How To Install Security Cameras
Installing security cameras may sound like a daunting task for anyone who isn’t accustomed to DIY technology. Don’t worry! It felt like that for us at first, too. Now, not only are we experts, but we do these hands-on projects all the time. In fact, the majority of smart home security cameras currently offer DIY installation, which literally means we set it up ourselves instead of hiring a professional.
Depending on where we want to place the camera and its power source, plug-in or battery, installation can range from super easy to difficult. Of course, the installation process differs based on the company and model, but after reviewing dozens of home security cameras, we’ve learned a thing or two about installation. While each camera has particular step-by-step directions, we’ve put together some best practices for installing home security cameras. Keep reading to learn what they are!
Placing Your Home Security Cameras
Our first step to installation is deciding where our security cameras should go. Ideally, we choose where we want our camera(s) to go before making any purchases. By doing this, we determine things like how many cameras we need to cover the house, how long of an extension cord we need, or if we will need to rely on batteries. Previously, we wrote an entire article on where to place security cameras in our homes. Here’s a little summary!
Placing Cameras With Hubs
If our camera requires a hub, there is a maximum distance we can place between the camera and the hub so that it connects over Wi-Fi or another form of connectivity. For example, the Blink XT2 must be within 100 feet of the Sync Modules in order for us to connect through the Blink Home app. On the other hand, if the camera doesn’t come with a hub, we have to make sure that it’s close enough to our router or range extender to get a decent Internet connection and speed. If all else fails, buying a range extender is a simple way to extend our Wi-Fi.
Placing Indoor Security Cameras
In general, we prefer to put our security cameras on the first floor of our home. If we have more than one story, we try to put cameras in common spaces like the main hallway or living room. In this circumstance, is we are more likely to capture criminals’ faces, making it easier to bring them to justice. Additionally, we place a camera right outside our master bedroom, as this is where most people often keep their valuables. We also ensure they are mounted out of reach, so an intruder (or even a mischievous tween) can’t easily break or disarm it. This is especially important with cameras that keep their footage on a memory card inside the camera. Basically, any place that burglars can access via doors or windows should be covered. For the widest possible field of view, we place our cameras in corners, so we get the most bang for our buck. We can also put cameras on stairs to track burglars within our house. However, we don’t recommend putting security cameras in bedrooms or bathrooms, as this can greatly compromise privacy.
Keep in mind that most indoor cameras don’t work through glass due to the glare. If we want to monitor the outside of our home, the solution is simple: there are many weather-resistant outdoor cameras available, which brings us to our next point.
Placing Outdoor Security Cameras
We like to start by covering most, if not all, of our home’s entry and exit points with outdoor cameras. At the very least, we want our front and back doors covered. Outdoor cameras should also be installed in off-street windows, as burglars are more likely to enter through a side or back window than through the front. We also recommend the installation of cameras in one’s driveway, yard, and backyard.
To protect their privacy, we try to avoid any property other than our own. While it’s important to care for our neighbors, recording their day-to-day comings and goings without their knowledge puts the “nosy” in “nosy” neighbors. It’s also illegal and violates an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Placing our outdoor camera is often a bit more complicated than installing an indoor camera, particularly if it plugs into a wall outlet. We may need to use an outdoor plug or snake it into our home somehow. Hardwiring the camera into our home might also be a solution. Typically, wireless cameras are easy to install, whether they’re indoor or outdoor. Of course, if we use batteries, we always need to remember the battery’s typical lifetime and when it needs to be replaced. Nevertheless, at least our camera will stay on in a power outage. Whatever the situation is, indoor cameras require that we consider placement options before we choose our camera.
A University of North Carolina research study interviewed over 400 convicted burglars, them what would deter them from a target home. One of the most frequent and agreed-upon responses was that if the burglars saw a visible camera on the property, they would change their mind about robbing the place. Some experts recommend having one visible camera and installing other, more hidden devices, a strategy we try our best to follow.
A few other tips we tend to implement when placing outdoor cameras include:
- Avoid Direct Light. While we want indirect light for our outdoor cameras, direct/bright light causes glare and color distortion on our footage. To prevent this, we survey the areas we want to place our cameras for light they receive at various times throughout the day before we mount them. We note any direct light sources, including the sun, lamp posts, or anything else that could cause a glare on our footage. If we notice a problem, we move our planned location for the camera just enough to avoid direct light.
- Account for Blind Spots. Just like blindspots, when we drive, blindspots in our security system cause us to miss important information. In our perfect world, we’d all have security cameras with a very wide-angle field of view and the potential to see far in the distance. However, camera makers often narrow a field of view to improve how far the camera can see. Before placing outdoor cameras, we consider the field of view for each camera and do the math to ensure all of the areas around our home are covered with no obstruction to the line of sight.
- Remember Detached Buildings. Too often, we forget to place a camera so it will record footage of separate or adjoining buildings to our home, such as a garage, greenhouse or shed. All of these plus other similar properties frequently house expensive property that draws criminals.
How To Install Security Cameras
Once we figure out where to place our camera, all we’re worried about next is how we do the installation. We prefer to take our home security camera installation step by step. Since every camera is different, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but the steps below are great reference points and help keep us on the right path.
Step One: Our first step takes us back a bit. Once we’ve ordered and purchased our new security cameras, we plan and diagram out where we will place our cameras inside and outside our home.
Step Two: After we decide where we want our cameras, we take them to that location, mount them loosely/temporarily with a small nail or tape, power them on (via either by battery or on the wire), and briefly test it. If it works, we go ahead and mount it permanently. If it doesn’t work, then we haven’t wasted our time installing a product we have to uninstall immediately.
Step Three: Assuming the camera worked during testing, we mount it to it’s intended location on our original diagram.
Step Four: Our final step is also critical. Following our security camera installation, we access our livestream video feed with our mobile app or computer, customize our settings, and confirm everything works correctly.
The sections below continue to go into greater detail about installation for each type of camera.
Installing Wireless Security Cameras
If our camera is wireless, it’ll probably only require either mounting or merely placing it on a flat surface. Mounting typically requires drills, and most cameras come with appropriate mounts. From there, we connect the camera to our Wi-Fi and sync it with any other connected devices that it works with, from smart sensors to video doorbells. These days, most DIY installation processes have step-by-step directions in their respective mobile apps, which we recommend following exactly.
Installing Wired Security Cameras
While our placement options are limited with wired security cameras, our connection is more secure. Installing wired cameras, however, can be a bit more complicated, not surprisingly. If our camera is wired, we may need to hardwire it into our home. Alternatively, we may be able to plug it in and mount it. Some cameras come with DVRs which may be connected via an ethernet cable or power adapter. Hardwiring cameras is the most difficult part to do alone because we need to drill holes, run cables to each camera, and then mount each camera. Now, whenever we attach a camera to a wall or a ceiling, we want to make sure that our spot is stable, which may require finding a stud or using drywall screws. We also always check for any existing wiring before we start drilling, as we don’t want to cause any electrical issues. Next, we mark and drill holes for our cables, run the wiring and mount the camera.
Tip: We’re DIY fanatics most of the time, but if our installation hits a snag or we’re simply running low on time, we like knowing we always call a professional to help us get the job done. Companies like Vivint and ADT actually require professional installation, which is no longer the norm for smart home security.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a general overview on how to install security cameras. To learn about any specific camera, we host a wide range of free expert reviews on Security.org.