Ask the Builder

Indoor-Outdoor Cameras Put Security Into Focus

Indoor-outdoor security cameras, often sold in kits, can record color images in real time. Cameras with infrared sensors allow for clear pictures at night.
Indoor-outdoor security cameras, often sold in kits, can record color images in real time. Cameras with infrared sensors allow for clear pictures at night. (By Tim Carter -- Tribune Media Services)
By Tim Carter
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Q: DEAR TIM: I travel on business frequently, and my wife wants me to install security cameras in and around our home. Are wireless security cameras the way to go, or should I consider wired ones? Do I have to buy separate outdoor security cameras so I can view certain parts of my yard at night? How do you record what the cameras see? -- Greg H., Wooster, Ohio

A: DEAR GREG: Home security cameras are gaining in popularity. Years ago, you had to have certain skills to successfully install a home security camera system. Now, technology has advanced to the point that anyone can buy a home security camera kit with everything you need to install cameras, digitally record what they see and watch the images of all the cameras at once in real time. You can even watch what's going on at your home while you're out of town.

The security cameras at my home are a case in point. They record in color and produce stunning clarity using any available light. Their infrared sensors allow them to see at night nearly as well as in the daytime. I am amazed at the quality of the images.

Many compact home security cameras need a power supply and an additional cable that transmits the signal back to a monitor or a recording device. Installing the cables so they are hidden can be challenging, so consider using wireless security cameras if you intend to install the camera in a place where it will be hard to run thin video cables. Keep in mind that these cameras still need a power supply, which can be batteries or a low-voltage cable from a nearby transformer.

Many kits have security cameras than can be used indoors or outdoors. Outdoor security cameras are usually clearly marked for outdoor use. To minimize moisture problems, mount the cameras under an overhang that will keep them dry from all but the most violent wind-driven rain.

Consider security cameras with infrared sensors for night-vision capability. My night-vision cameras allow me to see my yard at night even when there is no moonlight. I am amazed at the things I can see outdoors in the dark. You can buy a small camera that is rated for outdoor use, transmits in color, has night vision and is smaller than a soup can.

The images the cameras see can be recorded on a digital video recorder. I have a DVR that will record from four cameras at the same time. I can set the DVR to record only if the cameras sense motion; it can be set to take still shots every few seconds, or it can record all it sees. If the DVR hard drive is large enough, you can record for weeks without having to record over old images.

Modern home security cameras have many other options and recording features. The best part is that they are affordable, especially when you buy them in a kit. One of the kits I prefer has four indoor-outdoor color cameras with motion sensitivity and night vision. You also get a fancy monitor and a high-powered DVR that allows you to record up to 55 days of images.

This kit can be connected to the Internet so you can view the images from a remote location. It can also send e-mail alerts with image shots if you want to know when something happens that the cameras see. You can bet I will be installing this kit to watch over my new home as it is being built. Can you imagine how cool it would be to know when someone pulls up the road or when someone is snooping around in the dark? The cameras would allow me to call the police from 1,000 miles away.

Tim Carter can be contacted via his Web site,

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