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

UK VSaaS Startup Ocucon on Jul 03, 2018
Decreasing exposure to fraudulent slip-and-fall insurance claims and lawsuits is one of the oldest selling points of video surveillance for retail....
GDPR For Access Control Guide on Jul 03, 2018
Electronic access control is common in businesses plus organizations are increasingly considering biometrics for access control. With GDPR coming...
Digital Watchdog Low Cost 4MP Camera Tested on Jul 02, 2018
Based on member 4MP testing requests, we bought and tested Digital Watchdog's low-cost 4MP DWC-MTT4Wi to see how it performs in real world scenes,...
Panoramic Fisheye Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek on Jun 27, 2018
IPVM tested Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Oncam And Vivotek 12MP panoramic fisheye cameras head to head, as shown in the test setup...
OpenEye Apex VMS Tested on Jun 26, 2018
OpenEye is a US company, founded nearly 20 years ago. In the past few years, OpenEye has been one of a few VMS providers that have pivoted to being...
Axis Guardian - Cloud VMS And Alarm Monitoring - Released on Jun 19, 2018
Axis has struggled to deliver a cloud-based managed service video platform. Video service providers have utilized AVHS for over a decade, and have...
Hikvision 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (DS-2CD63C2F-IV) on Jun 14, 2018
Hikvision's DS-2CD63C2F-IV is their flagship panoramic camera, with a 12MP imager, 15m integrated IR, smart codec, and more. We tested the 63C2 in...
Introducing Effective PPF (ePPF) - Improving Video Surveillance Designs on Jun 11, 2018
Pixel density (PPF / PPM) is the best metric the industry has to define and project video quality. It allows simple communication of estimated...
Hanwha Low-Cost 4MP Camera Tested (QNV-7010R) on Jun 11, 2018
4MP usage is increasing noticeably, as IPVM 2018 resolution statistics show. And low-cost, fixed focal cameras, are popular for budget...
Hikvision PanoVu 20MP Flexible Camera Tested on Jun 01, 2018
Hikvision has released their first repositionable multi imager cameras with integrated IR included, atypical in competitors. We bought and tested...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Amazon Ring Alarm System Tested on Jul 16, 2018
Amazon Ring is going to hurt traditional dealers, and especially ADT, new IPVM test results of Ring's Alarm system underscore. IPVM found that...
Hikvision Wins Chinese Government Forced Facial Recognition Project Across 967 Mosques on Jul 16, 2018
Hikvision has won a Chinese government tender which requires that facial recognition cameras be set up at the entrance of every single mosque...
Installing Dome Cameras Indoors Guide on Jul 16, 2018
IPVM is producing the definitive series on installing surveillance cameras. This entry covers one of the most common scenarios - installing dome...
Security Sales Course Summer 2018 on Jul 13, 2018
Based on member's interest, IPVM is offering a security sales course this summer. Register Now - IPVM Security Sales Course Summer 2018 This...
US Tariffs Hit China Video Surveillance on Jul 13, 2018
Chinese video surveillance products avoided tariffs for the first two rounds. Now, in the third round, many video surveillance products will be...
Last Chance - July 2018 IP Networking Course on Jul 12, 2018
Registration ends today, Thursday. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance...
4 Most Difficult Camera Installs (Statistics) on Jul 12, 2018
Heavy housings, cumbersome brackets, heavy ladders required, and tricky field of view requirements will cause difficulties no matter the camera...
Axis Perimeter Defender Video Analytics Tested on Jul 12, 2018
Axis 'high security' video analytics offering is Perimeter Defender, OEMed / developed with Digital Barriers. But how good is Perimeter Defender?...
Hikvision Fights Ban - Claims 'Red Scare', Hires 14 Term Ex-Congressman on Jul 11, 2018
Hikvision is fighting back against the House Bill Ban of their products. Hikvision has hired one of the biggest lobbying firms, led by a 14 term...
Arecont Acquisition By Costar on Jul 11, 2018
Arecont Vision acquisition by Costar Technologies has been approved by the court, concluding the bankruptcy process triggered by Arecont's...

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