As you are looking around trying to find home security systems that fit your bill, we need to keep in mind all the different options available to you. Depending on how involved you want to be with the security of your home and family, it will drive your decision on what system you purchase.
Some systems are pretty self-reliant, in that they run 24/7 with very little involvement from you, and they still notify you of threats when you need it. Other systems, typically the less expensive ones, require you to arm and disarm the system when it is convenient for you. If you leave home to go to the grocery store but forget to arm the security system, you could come back home to a ransacked house and no proof of who did it.
I want to help point you in the right direction and offer some advice that will help you decide what you really want out of a security system.
Home Security Systems – Overview
To make sure that we are both on the same page here, I want to take notice to the differences between security systems. In an earlier article, I started speaking towards the benefits of home security monitoring services. These types of systems utilize a third party company to monitor the security of your home in real time, and they alert the authorities when an intruder is identified. The monitoring services also tie in to your smoke alarms so in the event of a fire, the fire crews are notified and dispatched right away. You can be rest assured your home will be taken care of while you are away to the grocery store or on vacation.
When I speak to home security systems, I like to think of home security systems in three main levels:
- Inexpensive Systems – typically consist of mechanical devices that secure windows and doors with heavy-duty locks or simple noise alarms
- Home Security Alarm Systems – typically consist of cameras, door and window alarms, and software to bring all your feeds together with recording and motion sensing options that only alert you of a threat
- Home Security Monitoring Services – typically consist of ALL the above, with the added benefit of fire and water protection and dispatching of police and firemen when the system is triggered
Security companies are starting to expand their horizons and product lines to be more competitive, so these levels are starting to get blurred a bit. Companies now offer mix and match product services to meet your budgets if you can’t afford the full system. We could add another level and mention body guards for personal protection, but I believe that they:
- Draw too much attention to yourself
- Be out of most peoples budget
And there is nothing wrong with implementing ALL of these systems, in fact I recommend it. Any little thing you can do to beef up the safety of your home is a step well worth taking.
To Wire, or not to Wire
It wasn’t too long ago that security systems only came with wired options. As you placed cameras around the perimeter of your home, you had the arduous task of routing the electrical power and data wires to each camera. This typically means sweating your butt off and you crawl through the tightest places in your attic while holding a drill so you can run wires to the outside of your house.
Most systems still utilize wired cameras to this day due to the added security and clarity/responsiveness of having wires. These wired systems have large hard drives that can be set to record 24/7 so you don’t miss a thing, or you can set them up to only record on motion. Wired systems provide the best high resolution cameras, and are very responsive. If you are away from home and need to view the front door, you can pull the feed from your smartphone quickly. The cameras never have to be recharged and your WiFi goes down, your cameras will keep on working.
The best benefit of wired systems, is that they are closed loop. This prevents hackers from obtaining your video feed, as long as you don’t have the system tied to WiFi. Last thing you want is somebody spying on you.
Wireless systems are now a hot item, as they are super simple and quick to install and don’t require crawling through the attic. Battery technology, combined with smarter controlling software, enables these wireless cameras to last for weeks on end.
These systems are still limited in use, as they do not record 24/7 like a wired system does to conserve battery life. And depending on the quality of your WiFi, or if you share a WiFi network, you won’t be able to read small details like license plate numbers on vehicles and such. Wireless cameras tend to be more affordable though, as there is much less hardware to deal with. Depending on the system, the cameras will record to an essentially unlimited cloud based service where you can access your videos from your smartphone. No overriding of hard drives to deal with.
Another hot item to consider is the doorbells that act as a camera. When somebody rings this doorbell, or the camera senses motion, the camera immediately turns on, and a notification is sent to you letting you know that somebody is at the front door. Now some wireless camera systems I mentioned earlier have these same features, but these doorbell cameras are a standalone unit that is very affordable. You can identify the face of the person at the door and hold a two-way conversation with them in real time.
This gives you many benefits, especially in the case of the common porch thief we have seen become a trend the past few years. I have watched many videos of homeowners stopping package thieves from taking their amazon boxes simply by calling them out! The doorbell camera senses motion and notifies the homeowner. As soon as the homeowner brings up the live feed, they can tell the thief to drop the package.
Some thieves will obviously just run away with the package, but at least you have the ability to be notified as soon as someone shows up.
Too Many Options
There have got to be thousands of systems to pick from out there, I have yet to count them all. With so many choices available, it can make picking the perfect solution quite impossible. Sometimes you may have to start small and work your way up. Start with a doorbell camera, and when money allows it, add on a few wireless cameras to the perimeter of the home. When you can finally afford the whole nine yards, get a monitoring service installed in your home. There is no reason you can’t keep your old systems in place either to use in conjunction with it, or re purpose it for somewhere else around the home.
The good news is, the small details like camera pixels and infrared range don’t matter like you think it would. Here is what you need to consider most:
- How it will fit in to your daily life (are you going to be proactive in arming the system regularly, or do you want it automated?)
- What are you comfortable installing? Look at contractor costs versus paying the installation cost of a monitoring service if you are not going to do it yourself.
- Understanding and operating the software through an app or computer. Some of these user interfaces are not user-friendly. Wireless systems tend to have a lot of lag bringing live feed up.
This will narrow your searches down quite a bit. If you don’t want to have to remember to charge your cameras once a month, you pretty much ruled out all wireless systems. Don’t let this stop you from investing in a wireless system though, as some systems do allow you to run full time power so you don’t have to run on battery only.
We will talk to all of this
In the coming blog posts, I am going to start showing examples of what each of these levels look like, and we will dive in to the details of how they operate and the associated costs. My family and I invested in a wireless system for our home due to budgetary constraints, but I have installed wired systems in homes before, so I can tell you personally what I like best and what I hate the most in these systems. Hint: Wired is the way to go.
Do you have any of these levels of security implemented already? How do you like it? Feel free to share your experiences below, I would love to hear them!