You may have chosen not to go with a total home security monitoring solution. Or maybe you just have not looked in to it yet, which I highly encourage you to here.
Sometimes a basic security camera system is all you need so you can check in on your home from time to time. Wireless systems have taken over the security market in the last few years, but not all of them are that great. We will review what you need to know about a typical wireless security camera system so you can pick the right system.
Wireless Security Camera Systems – The down low
A wireless security camera system alone will not provide the best home protection, but it does offer a vital part of it. It takes multiple systems, techniques, and practices put in to place to insure the highest safety of your home and family.
Wireless cameras are now the preferred method of installation in a home or business. If the top rated home security companies are switching to wireless, you know it has to work well.
There are two main advantages to wireless systems, and it is probably already evident to you what they are:
- Easy installation
- No wires to cut
The first one is the primary reason that monitoring companies have switched to wireless. Their technicians no longer have to crawl through attics to run wiring for camera systems. My dad and I have done this before, and it is an all-day event to set up the security system this way. We sweated, we panted, we slipped up, and we drank beer and had a BBQ to celebrate our success after it was done. I can tell you from that experience alone, wireless is the way to go.
Wireless systems pretty much set themselves up, all you have to do is place the cameras where you want them, and then turn them on. The software will automatically configure your cameras (if it is a quality system) and voila, you are online and viewing your home! You can hire a contractor to mount the cameras for you, or if you are a DIY handyman, they all utilize basic tools to mount your cameras anywhere in and out of the home.
The added benefit of a wireless system means that a burglar cannot cut any wires to stop transmitting video. Now, the burglar could attempt to rip the camera off its mount and discard of it, but by the time they accomplish that, you would have received a notification for camera movement and been calling the police.
The Dark Side of the Moon… I mean Cameras!
If this question is not at the forefront of your mind already, I will ask it for you. How do you power the cameras?
That is a great question! There is actually more than one answer to this, because it is not just batteries.
Some wireless systems actually offer small solar panels to plug in to each camera, or they come with the USB cord to plug the camera in to a nearby outlet full time. If your cameras are stationed outside, finding an outlet is not the best solution. If your home is relatively new, it might actually have outlets located under the eaves of the home to provide power to Christmas lights. Not all of us are that fortunate though, and we end up with the electrical cord workings similar to that of the Griswold’s home on Christmas Eve.
Small solar panels are an option too. I would have solar panels on all my cameras if it were not for the high price tag. Not to mention you would have to clean them from time to keep them efficient. If you live in an area that is cloudy 80% of the time, your cameras may just be running on battery power anyway when the solar panels cannot charge them fast enough due to lack of light (hence the dark side of the moon reference). The solar panels need to be located in a sunny area, which means more power cords and additional mounting.
As it turns out, wireless camera systems have some pretty beefy batteries in them. Along with smart algorithms that control how the battery consumes battery life, I have gone 2 months without having to charge a battery in a few of my cameras.
There are drawbacks to battery powered cameras.
A wired system can record 24/7, and typically back up almost 30 day’s worth of recording. This really becomes an advantage is if you are trying to identify an intruder that may have been scoping out your home for a couple of weeks, looking for the same vehicle driving by your house multiple times, so on and so forth. Police officers benefit from weeks worth of recording, as it assists them when trying to identify potential suspects and motives.
Wireless cameras are programmed to record on motion. Any time something moves within the cameras view, it starts recording. This is more than enough for you to get an alert on your phone and pull up the camera to see what caused the commotion, but the motion sensor may not trigger every time a vehicle passes by the house. You do not get the full benefit of 24/7 recording.
So we lose the ability to record 24/7 and we have the task of charging batteries from time to time. Not the worst thing in the world, but it reiterates the importance of being proactive with your family’s safety. Having multiple security systems in place will help fill the gaps in your homes protection.
Hybrid Wireless Cameras
They do exist, and they are essentially what we just covered in the previous paragraphs. They send the video feed through a wireless signal, but they are supplied electrical power 24/7. Vivint is a great example of these hybrid systems. In the event of a power outage, the entire security system will continue to operate on battery backup for 24-48 hours. Each sensor and camera has a battery backup, and the central Smart Hub that receives the data runs on battery backup as well.
This is especially important if the thieves attempt to outwit the security system by turning off your homes power. You can read up on how this actually happened in my neighborhood here.
The most important aspects you gain from this are:
- 24/7 live recording
- No batteries to recharge every month or so
- Maintenance free security
Keep this in mind when looking security systems over. It may be worth it to you to pay the monthly subscription of a monitoring system in order to gain these benefits.
How Safe is the Data Over Wireless?
Another great question you brought up! This is easy.
Let me ask you… is your WiFi password protected?
If yes, then you are more than safe!
If not, why have you not done this yet? Your neighbors could be bumming your internet off you!
To be serious, we do not need to go in to all the details about the encrypted data that is transmitted through special Z-wave technology to ensure that nobody hacks in to your security cameras.
If a hacker is that desperate that they need to break through your internet firewall and encrypt secure code to gain access to your wireless security camera feed, you must be hiding something really cool and worthwhile, and reading this blog would be the last thing on your mind.
Even if a sophisticated burglar has the technology to access your WiFi signal from their vehicle, they need to get close enough to your home to start the process. By the time that happens, your cameras have picked them up through motion and you are wondering why a random vehicle is parked near your home with occupants in it doing seemingly nothing (hint: this should always raise a red flag to you).
The better wireless security systems actually have algorithms that detect when the wireless signal is being tampered with, and will set off an alarm to notify you of a security signal “break-in”. This is one of the main reasons investing in a higher quality camera system is better.
Not All Systems are Created Equal
It is important that when you are looking at wireless camera systems that you verify they have the capabilities we have discussed here.
Are you willing to utilize a ladder or step stool every time to get to your cameras so you can charge the battery?
Will you spend the extra time to run a power cord to the camera?
Can you invest in small solar panels to keep your cameras powered up?
In the event of a power outage, will the system keep monitoring your home?
Do you want 24/7 video recording, or based on motion only, or both?
Let me know in the comments below to help you decide what you need!