Best Home Security Cameras of 2018
If you're interested in monitoring what's going on at home, especially when you are away, you might want to consider purchasing a home security camera. Read our shopping guide to find out the best option for you.
Neighborhood Watch: The Best Home Security Cameras
These days, we're all looking for ways to keep our families a little safer. With a home security camera, you can monitor what's going on at your house even when you're not there. Some cameras even allow you to store footage, so if you're experiencing problems with theft, vandalism, or trespassing, you'll have a record to show the authorities.
But because a home security camera system can be a pricey investment, you want to choose an option that gives you the most bang for your buck. You need to figure out basics like whether you plan to install the cameras indoors or outdoors, the power type, the number of cameras, and the resolution, as well as choose other features like night vision and audio.
If you don't know where to begin, this guide can help you get started. We've included our top three product recommendations, too, to make finding the best home security camera even easier.
Location, Location, Location
The first thing to ask yourself when shopping for home security cameras is where you plan to place them. Depending on your needs, security cameras can be installed inside or outside your home. You may want to place some cameras inside the house and others outside for the most complete security setup for your family.
Not all cameras are suited for outdoor use, though. To keep your home security cameras working properly, they must be durable and weather-resistant if you plan to install them outside. Outdoor cameras usually feature an IP (Ingress Protection) rating, which lets you know how well they can withstand damage from water, dirt, and dust.
The first digit in an IP rating stands for how well the camera resists solid particles, while the second digit indicates how well the camera resists liquids. The digits can range from zero to six, and the higher the IP rating, the more durable a camera is. A camera with an IP rating of 66, for example, is completely resistant to dust and can stand up to even strong jets of water.
Types of Security Cameras
Once you know whether you need an indoor or outdoor model, you have to figure out what type of security camera is the best fit for your home.
Wireless cameras are exactly what they sound like—they don't have any wires that need to be connected to your home's electrical system. Instead, these home security cameras run on batteries, which usually makes them very easy to install. The lack of wires also means you can place them almost anywhere around the exterior or interior of your home. They're definitely the best option if you rent your home.
Wired cameras are connected to your home's electrical system, so they usually require professional installation. The wired connection limits where the cameras can be placed, which is often in more conspicuous areas. Wired cameras usually offer a clearer picture than wireless models, though.
Bullet cameras have a streamlined design that fits well on a ceiling or wall. That said, they point in a single direction and usually can't change direction, so intruders may be able to determine what area the camera covers and avoid it.
Hidden cameras are designed to be discreet, so you can catch intruders in the act without alerting them that they're being watched. In most cases, these home security cameras are made to look like common household items, such as a clock or electrical box, to prevent detection.
Power source plays a major role in how easy home security cameras are to place and install. Wireless models that run on batteries typically offer easy DIY installation, and you can place the cameras nearly anywhere around your home. Their batteries need to be recharged periodically, though, which may mean once a week, once every few months, or even just a couple times a year.
You never have to worry about recharging wired cameras, but you may be limited in terms of where you can place them around your house. In most cases, you'll need to hire a professional to install the cameras, too, which increases the cost.
For home security cameras to really be helpful, they have to provide clear, crisp images that allow you to see exactly what's going on in and around your home. That's where the camera's resolution comes into play. Higher-resolution cameras offer clearer pictures, but they can be pretty expensive. Opt for the best resolution within your budget.
Full 1080p HD cameras offer 1920x1080 resolution, which is typically the sharpest resolution you can get. You'll be able to clearly see anyone who shows up on your security cameras. Keep in mind, however, that these high-resolution cameras require significant bandwidth and storage space, which makes their maintenance fees higher.
Cameras that feature 720p HD still offer high resolution, so you'll be able to make out faces and other objects, but they don't need as much bandwidth or storage space, which will save you some money.
For the most budget-friendly option, you can opt for home security cameras with 480p resolution, which doesn't require much storage space at all. You won't be able to make out faces clearly, though.
Field of View
With home security cameras, you also want to take field of view into account. Some cameras only cover up to 90 degrees, while others can go all the way to 140 degrees. For a small area like a front door or entryway, a camera with a small field of view usually works just fine. If you're monitoring a larger area like your backyard or entire living room, though, you'll want a camera that offers a larger field of view to make sure you don't miss anything.
Most homeowners are concerned about what's going on around their homes at night when everyone's asleep. If you want your home security cameras to capture what goes on after dark, they must have some type of night vision feature in order to record images with little to no lighting.
Some security cameras also have a low-light feature that works well for areas that are poorly lit but won't necessarily trigger night vision. A low-light setting allows you to pick up more details, so you don't just wind up with footage of shadows and indiscernible objects.
You don't want to take up storage space with hours of video where nothing happens. A home security camera with a motion detection feature only turns on and begins recording when it detects movement in the area it covers. Some models also turn on lights to let you know that there's movement, while others send an alert to your smartphone.
Sight and Sound
Many home security cameras only record video, not audio. For more complete coverage, however, you can find models that not only record audio but actually offer two-way audio, so you can talk to whoever is in front of the camera. You can also find security cameras that can sound a siren or alarm to deter intruders.
You may want to pay a little extra for a home security camera with Wi-Fi connectivity. These cameras are used with an app that sends alerts if there's suspicious activity around your home. You can also watch video from the camera on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Wi-Fi connectivity also makes it easier to store footage in the cloud or on a hard drive.
Home security cameras range from under $100 to over $500, depending on the quality of the video, how many units are included, and special features.
For under $100, you'll typically get a single camera with lower-quality video and just a few extra features. For $100 to $250, you can snag a single camera with high-resolution video and several extra features. Some two-camera systems fall in this range, too. For $250 to $500, you can find two- to four-camera systems that offer high-resolution video, free cloud storage, audio, and other special features.
Keep in mind that the price you pay for your home security camera system often isn't the only expense. If you opt for wired cameras, you may also have to spring for professional installation. To store video from your cameras for more than just a day or two, you'll probably also need to buy a storage plan with a monthly fee.