Home Video Security on the Cheap

27. February 2016 Home Security 0

Introduction

Let’s face it, evil will always be in this world and one of the best things needed to fight it is being prepared by having the right tools. There are many ways to do this depending upon your preferences. However, this article aims to introduce you to cheap home video security options that won’t break the bank. The recommendations within are based on personal experience and I hope you’ll gain some valuable knowledge used to secure your home.

Video Security Camera
Image Source: openclipart.org

Reasons for Securing Your Home

Whether you are at home or away at work, one of the best reasons for securing your home is personal safety. Beyond that, the next best reason is protecting your valuables which you’ve worked so hard over the years to acquire. Criminals will case neighborhoods and look for patterns. This includes when lights are on or people appear to be home and when they come and go. Once a criminal deems your home to be a target they will usually act when it has been determined you are not home.

They will verify your presence by knocking at your door or ringing the doorbell when they believe you are least likely to be home. If nobody answers the door, they break in and ransack your home. Anyone who’s had this personally happen to them can tell you how violated it makes them feel. It’s a horrible feeling and then dealing with insurance companies after the fact to attempt to get compensated for your stolen goods is another nightmare in itself.

To significantly reduce your chances of having to deal with these kinds of things, preparing your home making it unattractive to criminals is the best thing you can do to protect your home. I want to make it important to point out that this doesn’t 100% prevent a criminal from making you a victim but most criminals look for easy targets and don’t want to deal with any obstacles so it’s in your best interest to make as many obstacles or inconveniences as you can for the would-be thief.

Overview of Non-Video Options

This article focuses on video security but I’d like to point out a few other options you should consider before getting into the details. I have compiled a short list of things to consider before looking into video security options.

  1. Secure windows with stoppers – This is a cheap option to prevent your windows from opening too much. For example, if you forget to lock a window and someone tries to slide it up from the outside these stoppers will prevent it from moving any further, depending upon where you installed them. It’s a good idea to install them in such a way which leaves an opening that would prevent a human from getting through. These can be found at most hardware stores or on Amazon here.
  2. Upgrade your locks – Some locks on doors are weak in design so it’s a good idea to do your research and upgrade your locks to withstand maximum force. This will make it much harder to kick open a door. Do your research or call a door expert.
  3. Install switch timers – It’s important to ensure the outside of your home is well-lit when it’s dark. One of the biggest problems is manually turning on lights and forgetting to turn them off. When a would-be criminal sees outside lights on during the day, that’s a dead giveaway that someone is likely not home. Don’t let that happen to you and install automatic switch timers on all of your outdoor lights.

    Most switch timers account for daylight savings time and have random options to ensure lights turn on and off at the proper time windows but not at the same exact time every day. This makes the home look lived in and doesn’t give away that a timer is being used. I recommend the timers found here as I’ve personally used them and find them to be fantastic.

  4. Make your home look lived in when gone – If it appears nobody has been home for a long time then you are looking for trouble. When planning long trips or spending time away from home, make your home appear to be lived in. Install portable switch timers on lamps, televisions, or other equipment. This will ensure lights turn on at night inside the home and televisions appear to be in use.

    Something else you could do that is rather clever is to buy a device that pretends to be a TV being watched. This emits several different types of lights making it appear as if a TV is on. Here’s a great example of such a device.

  5. Use a home alarm system – This option can cost you some money each month but the benefits are obvious. When someone breaks a window, forces open a door, or trips a motion sensor then the alarm sounds. The police will automatically be notified and hopefully the loud noise will drive the intruder away. Another benefit to having this is the signs outside warning of the alarm as that’s a major deterrent itself. Even when you are home it can be set to ensure that if you are sleeping and someone breaks in, you’ll know about it.

This list is not meant to be complete but a good starting point to look into options that would complement home video security.

Reason for Home Video Security

One of the biggest problems in solving a crime is the lack of evidence. If more people had security cameras then evidence could be collected to identity the criminal and put them away so they couldn’t repeat the same crime to others. On top of that, when criminals see signs indicating video recording in progress then they usually look for another target. Also, most systems allow remote monitoring or alerts so things can be monitored and that’s very attractive.

Cheap Home Video Security Options

Sure, you can easily spend thousands of dollars on outside video cameras that withstand the elements and DVR unit that records all the video but why spend all that money when other options exist? More people would have home video security if they knew about the cheaper options. In my opinion, the more people that have home video security the better.

WiFi Cameras

The Internet of Things era has brought us many treasures and one of the best is the WiFi camera. Most of these cameras on the market have motion capturing technology which will send email alerts with the captured images of that event and even allow captured video to be uploaded to the cloud. Some of them have FTP capability to allow uploading of captured videos/images to a server.

I’ve had the best luck with D-Link cameras such as the DCS-932L and the DCS-934L. At the time of this writing, both of these go for around $45.

Note: The recommended configurations will mention using a server. More details will be provided on this later.

Recommended Configuration (camera facing entry/exit points)

  • Install one camera inside the home pointing at each entry/exit point.
  • Keep night vision enabled (if available).
  • Enable motion capture and lower sensitivity to prevent false positives (mainly changes of light).
  • Enable email alerts and configure FTP (if available) to upload images to a server for archival purposes.

Recommended Configuration (camera facing outside)

  • Install cameras in windows facing well lit outside areas.
  • Disable camera LED (if applicable) to prevent window glare.
  • Disable night vision (if applicable) to provide the proper image quality during dark hours.
  • Enable motion capture and lower sensitivity to prevent false positives (mainly changes of light).
  • Enable email alerts and configure FTP (if available) to upload images to a server for archival purposes.
Home Security Server

If you have a computer to spare and can set it up to run all the time you will increase your home security options quite a bit.

FTP

Earlier, I discussed WiFi cameras that have the FTP feature. You could install a local FTP server (e.g. FileZilla) and have the cameras upload the motion captured images to it. Then you could strategically use a cloud backup service like Dropbox to upload the captured images to the cloud, ensuring a copy exists if the server itself is taken. However, you’d want to make sure you create a scheduled task which deletes images older than X amount of days so that you don’t use up your available storage. The task would need to execute a batch file which does the work for you.

Note: Keep in mind that if you enabled email alerts on your camera then any emails sent to you will contain the captured images. As long as you don’t delete those images then your email provider will retain a copy of them for you. With the amount of storage available in services such as Gmail retaining those emails for a longer period of time shouldn’t be a problem.

Video Security Software

There exists some great software in the wild that integrates with any webcam, WiFi camera, etc. You can then setup motion capturing to record video instead of images to your server. The software will have options for how long to keep the recorded video before deleting it and also include email alerts and remote viewing capabilities. Like FTP, I recommend adding the folders where this video is recorded to your cloud storage service. That way you can store the video offsite in case your server is taken.

I’ve had some great luck with Sighthound which has a free version available. However, to get better features you’ll need to pay for an upgraded version. This allows you to hookup more than one camera, have remote viewing, and increased video resolution. Another alternative is Blue Iris but I’ve found the configuration to be more difficult than Sighthound. But the good news is it costs much less than Sighthound for advanced features which makes it a very tempting option.

Recommended Configuration

  • Hookup any unused USB webcams to the server and strategically place them where desired. This may require moving the server.
  • Hookup all available WiFi cameras and strategically place them where desired.
  • Setup motion capturing and email alerts.
  • Setup remote viewing (if available).
  • Configure software to delete videos after X amount of days. Using a batch file to do this is likely not required as most software does this for you.
  • Sync all videos with the cloud to ensure an offsite backup is available.
  • Keep your server up to date with software updates.
  • Install internet security software to protect server against hackers and malware.
  • Hookup server to battery backup to ensure security system is always doing its job. You’ll need to ensure your router, modem, etc. also is hooked up to this for maximum benefit.
Ring Video Doorbell

Another great option is the Ring Video Doorbell. It installs as a replacement doorbell but has a camera, motion capturing, remote viewing, email alerts, and more. When someone rings your doorbell you can use your mobile device to monitor the area, communicate with the person at your door, etc. The only problem is you cannot hookup this camera to any kind of video recording software for use with a server. If you wish to have videos sent to the cloud you can but it will cost you but not much. Nonetheless, this is a great option for some people and it should be looked into.

Install Signs to Warn of Video Recording

I cannot stress enough how important it is to install signs around the home warning people of video recording in progress. Not only does this deter people from committing crimes but it complies with certain laws depending on where you live. I suggest a yard sign (much like a home security yard sign) and window stickers all around your home.

Conclusion

Home security is important and one of the best things a homeowner can do is install video security equipment. This provides evidence, deters criminals, and allows homeowners to keep a pulse on their castles. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars when cheaper yet effective options exist. Everything I’ve gone over is based upon my own personal experience and no doubt other options exist or will eventually exist on the market. Please take what you can from this article and do what works for you. I wish you the best of luck in protecting your home.

Daniel Eagle

Currently residing in the Austin area, Daniel Eagle is an avid gamer, writer, technology/science enthusiast, software developer, and educator. He takes great pride in spreading knowledge and helping others.

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