A connected home security camera keeps you in touch with your home, yard, family, or pets whenever you’re away. Also known as smart cameras, these streaming connected cameras hook up to your home’s Wi-Fi network and offer you a direct view of whatever they’re trained on.
What is a home security camera?
With a home security camera, your home is always just a few taps on a smartphone away. Home security cameras available from Google Nest, Blink, Ring, Eufy, Arlo, and Swann connect to apps that provide you with a live video feed, saved video clips, and audio and motion alerts.
Many home security cameras stream in HD resolution, but there’s also a large range of 2K and even 4K home security cameras. Depending on the model you choose, you may find a smart camera with a 4K sensor, digital zoom, and HDR imaging for the clearest picture possible. You’ll also be able to access 130-degree (or more) viewing angles so you can take in a wide-angle of your home or outdoor space.
Smart cameras are now available for indoor, outdoor, or can be used interchangeably depending on what you need to watch, and they come in a variety of styles including wireless models (powered with a replaceable or rechargeable battery) and semi-wireless (powered via a standard wall outlet)—both of which communicate over your home Wi-Fi. You can also find fully wired solutions where cameras connect via cables to power and to a DVR for storage. Note these usually also enable viewing of captured video over Wi-Fi. The physical design of these cameras also varies from bullet shaped, dome shaped … even cameras mounted within doorbells.
What to consider when choosing a home security camera
There are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself when choosing a Wi-Fi camera or cameras for your home.
Where will you place your home security camera?
The kind of home security camera you’ll choose for your house, or yard, will depend on where you plan on installing it. If you’d like an indoor home security camera, then you will likely prefer a semi-wireless model so it will be connected to power all the time.
When choosing a smart camera for outside of your home, you’ll need to consider whether it needs to be wireless or if you’d like it right at your front door as part of your doorbell system. The availability of Wi-Fi outdoors may also affect where you place the camera. On large properties, a combination of wired, semi-wireless, and wireless solutions may be required to get total coverage.
Wireless cameras are ideal for outdoor areas without power
If you choose a wireless, battery-operated security camera for the outside of your home, you won’t need to worry about a power outlet. You can place these cameras anywhere, and these types of cameras should only need to be recharged every few weeks to every few months. Some wireless brands also offer solar panels to help keep the rechargeable batteries going for very long periods for added convenience.
Doorbell cams are ideal for home entry points like the front door
A very convenient outdoor camera option that provides security at home entry points is the doorbell cam. Most of these function as a regular doorbell with a camera. The camera is often hard-wired to your existing doorbell wiring (though wireless varieties can be added to any entrance even if it never had a doorbell before!). The camera can be set up so any motion will start a recording and send a notification to your mobile device (phone or tablet). You’ll know who is at the door before they ring. Or when they ring the doorbell, you can look on your phone or tablet to see who it is. Most include 2-way audio so you can talk to the person there and say, “No thanks, I’m not interested in encyclopedias” or “Door’s unlocked; come in!”
Cloud storage versus in in-home video storage
One key consideration you will make when purchasing a new security camera or a camera system is about where the captured footage will be stored. Just like files you create on your computer, or photos you take on your phone, the videos captured by a smart camera have to be stored somewhere. Cloud storage is convenient but may require paying regular monthly storage fees. In-home storage allows you more control of the footage, but often is only available when using a wired camera solution.
Video footage is often saved to the cloud for added convenience
Most security camera manufacturers offer cloud storage, where saved images and video clips are stored online (usually at a secure server managed by the brand). You can access video footage using an app on your mobile device, often for a low monthly or annual fee. Brands will offer this type of storage instead of or in addition to an SD memory card within the camera itself. Having access to a cloud storage plan means it’s easy for you to store a large number of video clips (great if you are away from your home for a long duration, like when travelling).
Depending on the type of smart camera you choose, you may be offered free cloud storage for a period of days before your video clips and images expire and disappear. Some brands will offer a trial period for you to try and learn if the benefits of cloud storage match your needs.
Wired Home Security Cameras are an alternative to cloud storage
Individual wireless and semi-wireless cameras can be combined for complete coverage for your property with video accessible over the internet. An alternative, though, is to purchase a complete system with four, eight, or more home security cameras and a DVR to connect them too. These systems come with all you need (cameras, video storage DVR, wiring) all in the box. You don’t have to rely on cloud storage for your video clips, as these systems store your clips right on an included hard drive.
Some wired security systems include 4 or 8 weatherproof bullet cameras to let you view live and recorded 1080p video from an app on your phone. You can record from 4, 8, or 16 channels right on the included hard drive.
Because they’re wired you don’t need to worry about installing batteries or losing footage if your cameras run out of battery when you’re not home. However, you will need to run wires from the camera to the DVR; often that can take a bit of planning to ensure you have the right length of video and power cable to reach from the DVR to the place you’d like to mount each camera.
Ideally, you will also want the DVR to be located where there is a strong Wi-Fi signal. Most DVRs can transmit the video signal onto the internet, so you have access to the camera footage and all stored video clips, on your mobile device no matter where you are in the world.
Installing a home security camera
It’s never been easier to install a wireless or semi-wireless security camera. For most basic installations you’ll need nothing more than a power outlet and your smartphone. You simply plug them in, download an app, and scan a QR code to connect to your camera. The entire process takes approximately five minutes.
Replacing your doorbell with a doorbell security camera may require the use of a drill for creating small pilot holes, and may require turning off the power breaker while you connect the home doorbell wiring to the camera; but the install process is still simple and can easily be done by someone who is new to smart home device installations. And, wired systems may special preparations to enable long wires to get from the DVR to the cameras.
Key features of home security cameras
No matter which home security camera you choose, you’ll find that they all share a few key features that make them a must-have device in your home. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with many of these to get the most from the system you choose. For example, many systems will have a setting to change how the cameras behave depending on if you are home or away that affects how many notifications you get on your phone. No one wants a hundred notifications coming in just because they were out working in their own garden!
Live stream to your mobile device anytime you want
Once your home security camera is connected to your Wi-Fi network you’ll be able to view a live stream of whatever it’s trained on. You can log in via the connected app on your smartphone, tablet, or via a web interface on your computer anytime and take a reassuring look at your home, yard, family, or pets. Once you’re logged in, you can save your own video clips or take snapshots of your view.
Saved video clips
Depending on the type of connected security camera you’ve purchased, you’ll be able to view different lengths of saved video clips. While some security cameras connect to a cloud network to save your clips, you may also have the option of adding a USB flash drive or SD memory card to your camera.
Motion or audio alerts sent to your phone
Although you’ll have peace of mind 24/7 thanks to your smart camera’s live stream of video, most home security camera owners really appreciate the motion alert feature. If the camera detects motion from a certain distance, it will send an alert to your smartphone or tablet. If your home security camera also has audio, you can set it to send you an alert if it detects audio as well. Many people have found this feature a huge comfort when travelling, or even just on a couple’s night out while a sitter is with the children.
Customized motion settings
If you live on a busy road where cars or people frequently walk by, you’ll want to be able to customize your motion settings to avoid false alerts. Home security cameras offer you monitoring zones you can set within the app, so your camera will only trigger motion in a certain space and not in the entire area.
Facial recognition alerts
Certain home security cameras are now equipped with facial recognition software, and if you choose a camera with this feature it will send you detailed alerts based on who it detects in your home. These cameras can tell the difference between a person and an object, and they will zoom in and follow that person as he or she moves through your home.
There’s a lot that can go on in your home or yard when the sun goes down, and having infrared night vision built into your home security camera means you’ll be able to see a crystal clear stream of your home or yard when there’s no light outside.
When you want to talk to whoever is in your home or yard, it’s as easy as logging into your home security camera’s app. Two-way audio lets you see, hear, and interact with people or pets in or near your home.
Weather resistant outdoor home security cameras give you video coverage in the coldest weather. Some models have a weatherproof rating of IP66, while others work in a temperature range from 45 degrees to -20 °C.
What are some popular security camera brands
Now that you have an idea of what to consider when purchasing a home security camera and some of the features you can find, it’s time to look at specific brands. The good news is that there are so many great choices in the world of smart cameras, you might have trouble choosing just one. There is a lot of similarity in the features offered by different brands. For example, many of these will work with a range of smart services and voice assistant services including Apple Homekit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.
Netgear Arlo is available in a range of models for indoors and outdoors, sold individually or as a package of several cameras. The Arlo app is intuitive and easy to navigate from one live feed to anther, and from live to stored video.
- Arlo has a range of wireless camera solutions. Arlo Essential cameras allow you quickly add one or more video cameras anywhere. The Arlo Pro and Arlo Ultra lines enable high quality video recording, up to 4K resolution, and are available in multi-camera bundles for a unified solution. Arlo also has wired and wireless Doorbell cameras, floodlight cameras that record in 2K, and a wide range of accessories to augment your Arlo system (like solar panels as mentioned earlier in this article).
- Cloud storage: Arlo offers a range of cloud video storage options depending on which camera you purchase. You can choose to not pay for a plan, and have either free live streaming or upto seven days of storage (depending on the camera you purchased) or pay for one of several storage plans available for a monthly fee.
Google Nest Cams are available in a few different styles and will automatically work with your existing Google Nest products.
- Outdoor or outdoor Cameras: Google Nest Cams are available in semi-wireless and wireless models. There is also a Google Nest floodlight cam and Google Nest Hello doorbell cameras. Google Nest Cams offer up to 1080p streaming video, night vision facial recognition software to recognize familiar and unfamiliar faces in your home. They also work with Google Home so your voice assistant can announce who triggered motion or sound.
- Cloud storage: Nest offers a 5 day, 7 day, or 30 day paid cloud service that’s charged once per year.
Ring offers a wide variety of smart cameras for indoor and outdoor use including doorbell cams.
- Outdoor Cameras: Ring offers wired and semi-wireless camera solutions that will satisfy almost any homeowner. They also have several styles of video doorbell to suit different tastes. Ring Floodlight can be mounted to the side of your garage or outbuildings and are motion activated to help you find your way in the darkness, and will shine a light on anyone who’s in your yard. One unique feature is the integration with the Ring home monitored security system for a total home security solution.
- Cloud storage: Ring offers a cloud service to store your sound and motion clips. It’s $30 US per year per camera or a very reasonable $100 US per year per home for all your Ring devices.
Blink Wire-Free Home Security System
Capture footage inside or outside your home in full HD with the Blink camera system. The Blink is weatherproof and available in wired or wireless models.
- Indoor/outdoor: blink cameras are thin, light and easy to install. They are available individually or in sets of two, three, or five cameras. Their wire free cameras are powered with long-lasting replaceable lithium batteries. Blink even has a wire-free doorbell model.
- Cloud Storage: enjoy the convenience of mobile surveillance with low cost subscription options so you can access your video footage and get notifications on your mobile devices from anywhere.
Swann wired home security systems
There are many wired camera system manufacturers too, and Swann is one of the most popular. Their system range from simple two camera setups to eight or more. Most systems include a powerful DVR to store your footage and the wiring appropriate for most installations. Alternatively, Swann also has semi-wireless cameras that connect to their own local power outlet, and stream video footage over Wi-Fi to a local NVR (similar to a DVR except the cameras do some of the processing of the video footage to enable streaming the footage over the internet to the recorder attached to your Wi-Fi). Swann systems are mostly powered via the DVR, with power and video cables connected to each camera.
Take the next step
No matter which type of home security camera you choose, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll always have a window to the inside, outside, or front door of your home. Take a look at the full range of home security cameras, available right now on Best Buy.