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How to Hardwire Home Surveillance Cameras

Want a home surveillance system you can count on for clear, reliable video?  Security experts recommend hardwired CCTV security systems for a variety of important reasons:

[media-credit name=”Saknakorn | Shutterstock” align=”alignnone” width=”765″]hardwired home surveillance camera[/media-credit]

  • Wired security cameras provide high-definition video—good enough to read license plates and recognize faces, while many wireless systems still deliver lower resolution images. If you want to use your cameras to find out whose dog is pooping on your lawn and who’s not cleaning it up, for example, go hardwired.[GARD align=”right”]
  • Wireless camera systems can be hacked—meaning that some digital 16-year-old computer whiz neighbor, or maybe some more malicious hacker, could potentially steal your video signals to learn about your household routines and property; hard-wired systems can’t be hacked and are therefore more secure.
  • Wired camera systems protect your property 24/7. Wireless systems are prone to intermittent performance issues related to poor signal strength and radio interference. Wireless signals have limited range and cannot penetrate masonry materials to feed the DVR that records the images.

But, wireless systems are fast improving, and for homeowners either on a budget or attracted to the smartphone surveillance opportunities they offer, wireless may indeed be the right answer. So, there’s another reason, I suspect, that professional security installers recommend wired over wireless systems: They think that most civilians can’t or are unwilling to take on the wiring themselves, and therein lies their paycheck.

It’s not that difficult, though, and the aforementioned benefits of a wired system are real (and, wired systems now include WiFi-enabled smartphone surveillance, as well, offering the best of both worlds). If you have the skills to hook up your cable box to your TV, and are willing to fish a little wire for cosmetic purposes, you can save some real money by wiring your own home security camera system.

Security Gear You Need

You can buy home surveillance system components à la carte, including cameras, a DVR for recording, and cables and connectors, but if you want to install two or more cameras, it’s advisable to start with a packaged system that’s more likely to have most of what you’ll need in compatible formats. For the best results, look for a system that includes the following:

This Q-See 4-channel video surveillance system provides a DVR, two bullet-style cameras and two dome cameras. Cables and connectors are also included in the kit.

[/media-credit] This Q-See 4-channel video surveillance system provides a DVR, two bullet-style cameras and two dome cameras. Cables and connectors are also included in the kit.

  • A DVR with H960 compression, remote viewing via WiFi, motion detection, and a 1 TB hard drive. Most DVRs can be connected to a TV via a high-speed Internet connection for monitoring.
  • H960 cameras with 700TVL resolution, night vision, weatherproof bodies and mounting hardware.
  • Cables and connectors for each camera.
  • PC and Mac compatibility.
  • Applications for the types of phones and computers that you own, email alerts and incident snapshots.

Note that in some systems, the standalone DVR can be replaced with a PC-based DVR card, which plugs into the PCI slot of your computer and uses it to record and monitor images from the cameras. Generally speaking, one DVR card can monitor up to four cameras; most desktop PCs have PCI slots for two cards.

Cameras are available in a number of styles. Those most often used in home security applications include:

  • Dome security cameras—used most often for indoor applications.
  • Bullet security cameras—about the size of a finger; unobtrusive.
  • Box security cameras—fairly large; good deterrent when mounted in the open.

Depending on the number of cameras and channels in the DVR, a complete package would range from about $200 (2 channels) to about $600 (8 channels).

If you work with a kit, all of the cables should be included and the connections should be compatible with the components to which they must be joined. If you choose to acquire components separately or don’t find everything you need in the kit, you may need to acquire cables and connectors to get the job done.

Siamese video security cable

[/media-credit] Siamese Cable

Here are the basics:

 

Siamese cable is available in rolls, and if you work with bulk cable, you’ll need to splice connectors at each end to mate with the camera and power source. Although it’s a simple connection, you should consult an electrician if you’re not already familiar with splicing cable.

 

BNC cable connector

[/media-credit] BNC Connector

Connectors. At the camera connection, the electrician will splice one connector to the hot and neutral wires to plug into the power feed in the camera’s wiring harness, or “pigtail,” and another to plug the video conductor into a mating fitting on the harness’s video feed. At the other end of the cable, they’ll use a connector to plug into the power source.

RCA Connectors

[/media-credit] RCA Connectors

The connectors most often used are BNC connectors and RCA connectors, as shown here.

 

BNC-to-RCA-Adapter

[/media-credit] BNC-to-RCA Adapter

Adapters. If you find mismatched connectors as you work to wire the system components, you can always correct the issue with an adapter, such as the BNC to RCA adapter shown.

Connect & Test

Once you have items from your system kit unpacked, it’s a good idea to test the DVR, cameras and cables before mounting the cameras.

  • Unpack the DVR and plug it into the power supply; if you’re using one or more DVR-cards in place of a standalone DVR, install the card(s) in the PCI slots in the CPU.
  • Unpack a camera and find the pigtails with BNC or RCA connectors that match the ports on the camera.
  • Connect the Siamese cable to the pigtail, and then plug the other end into the DVR.
  • Power on the DVR and check the monitor to see that you have an image.
  • Repeat the test with each camera, pigtail and cable set.

Mount the Cameras

Once you’ve verified that all the components can be connected and all are working properly, mount the cameras in locations that you want to keep an eye on. Typical locations are:

  • At the front door so you can identify people approaching and/or calling on you.
  • At a back door or other entry points around your home that can’t be seen from the street and are vulnerable to unauthorized entry.
  • In children’s rooms so you can keep an eye on what they’re up to when they’re alone there.
  • At outdoor pool areas so you can monitor children and guests playing near the water.
  • Wherever you might store valuables or firearms.

Just bear in mind that cameras designed for indoor use will eventually fail if they’re deployed outdoors.

Compatible camera mounts that can be conveniently fastened to walls, ceilings and outdoor soffits are generally provided along with other necessary components in surveillance system kits. Simply screw them in place, mount the camera, plug in the pigtail and connect the cable.

Run the Cables

Cables can be stapled to walls and ceilings en route to where they plug into a power source. For a cleaner appearance, you may wish to drill holes near each camera mount and fish the cables through walls, floors and ceilings so they are concealed on their path to the power source.

Once you’ve got your video surveillance system setup, you can feel secure in the knowledge that not only will you be able to keep tabs on the covered areas via smart device, but also that the mere presence of surveillance cameras has proven a powerful deterrent to all kinds of misbehavior.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Chotiner, a former general contractor, knows what it takes to do more advanced DIY projects and likes to share “tutorials” for The Home Depot.  The wired cameras he talks about in this article are an important part of home security.  To see a wide selection of home security kits and cameras, visit The Home Depot.

Best Home Security Companies

There are three major home security companies, offering a range of packages. All meet UL and National Fire Protection Association standards.

 

ADT Home Security

ADT has been around for over 100 years and has multiple central monitoring stations, so if one center is interrupted, another station takes over. All of its stations have multiple back-up systems.

ADT offers a Web special that includes a quick-connect control panel, two door or window contacts, a motion detector, a wireless key chain remote, one power supply and 24-hour battery, plus signs and decals. This offer lists for $299 (with a $200 rebate). The monthly monitoring fee is $42.99.[GARD align=”left”]

The Essentials Plus package comes with a Pro 3000 hardwired control panel, a Pro 3000 standard touchpad, two door or window contacts, a motion detector, an indoor sounder, one power supply and 24-hour battery, plus signs and decals. The cost is $315 (no rebate). The monitoring fee is $33.99 per month.

Both packages offer the company’s Quality Service Plan with a three-year commitment.

 

Brinks Home Security

Brinks has been in business since 1983. It is a full-service provider with emergency back-up facilities and does not contract out its monitoring services.

The basic package starts at $49 and includes a standard keypad, two door or window sensors, a motion detector, an interior siren, a master control panel, plus signs and decals. The standard keypad allows you to enter simple numeric numbers to arm or disarm the system and has three emergency buttons.

The premium packages start at $155 and include a premium keypad, three door or window sensors, a motion detector, an interior siren, a master control panel, plus signs and decals. The premium keypad has a backlit, user-friendly digital keypad that uses a large display to walk you through the system’s functions. The master control panel includes an enclosed back-up battery in the event of a power outage.

Monitoring services run $29.99 a month if you sign up for a three-year contract.

 

Alarm One

Alarm One has been in existence since 1996 and is a full-service provider as well.[GARD align=”right”]

Its Secure Family Package is completely wireless and ideal for small or medium-sized homes. System equipment and installation are free, for the activation fee of $99. It comes with a master control panel (with two-way intercom), two door or window sensors, a motion detector with pet immunity, a back-up power supply, plus signs and decals.

The A One Premium Package offers the same activation fee with the option of an upgrade to three door or window sensors, wireless remote controls, and an extended repair service.

Both systems require a three-year monitoring contract.

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Home Security

Would you like to make your home more secure against burglary or fire? Or would you like to enable an aging parent to get help in a hurry if needed? An electronic security system can offer both protection and peace of mind.

There are limitless options in the world of home security. Modern home security systems can range from simple motion-control sensors to hard-wired window and door devices to wireless video cameras and high-tech property surveillance systems that are wired right into your home computer network.

Some systems can be self-installed in a couple hours, while others require professional installation and monitoring.In this section of HomeTips, you will find information on selecting and installing the right home security system for your needs.

NEXT SEE:

• Home Security Alarm Systems Buying Guide
• How a Home Alarm System Works

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Home Alarm or Security System Installation Pro

How a Home Alarm System Works

Hardwired and wireless alarm systems have made protecting your home and family easy and affordable.

You want your family and your property protected from harm, be it a home invasion or a fire. Fortunately, home protection has become more sophisticated and at the same time simpler.

Photo: Brinks

House alarm systems are about peace of mind, ensuring the safety of your family and your property while dissuading potential intruders. Unfortunately, most people consider a house alarm system only after they’ve just been burglarized.

The most common type of home protection is the house alarm. Security alarms have sensors that are connected to a control unit via either a high-voltage hardwire or narrowband radio-frequency signal that interacts with a response device.

The most common types of sensors indicate the opening of a door or window or detect smoke. Most infrared sensors are for indoor use only. Outside sensors are available but are costlier and are not false alarm–proof.

If there is an unauthorized entry, an active alarm system sends a signal to a central monitoring station, which monitors systems every minute of every day. If necessary, the central monitoring station alerts local police to send an officer to your home.

Quality alarm systems combine audible and silent alarms triggered by sensors placed throughout the home, not just on doors and windows. It is recommended to use a combination of both hardwired and wireless sensor technologies for fewer false alarms. Some alarm companies do not offer the wireless option, even though it is the easier of the two types to install.

Entry-level wired systems utilize a “star network” topology where the panel is placed centrally and all devices “home run” their wires back to the panel. Installation of a hardwired system is obviously much cheaper if wiring already exists in the home.

If no pre-wiring exists, wireless is a less costly option because installers do not have to drill any holes, lift any carpets, nor string any wires throughout the house. Wireless systems, however, do require frequent changes of lithium batteries to maintain their effectiveness. One or two wireless repeaters may be required to get the signal reliably back to the alarm panel. Wireless systems are also easier to expand outdoors because they do not require any ditches to be dug.

The main control panel for an alarm system is usually hidden in a closet or garage because hiding the “main brains“ lowers the risk of a burglar disabling the system. A keypad is placed inside the house, usually by the front door, where residents can easily arm or disarm the system as they come and go. Another keypad near the bedrooms allows for convenient arming of the system at night.

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Home Security Alarm Systems Buying Guide

With concerns about crime and safety, home security systems have come into demand in recent years. home security alarm systems padlockStatistics show that houses protected by security systems are only a third as likely as unprotected housed to be burglarized, and those broken into tend to have much smaller losses. Electronic security systems that connect to phone lines are offered by telephone monitoring services that respond to calls. These services can track not only burglaries but medical emergencies and fires.

Monitored or Non-Monitored Security

Home alarms may be monitored or non-monitored, meaning they’re either linked to a central monitoring response office or they are simply linked to an alarm mounted on the house.

Monitored Security Alarms

Alarm companies charge a monthly fee in addition to the installation fee. The monthly fee is based on the options you have chosen and the length of your contract.[GARD align=”left”]

Monitoring companies receive an intruder signal when the system is tripped and the control panel sends relevant information to the central monitoring station over standard phone lines. You are then contacted by the station within 10 seconds, either by telephone or over the intercom system. The station asks you to verify yourself using your name and pass code. If you cannot provide the pass code, the monitoring station sends the police.

When you sign up with a monitoring station, you provide information on the primary, secondary, and tertiary contacts to be notified if you are not at home. Smaller alarm companies often contract with third-party monitoring stations. Typically, this arrangement costs you less but is riskier because smaller alarm companies do not have to adhere to the same standards as the large ones.

Large home security monitoring companies usually have in-house central stations that simultaneously watch over thousands of homes and businesses. These services cost more because they are verified by the independent non-profit Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which tests their products and services for maximum safety and reliability. Larger, internally managed stations must also contact authorities within 45 seconds and have a reliable back-up system of 10 to 15 days in case of a power outage.

Non-monitored Security Alarms

A non-monitored alarm system, which is not linked to a central monitoring station, costs a lot less. This type of system dials the local police directly when your system detects an intruder or sounds a siren and/or flashes your home’s exterior lights.

With non-monitored security, you eliminate monthly service fees, but you run the risk of being fined by local police for false alarms. In addition, response time by the police is not guaranteed, and, if you live in an urban area, you may not be able to count on neighbors responding, especially given the time of day of the break-in.

Wired or Wireless Systems

There are two main types of systems installed in homes: wired and wireless. Both types consist of sensors placed at strategic locations throughout the house that communicate with a central control unit. The control unit, in turn, is linked to an alarm and, in some cases, to an automatic telephone dialer or Internet connection that summons help from a monitoring company.

A wired security system is connected by small, low-voltage wires; because such a system requires routing wire discreetly throughout the house, it’s usually installed by an alarm company, although some do-it-yourself models are available.

A wireless security system employs tiny radio transmitters that can signal the central control unit when activated. Although it’s a bit less reliable than a wired model, it’s much easier to install.

All control units have batteries that kick in if there is a power failure or if the wires are cut. Some even have batteries that automatically recharge when the unit is online with the household power.

Equipment Options

Alarm systems come with the following options:

• Standard for all systems, the hidden control panel, with its power source, is the brains of the system and is connected to all other components, including one standard phone line.

• A security keypad is also standard and designed for easy arming and disarming. For convenience, the keypad tells you whether your system is armed correctly or not. For an additional cost, you may have additional keypads installed.

• PIR (Passive Infrared) Detectors, commonly known as motion detectors, use sensors to detect changes in infrared energy levels in the form of heat and motion. Typically, they are installed high up on walls, or over doors or windows. Look for sensors that meet American National Standards Institute and SIAC standards. Installers should be certified with The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and/or by state.

• Door and window contacts are magnetic devices placed along door jambs and window frames to trigger the armed alarm system if doors or windows are opened. Some systems include a chime that goes off whenever a door or window has been opened—very useful if you have young children with the urge to explore the great outdoors.

• Audio discriminators are sensors that convert the acoustic shock waves of glass breaking into an electrical signal that sets off the system.

• Sirens come in the form of bells, horns, or strobe lights. Sirens can be installed inside (usually in an attic) or outside the home and usually draw immediate neighborhood attention to an intrusion.

• Signs and stickers usually come as part of the alarm system package. Both are useful as warnings to potential intruders your home is protected.

• A 24-hour back-up system kicks in if your phone line is cut or your power is shut off.
There is also a back-up system that can maintain your alarm system using a battery for up to 72 hours. Back-up systems are essential if your home uses a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) primary phone system because most alarm systems are not compatible with VoIP. A cell phone back-up allows the monitoring station to contact you on your cell phone.

• Certain keypads act as two-way intercoms with your monitoring company, allowing for instant voice communication. Instead of phoning the house to verify an alarm, the monitoring company simply speaks to you over the intercom.

• A remote control can disarm your system from a few feet away and without the need to enter a code into a keypad. The disadvantage of a remote control is that you cannot confirm if your system is on, which makes tripping the alarm possible. Also, if the remote control is stolen, thieves have an easy way to disarm your system.

• A monitored smoke detector will send a signal to the central monitoring station if smoke is present in your home. Units usually have separate channels or zones for burglar and fire sensors.

• There are two options if you have indoor pets. One is a device that can identify the difference between a human and a pet that weighs up to 100 pounds. It has a dual-element sensor, which requires two sets of beams to be tripped simultaneously. It is difficult for one pet to trigger both alarms; however, be aware that multiple pets playing or fighting could accidentally set off the alarm. The second option is creating a pet alley by placing beams high enough above the floor so that movement by a pet won‘t be detected.

• A single video camera and monitor can be added to your system, as well as a complex closed circuit television (CCTV) with several cameras, multiple operators, and digital recorders.

A home security system is a worthy investment for your home.

Shopping for Security Alarms

There are a handful of house alarm companies that also manufacture monitoring equipment. These companies then provide their products to thousands of dealers that sell the equipment and install the alarm systems.

Be wary of companies that install proprietary systems that they claim only work with their licensed monitoring systems. Also alarm companies that will not allow you to change your pass code on your own or switch to another monitoring company when your contract has ended. A good rule of thumb: Make sure your system uses non-proprietary components and you have access to all codes and programming features.

A standard warranty should come with your contract and a 90-day guarantee on parts and labor. For an extra $100 to $200, you might want to consider adding an extended warranty for maintenance and repair that would cover any needed parts, labor, or base fees.[GARD align=”left”]

Before signing-up with a company find out whether you will be required to sign a three- to five-year contract. Make sure you understand whether the contract allows fee increases during its duration, and whether there are penalties for breaking the contract before its expiration. Also find out what installed equipment you’ll be able to keep after the contract expires.

Talk to three or four alarm companies and have them do a risk assessment to determine what your security challenges are and how to address them. Make sure the company offers to do an on-site inspection free of charge. Don’t even consider a company that tells you it won’t need to send a representative to your home.

Get some references from previous clients. Did the company install the equipment within the given time frame? If there was an equipment problem, was it dealt with promptly? Was the system explained to everyone living in the home? If a client had an intrusion, were the police contacted immediately? Will the company send you notice before it sells your contract to another monitoring station?

Get price quotes in writing and make sure they include set-up, equipment, monthly monitoring fees, and warranties. Expect to pay $1 to $2 per square foot of your home for a basic system installation and $25 to $40 per month for monitoring. Add an extra $10 per month for intercom communication. Add an extra $50 to $300 per month for dual-tech sensors and pet alleys. Add an extra $5 per month for fire protection. Add an extra $75 to $100 one-time-only fee for a remote control.

Set-up/installation fees vary according to the type of equipment installed, number of individual security devices included, and the size of your home. Expect anywhere up to $1,500 for a 3,000-square-foot house with a multiple set-up. To add fire protection, add $200 to $500.

Be wary of alarm companies that charge an additional fee to connect to a central station. Typically, those fees are built into the pricing.

Installation time varies, of course, with bigger homes taking up to three days, especially if no previous alarm wiring is present. In smaller homes (approximately 1,200 square feet), it generally takes a day or less if any pre-wiring exists. Wireless installation takes only one to three hours.

Many police departments require two permits to have a monitored home security alarm system installed. The first is a state monitoring permit with the local police and the second is an electrical permit to install and monitor the system. Charges for false alarms vary by area; check with your local police about the policy.

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