Your first home is a huge investment. You’ve worked relentlessly to save a deposit to get your foot on the property ladder. Hours have been spent finding the right neighbourhood and filling out tedious paperwork. The last decision you want to make is choosing a security camera system – you want to start moving in and picking out the furniture!
But choosing the wrong security system not only costs you more money down the line but puts your new investment (your first home!) at risk. Blind spots, cheap alternatives, and dummy alarms all leave vulnerabilities that experienced criminals will exploit.
With over 24 years of experience in the trade, we’ve worked with homeowners and businesses across the West Midlands to secure their properties. In this guide, you’ll learn from our experience how to choose a security camera system for your home. The advice is subjective, as every property is different, but it will help you cover all aspects of a security camera system.
What are home security systems?
Home security systems protect your home from being damaged and your possessions being stolen. It’s like having your own security guard, except it doesn’t sleep and costs half as much. Security systems go beyond the typical burglar alarms and CCTV systems we’re used to. With smart alarm systems like Ajax, you can integrate fire and water alarms to offer complete home protection.
Why do I need a home security system?
For burglaries alone:
- One happens in the UK every 106 seconds.
- 63% of burglaries happen to homes without a basic security system
- A burglary costs you £3,030 (half the value is emotional damage)
Whilst fire and overfilling the bath happen less often, the cost multiples considering the cost to replace and the emotional effort to process the event. Having a home security system can bring down your home insurance premium – it’s not a guarantee, and it’s always worth checking with your insurer.
How many security cameras do I need?
There are many varying factors when deciding the number of cameras your home needs. It’s why we offer a free initial survey to provide an accurate quote tailored to your property. But, to help you with an estimate, here are the factors we consider:
- The areas you want to cover – if you want to cover every room and corner of your house, you’re going to need more cameras
- The size of your outdoor space – if you have acres you want to cover, you’ll need more than a terrace house with a patioed garden
- The type of cameras you’ll use – choosing wired will limit how far you can cover
- Your network’s bandwidth limit – if bandwidth isn’t great, you’ll be restricted on how many cameras you can have recorded at once (wireless only)
Where will your cameras be located?
Still got your floor plan? Make a copy and mark locations where you’ll need a camera or sensor. Here are the common areas to cover:
For all rooms, you want to consider the entry points a burglar can use. These are the areas you want to be covered by a minimum.
- Doors (front, back, and side doors)
- Garden gates
The focus of indoor cameras is to identify criminals, bring them to justice, and retrieve your stolen possessions. Think about where your most valuable possessions are kept and ensure a camera is installed there. Common areas include:
- Living room (where TV, games consoles, and PCs are kept)
- Bedrooms (jewellery and cash)
- Garage and Sheds (cars, bicycles, and tools of high value)
If you’re using CCTV to monitor vulnerable family members (like children and elderly relatives), you may want to focus on installing cameras where they spend most of their time. For example, your child’s bedroom or the dining room.
In addition to identifying criminals, cameras installed outside also act as a deterrent. 60% of thieves avoid a property that has an identifiable active alarm. Don’t be tempted to use dummy alarms. Thieves can easily identify them and increase your likelihood of being burgled compared to not having any protection whatsoever.
The most important places for cameras outside are:
- Front door
- Driveways, garage doors, and any side paths
- Back gardens (especially if they back onto alleyways)
With the rise of smart devices in the home, smart video doorbells have grown in popularity. Simply, they’re wireless doorbells with a built-in camera. When linked to your phone (or smartwatch), you can see who’s at your door anywhere in the world. With some doorbells, you can talk to the ringer – it’s useful for when you’re expecting deliveries.
These doorbells can offer some security to your home. You get notifications whenever there’s a motion outside your house and if you spot someone who shouldn’t be there, you can deter with your voice. With some doorbells offering cloud recording, you can keep the video for a set period if you need to report it to the Police.
Video doorbells are great as a part of a complete security system for your house. However, we recommend not relying on them as your only protective solution.
What power source do you require?
How you’ll power your cameras is a big factor in what security system you choose. Let’s explore their pros and cons.
Wired powered cameras
- Never have to change a battery
- Little or no network interference
- Better protected from attacks than wireless
- More wires in the home.
- If power or Wi-Fi goes down, access to the camera is gone
- Wires have to be completely hidden to stop burglars from cutting them
Wireless powered camera
- Easier to install than wired cameras
- Some outdoor cameras don’t ever need a battery change (come with solar panels)
- More flexibility on where they can go
- Battery change needed every year
- Some batteries aren’t rechargeable
WiFi – 2.4ghz and 5ghz
If you’re choosing wireless, check if your router is compatible. Most new routers broadcast 5ghz. If your camera only works with 2.4ghz, you will either need to:
- Purchase a dual-band router (where it broadcasts both 2.4ghz and 5ghz)
- Enable the 2.4ghz channel on your router
Having two separate channels (one for 2.4ghz and one for 5ghz) can cause connectivity problems if you’re wanting to view the stream from your mobile phone. A normal easy fix is to switch between the WiFi channels, but it depends on the case.
Where do you want your footage to be recorded?
Deciding where you store your recorded footage can make a difference in which security system is right for your new home. There are three kinds of storage solutions:
- Digital Video Recorders (DVR)
- Network Video Recorders (NVR)
Digital Video Recorders
DVRs record raw footage to a physical hard drive located in your home. Analog cameras are connected to the DVR through coaxial cables that transfer the raw footage for the DVR to digitise. They’re not Wi-Fi connected, and the footage can only be accessed from wherever the DVR is stored.
Network Video Recorders
NVRs still require a physical hard drive to record footage. As the data is digitised through the camera first before being transferred to the NVR for storage, they’re quicker at processing and handling data traffic than DVRs. Most NVR cameras are Wi-Fi connected and often referred to as IP cameras, although some can be wired through an ethernet cable.
Some IP cameras come with cloud storage. Usually, the camera manufacturer or third-party will store the recordings of your camera on the cloud for you to access whenever. Depending on your plan, they’ll hold the previous 30-60 days’ recordings for you to download if needed. You normally pay extra for this service, but it means you won’t ever lose your data, even if your camera gets destroyed.
Note: There are some workarounds to get a DVR or an NVR to upload to the cloud. Through services like Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, you could have the footage automatically uploaded from the hard drive. This offers the same experience as Cloud, but more maintenance may be required. For the more tech experienced, you may enjoy this project or at least find it easier to integrate into an entire smart home system.
Storage to record 720p -> 4K
Your storage requirements depend on the quality and length of your recording, as well as your compression type. If you’re planning on recording 12 cameras, 24 hours per day for 15 days, we estimate you’ll need:
- 2.5 TB for 720p resolution @ 30fps
- 6TB for 1080p @ 30fps
- 23TB for 4K
These are only rough estimates and will scale depending on the number of cameras and how long you want to store your data. You can reduce the space needed if you only record when motion is detected. This is part of our initial survey with clients – it’s an important factor when purchasing.
Features to consider
Depending on your budget, you may want to consider some additional features for your cameras. They’re not a must-have but can offer better coverage and protection.
If you require to see in the dark, you’ll need night vision. A camera accomplishes this with either a white spotlight (for colour) or using an infrared LED to offer black and white footage. The spotlight is more conspicuous but acts as a better deterrent.
If you’re covering a large area of land (like a back garden), some cameras can provide zoom. If you’re using an app to view your CCTV, you can pinch the screen to zoom in. Optical zoom offers better details but can come with a higher price tag.
Field of view (+ privacy for neighbours)
Field of view refers to how wide the camera can capture. A 180-degree field of view captures everything in front of it. With more area captured by one camera, the fewer cameras you need.
However, be wary not to capture footage outside your property boundaries – including neighbours! If this is unavoidable, you can install privacy masks that cover part of your recording. Remember, if your CCTV points outside your private property, you must display signs that are visible to the people affected.
Pets aren’t the most sedentary animals in the world. Especially when the postman is at the door. Whilst you want your cameras to alert you when an intruder is present, you don’t want a ding every time your dog or cat moves. When looking for cameras or sensors, it’s worth looking for those that are pet friendly. These alarms only activate when they detect larger motions of 25kg and above, leaving your pet to do what they enjoy without bothering you when you’re out of the house.
Do you need any smart integrations?
If you’re planning on integrating your home security system within your home smart setup, you need to make sure the cameras are compatible. Some systems support Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, with both now rolling out their own official cameras, such as Google Nest.
There are professional security systems that encompass the entire house. Ajax allows you to control your house under one hub. When your detection motions are blocked, you’re alerted instantly. If you leave the oven on too long and the smoke detector is activated, Ajax will cut the electricity and let you know. Left the bath running for too long? The hub will stop the water supply. If you have a Grade 3 property (substantial threat of experienced intruders due to high-value contents), a system like Ajax is a great way to protect your home.
Do you require audio?
Nearly all cameras include a microphone. You can record audio for personal and household activity, but when recordings include public spaces (such as your neighbour’s garden), you can be breaking the law. In these cases, you must have good reason to be recording audio and notify all persons affected. We recommend verifying with the ICO if you feel you need to record audio.
Video doorbells have normalized two-way audio (the ability to converse with someone through the camera). Recording these conversations is normally fine and doesn’t need to be applied to the wider household.
Do you need professional monitoring?
Some alarm systems offer professional monitoring from as low as £12.99/month. Whenever your system is alerted, someone from a monitoring centre will respond to your property on your behalf to address the issue. This is handy when you’re on holiday or away from home. With false alarms being common, it saves you trekking all the way home when nothing is wrong.
If the alarm is serious and needs addressing, the centre will alert the Police and relevant forces. In most cases, the Police place a higher priority on incidents reported by professional monitoring centres. If your property is at higher risk, or you’re away from home most of the time, consider professional monitoring.
Installing a home security system
You can install home security yourself. If you opt for solutions like Google Nest, you can buy security packages that are easy to install. However, if you’re after absolute security (more than 5 cameras and an intruder alarm), it’s cheaper to get a system installed by a professional.
With years of experience, a professional security installer can recommend the best system for your needs and your property. They’re able to spot potential blind spots and offer solutions which encompass every angle. You don’t want to learn about your blind spots when someone has exploited them.
Your next steps
If you’re planning to install the system yourself, here are some starting points:
- Visit each room and list the possible entry points.
- Draw a floorplan and mark where cameras and detectors should be
- Walk around the perimeter of your property and conduct steps 1-2 again
Now you should have a list of hardware you need. Depending on how you want to record your footage, you can start searching for a system that works for you.
If you have no time and want a professional survey, contact a security systems expert to book an initial survey. Our surveys are free-of-charge for any household or business in the West Midlands. If you’re outside our area, try CheckaTrade for your closest professional.