If you’re like most people, you’re probably wondering what the best type of security camera to buy for your home is. Do you go with a wired or wireless model?
What type of security camera should I buy for my house? Wired security cameras typically require professional installation but they are more reliable and have a higher quality image than wireless security cameras. Wireless security cameras are easier to install and are more portable than wired security cameras.
The answer to that question can be a little tricky since it depends on your specific needs and preferences. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of each option to help you decide which is right for you.
Wireless Security Cameras
Wireless cameras were designed with the homeowner in mind because of their ease of installation. Professional security companies rarely install wireless cameras unless there is absolutely no way of running a cable to the camera.
Even though wireless cameras are easier to install than hardwired cameras, there are times when wireless is not the best solution and may not even work properly. Let’s go over the basics of wireless cameras.
How do you power wireless cameras?
Wireless cameras need power. There are three ways of powering wireless cameras:
1- By plugging the camera into an electrical outlet
2- Using batteries to power the camera
3- Using a solar panel mounted near the camera
Providing power to an indoor camera is usually not a problem since you can plug it into any available electrical outlet.
Since the power source is low voltage, the wires can be snaked in the walls to be out of sight, or the cameras can just be placed on a table or counter and plugged into the nearest electrical outlet.
On the other hand, outdoor cameras are much harder to power because there aren’t that many electrical outlets outside the house, especially in the areas where you are likely to mount a camera.
When I install outdoor wireless cameras, I usually mount the camera on a wall with an electrical outlet nearby inside the house. I drill a small hole next to the electrical outlet, being careful not to drill into the electrical wires from inside the house to the outside.
I then pass the wire through the wall, plug the power cable into the camera and plug the other end into the electrical outlet.
Battery operated cameras
Battery-operated cameras have no wires, and they are effortless to install. They can be mounted on the wall or ceiling without showing any cables, and all you need is a strong Wi-Fi signal, and you’re all set.
It takes a few minutes from taking the camera out of the box to configuring the camera and viewing it on your smartphone.
They are also small, blend in the background on a shelf or countertop, and are great if you don’t want the cameras to stick out like a sore thumb.
Battery-operated cameras record video whenever there is motion detected. They are not meant to record continuously; otherwise, the batteries will drain quickly.
Therefore, you will need to replace or recharge the batteries every few weeks to few months, depending on the amount of motion in front of the camera.
The more people walk around in front of the camera, the more the camera will record and the faster the batteries will drain.
So it makes sense that battery-operated cameras are not the best choice for areas with a lot of movement. I prefer to install a plug-in camera where many people walk around in the camera’s view to prevent constant battery replacement.
The third option is installing a small solar panel next to the camera, which applies to only outdoor cameras. Solar panels are used with battery-powered cameras to charge the batteries during the day.
Solar panels are an easy way of powering cameras without hiring an electrician to install an electrical outlet near the camera or drilling holes into your house to get power from an electrical outlet.
For your wireless camera to work properly, you will need to install the camera in an area of your home with a strong Wi-Fi signal.
Do wireless security cameras need a wifi connection?
Connecting a wireless camera to a weak Wi-Fi signal can cause the camera to load slowly or not connect at all when trying to view it from your smartphone.
If you find that you have a weak Wi-Fi signal in some areas of your home and connecting the cameras to your home’s Wi-Fi is a problem, then you can boost your home’s Wi-Fi signal with a Wi-Fi repeater or wireless access point.
What are the limitations of wireless cameras?
The main limitation of wireless cameras is the lag time, camera resolution, and frame rate compared to hardwired cameras.
The lag time of a wireless camera
The lag time is the time it takes for a camera to process the video and transmit it to the video recorder or your smartphone over the network.
The lag time of a wireless security camera is typically around 3-4 seconds, but the lag time could be longer, up to 5-10 seconds, if the camera is connected to a weak Wi-Fi signal.
This might not sound like a big deal, but a long lag time can be very annoying if you need to see something in real-time.
The resolution of wireless cameras
A camera’s video resolution or the clarity of the camera is measured in pixels. The more pixels the image comprises, the clearer the picture will be.
Most wireless cameras have a resolution of 2 to 4 megapixels (two to four million pixels), while the maximum resolution of hardwired cameras is 12 megapixels.
This is a big difference in the clarity of the image when compared to a hardwired camera, but a two or four-megapixel camera has a clear enough picture to get the job done in most situations.
What is the frame rate of a camera?
The frame rate of a security camera is the number of pictures per second that makes up the video image.
A frame rate of 30 frames per second is considered real-time, meaning that seeing a person walking down the street at 30 frames per second will be very smooth and fluid.
However, viewing a camera with only five frames per second will be very choppy and not smooth.
Most high-resolution wired cameras record at around 15 frames per second, while wireless cameras typically have a slightly lower frame rate, which varies between camera manufacturers.
Even though wireless cameras have a lower frame rate when compared to wired cameras, a low frame rate is not always an issue.
For example, A camera pointed at your front door to get a view of someone ringing your doorbell doesn’t require a high frame rate because there isn’t that much movement in the camera’s view.
On the other hand, a low frame rate camera pointed at the street will not get a clear image of a fast-moving car and will most likely result in a blurry image of the vehicles passing by.
So, a little thought and planning needs to go into the placement of the wireless cameras before you go to the trouble of installing them.
Do wireless cameras slow down your internet connection?
Installing wireless cameras on your Wi-Fi network will slow down your internet connection but only when viewing the cameras. Since most wireless cameras can only be viewed one at a time from your smartphone, the difference in speed is not that noticeable.
Are wireless security cameras reliable?
Wireless security cameras are only as reliable as their Wi-Fi connection and the general quality of the camera itself. I have installed wireless cameras that have never had any problems while others were a constant headache and eventually replaced.
There are so many wireless cameras available on the market, with prices ranging from $50 to $250. You need to check the reviews and do your homework before buying a security camera. I have installed thousands of cameras over the years, and I’ll put a link to my favorite cameras on my recommended products page.
Can wireless security cameras be hacked?
Anything that is connected to the internet can be hacked sooner or later. Security cameras are no exception, and some measures need to be taken to ensure you don’t get hacked.
What can you do to keep from getting hacked?
- Always update the app for your wireless security cameras. Software updates include security updates and bug fixes.
- Change the password for the app regularly and never use the same password for all your apps.
- Make sure you have a secure password for your wifi network.
For more information, check out the article I wrote titled, can security cameras be hacked.
Do wireless security cameras have night vision?
Yes, wireless cameras have night vision. During the day, the cameras operate in color mode, but at night, most cameras switch to black and white mode. Generally speaking, all wired or wireless cameras will have a much better picture during the day than they do at night.
Wireless security cameras use infrared LED bulbs positioned around the camera’s lens to shine light into the camera’s field of view. Infrared lights as not visible to the human eye but only visible to the camera.
There is, however, a limit to how far these lights can shine, and therefore so is the distance that you can see objects at night with your camera.
When a camera turns on its infrared lights at night, it uses considerably more power than it does during the day, so this can be an issue with battery-operated cameras.
You might find yourself constantly changing the batteries in your cameras if they are positioned in an area where the camera is constantly recording at night.
Keep this in mind when selecting cameras for your home or business, and to learn more about how cameras work at night, take a look at an article I wrote about improving your camera’s night vision.
Can you record video from wireless security cameras?
Some wireless cameras can record video, and some do not, depending on the manufacturer of the camera. There are three ways to record video on wireless cameras:
Recording on an SD card
This method uses a memory card to record video inside the camera. The amount of recording is limited to the size of the memory card, so it makes sense that recording is only activated when the camera detects motion.
You can view the video footage by logging into the camera through an app on your phone or through a web browser on your computer.
Recording to the cloud
Some wireless cameras give you the option to record to the cloud for an extra fee. It only costs about $3 to $5 per month, and most of them give you a discount if you pay for the entire year upfront. Video footage is stored for a certain period before it is deleted.
Some services keep the video footage only for a week, 30 days, and some for up to six months.
Recording to a Digital Video Recorder
You can also integrate compatible wireless cameras with your hardwired cameras and record to the same DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or NVR (Network Video Recorder).
Integrating wireless cameras with a wired system is sometimes necessary when you can’t run a cable from the DVR to certain parts of the house.
Wired security cameras
With wired security cameras, a cable runs from a digital video recorder to the camera, and this cable can be a maximum of 1500 feet in length. However, a cable run of 75 to 300 feet is the average length for most installations.
Installing wired security cameras could be easy or complicated, depending on the house’s layout or building and working conditions.
I have installed thousands of cameras, and after 27 years as an installer, some houses and job sites still make me want to pack it up and go home, but I still manage to get the most challenging installations done somehow.
How many types of wired security cameras are there?
Years ago, security cameras were all called analog cameras. Analog cameras were low-resolution cameras, and the video from these cameras wasn’t very clear.
You could barely recognize someone’s face even when they were standing only a few feet from the camera.
But today, there are several different types of cameras with very sharp high-definition images that can read a license plate from hundreds of yards away.
Security cameras are broken into two categories: analog or IP (Internet Protocol).
Let’s go over the different formats of wired cameras:
Analog cameras are wired to a digital video recorder, also known as a DVR. Initially, all analog cameras were the same.
There was only one format, and all security cameras were compatible with one another. If you had a defective camera, you would buy any security camera, and it would work with your existing cameras.
This is no longer the case. Now there are four formats of analog cameras. These different formats are not compatible unless you have a hybrid digital video recorder that accommodates all the different types of camera formats.
What are the different analog formats?
- HD-TVI stands for High Definition Transport Video Interface. This format is used by Hikvision which is the biggest camera manufacturer in the world.
- HD-CVI stands for High Composite Video Interface. This format is used by Dahua which is the second largest camera manufacturer in the world.
- AHD stands for Analog High Definition. AHD never really caught on in the security industry and the number of security cameras available in this format is limited.
- CVBS stands for Composite Video Blanking and Sync, and this is the traditional analog signal from analog cameras. CVBS cameras are still in production even though traditional low-resolution cameras are obsolete. Replacement cameras are still needed since there are millions of analog camera systems still in use today.
I’m not going to bore you with the differences of these formats, but HD-TVI and HD-CVI are the most common formats of analog cameras used today, and there is very little difference in the quality and resolution of these two formats.
Digital Video Recorders for analog cameras
Since there are four different formats of security cameras available, it makes sense that there are also four formats of DVRs available. Whichever camera you choose, you have the option of buying a DVR that is compatible with only the format of that camera, or you can buy a hybrid DVR that is compatible with all four formats mentioned above.
Hybrid DVRs are slightly more expensive, but I only purchase hybrid DVRs, so I don’t have to worry about compatibility issues if I have to replace a camera at some point.
IP cameras and analog cameras are very different. An analog security camera has an actual video output connection, meaning that you can connect an analog camera to a video monitor and view the video from the camera.
An IP security camera does not have a physical video connection. An IP camera has a network connection that plugs into your home or office network or to the back of a Network Video Recorder (NVR).
An IP camera is a device that resides on a computer network, and the only way to view the camera is through a computer’s web browser, a network video recorder, or an app on your smartphone.
What type of cables are used for analog or IP cameras?
There are two types of wires or cables that we can use for security cameras:
- Coaxial cable, which is the same cable used for your cable TV
- Category 5e or category 6 network cable, also called cat 5e or cat 6
Analog cameras can use either coaxial cable or network cable cat 5e or cat 6, while IP cameras can only use a network cable.
Who installs wired security cameras?
Are you interested in installing cameras for your home or business but don’t know who to call? Several types of companies can install security cameras:
- Alarm companies
- Audio and video installation companies
- Electrical contractors
- Companies that specialize in only security cameras.
Out of the four options above, it would probably make sense to find a company in your area that only specializes in security cameras. Even though the other options listed above can get the job done, I would hire a specialist.
Very few companies only specialize in security cameras, just because it doesn’t make sense for a security company not to offer other security services. Still, a company that only specializes in video surveillance will be far more knowledgeable in the functions and features of the equipment.
My second choice would be to hire an alarm company, but keep in mind that alarm companies install burglar alarms, fire alarms, intercom systems, card access, and security cameras.
Based on my experience, I’m sure this doesn’t apply to every alarm company, but there are usually only a few people within most alarm companies knowledgeable about video surveillance.
Are wired security cameras reliable?
One of the main benefits of using wired security cameras is that they are more reliable than wireless cameras because they don’t rely on Wi-Fi. The upfront cost of wired cameras may be more expensive, but they will provide many years of reliable service if installed correctly.
Keep in mind that all security cameras are not created equal. Some cameras come with a one-year warranty, while others have a three-year or five-year warranty.
I’ve installed wired cameras that stopped working six months after the installation, but they were cheap cameras without even a brand name on the box. So always make sure you select a well-known brand name camera with at least a five-year warranty.
Can wired security cameras be hacked?
As I mentioned before, anything connected to the internet is susceptible to hacking, and wired security cameras are no exception, but wired security cameras don’t have to be connected to the internet to work.
Whether analog or IP, Wired security cameras can be installed to be viewed internally without an internet connection.
Even though it is nice to view your cameras remotely from a smartphone or a computer, sometimes sensitive video footage needs to be kept out of the reach of hackers, and the best way is not to connect the security cameras to the internet.
On the other hand, wireless security cameras will need to be connected to the internet because the only way to view wireless cameras is on a smartphone or tablet.
Wired security camera recording options?
Recording to a hard drive
We can record Analog and IP security cameras onto a hard drive. A hard drive inside the Digital Video Recorder for analog cameras and a Network Video Recorder for IP cameras can record video footage anywhere from one week to several months, depending on the size of the hard drive.
Recording Analog and IP cameras to the cloud
Recording on a hard drive is the most economical way to record video footage from your security cameras, but what happens if someone steals your hard drive?
Cloud storage is an available option for anyone who wants to back up their security footage offsite. However, this option is mainly used in commercial applications because there is an additional fee associated with offsite storage.
Recording on an SD card
Some IP cameras have a slot to insert a memory card to record video without the need for an NVR and hard drive.
You can either log into the camera using your computer’s web browser or software from the camera’s manufacturer installed on your computer to view the video recording.
The only downside is that memory cards can only record for a short period, maybe one or two days compared to weeks or months compared to hard drives and cloud storage.
How much does it cost to install wired security cameras?
The cost to install security cameras can vary depending on the company you hire, the part of the country you live in, and the type of security cameras you install.
Most alarm companies will charge anywhere from $250 to $800 on average per camera, depending on the type and resolution of the camera and the difficulty of the installation.
Check out the article I wrote titled how much does it cost to install security cameras for more information.