can be bought at any computer supply store. By contrast analog cameras usually require you to make or special order cabling.
  • Use Cube cameras: Cube cameras, so called because they look like a cube, are the lowest cost IP cameras on the market. The downside is that you cannot change the Field of View of the camera (e.g., zoom the camera in) and these cameras generaly come with little intelligence. While professional applications usually avoid these cameras (for those reasons), they are a solid choice for the home.
  • Use cameras that provide managed remote access: You really want to avoid setting up remote viewing yourself. It's not simply that it's time consuming, it's likely that you will not get it to work or that it will stop working after a few months. Offerings in this space are starting to expand - for instance, examples include StarVedia's 'plug n play' cameras, D-Link's release of MyDLink, Alarm.com's video service and Secure-i's Hosted Video (the first two are free with purchase of the camera, the latter two require a monthly fee).

Conclusion

These recommendations will help you specify an inexpensive system that does the basic in an easy to deploy way. It's not going to be Hollywood nor will it even be close to what your bank uses but it should fit the budget and make it easy for you to see what's going on in your house.

Related Reports

Mobile Surveillance Trailers Guide on Jan 17, 2019
Putting cameras in a place for temporary surveillance where power and communications are not readily available can be complicated and expensive....
Testing Bandwidth Vs. Low Light on Jan 16, 2019
Nighttime bandwidth spikes are a major concern in video surveillance. Many calculate bandwidth as a single 24/7 number, but bit rates vary...
WDR Tutorial on Jan 11, 2019
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
CES 2019 Show Report on Jan 10, 2019
IPVM was at CES 2019 for the second year (see our CES 2018 Show Final Report) and is reporting on announcements and interesting news from the show...
Worst Products Tested In Past Year on Jan 09, 2019
IPVM has done over 100 tests in the past year. But which products performed the worst? Which ones should users be most aware of? In this report,...
2019 Video Surveillance Cameras Overview on Jan 07, 2019
Each year, IPVM summarizes the main advances and changes for video surveillance cameras, based on our industry-leading testing and...
IPVM Best New Products 2019 Opened - 70+ Entrants on Jan 07, 2019
The inaugural IPVM Best New Product Awards has been opened - the industry's first and only program where the awards are not pay-to-play and the...
Axis Tailgate Detection Tested on Jan 04, 2019
Axis is aiming to tackle tailgating, one of access control's biggest issues, with the Tailgating Detector ACAP application. This camera app claims...
Surveillance Codec Guide on Jan 03, 2019
Codecs are core to surveillance, with names like H.264, H.265, and MJPEG commonly cited. How do they work? Why should you use them? What issues may...
Camera Course January 2019 on Jan 03, 2019
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training exists...

Most Recent Industry Reports

The IP Camera Lock-In Trend: Meraki and Verkada on Jan 18, 2019
Open systems and interoperability have not only been big buzzwords over the past decade, but they have also become core features of video...
NYPD Refutes False SCMP Hikvision Story on Jan 18, 2019
The NYPD has refuted the SCMP Hikvision story, the Voice of America has reported. On January 11, 2018, the SCMP reported that the NYPD was using...
Mobile Surveillance Trailers Guide on Jan 17, 2019
Putting cameras in a place for temporary surveillance where power and communications are not readily available can be complicated and expensive....
Exacq Favorability Results 2019 on Jan 17, 2019
Exacq favorability amongst integrators has declined sharply, in new IPVM statistics, compared to 2017 IPVM statistics for Exacq. Now, over 5 since...
Testing Bandwidth Vs. Low Light on Jan 16, 2019
Nighttime bandwidth spikes are a major concern in video surveillance. Many calculate bandwidth as a single 24/7 number, but bit rates vary...
Access Control Records Maintenance Guide on Jan 16, 2019
Weeding out old entries, turning off unused credentials, and updating who carries which credentials is as important as to maintaining security as...
UK Fines Security Firms For Illegal Direct Marketing on Jan 16, 2019
Two UK security firms have paid over $200,000 in fines for illegally making hundreds of thousands of calls to people registered on a government...
Access Control Cabling Tutorial on Jan 15, 2019
Access Control is only as reliable as its cables. While this aspect lacks the sexiness of other components, it remains a vital part of every...
Avigilon Favorability Results 2019 on Jan 15, 2019
Since IPVM's 2017 Avigilon favorability results, the company was acquired by Motorola and has shifted from being an aggressive startup to a more...
Gorilla Technology AI Provider, Raises $15 Million, Profiled on Jan 15, 2019
Gorilla Technology is a Taiwanese video analytics manufacturer that recently announced a $15 million investment from SBI Group, saying this...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact