Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making Cents of Home Surveillance

Property owners install cameras on their property and houses for many reasons... general surveillance and crime prevention, problem with neighbors and stalkers, or perhaps a pedophile moved in the neighborhood. Or perhaps my favorite benefit, monitoring. When the kids come home from school, the dog is out back, teen age kids hanging out. Surveillance systems add peace of mind, to troubled times. Of any surveillance applications, residential video can challenging in design and cost. Here we make "cents" of it all. 

No longer is there a great divide between cost on black and white vs color. Color cameras can capture a full and accurate clothing and vehicle description of anyone who is on or around your property. The important thing is that the intruder or subject can be captured at least once on a color camera as this will help assist with the initial arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator or sit down with the kids.

I mentioned that residential surveillance applications are among the trickiest. Namely, it's due to the lack of light. When faced with a very low light situation, you have two choices... either purchase a CCTV camera with IR emitters, or use a flood light (or motion detector floodlight) outside your home. What's best... hands down... a combination of CCTV cameras and using a motion-activated floodlight outside your home. Let's face it, there are several ways to help combat crime: install CCTV cameras, use floodlights, or get a dog. Getting a dog may simply not be an option, but by installing CCTV cameras and using floodlights around your house will make you a hard-target, and should greatly detract criminals from harming you and your family. I use IR cameras. If you currently have flood light then your are set. Wireless was very popular for residential video surveillance applications. However, as the use of electrical devices such as portable and cellular phones, wireless Ethernet routers and adapters, and other devices that emit RF noise have grown in popularity, wireless analog video CCTV cameras have become more and more difficult to use. In addition, wireless analog CCTV cameras can be intercepted by a neighbor, need to be plugged into a power jack for extended use, and will give many false-alarms when used with video-based motion detection. The exception to this rule is for Nanny Watching.

It's all about the wire stupid.  Siamese cable features power and video all in one cable. If you have a professional install your system, we recommend RG-59 Siamese cable.  When using any type of Siamese cable, remember... since it's power and video all in one... the power supply lives in your house since the cable carries the power to the camera.
There are two types of DVRs... Windows-based and non-Windows based. Windows-based, feature highly intelligent motion detection and auto alert via telephone & email alert functions. Windows-based DVRs are easier to use given that they may offer a graphical user interface and may be controlled via your mouse. Non-Windows based DVRs, offer the same high-resolution recordings and remote video monitoring capabilities via the Internet... but simply do not offer the same ease of use and advanced intelligent functions of a Windows-based DVR. You can expect to pay around $500 for a non-Windows based DVR, and about $1100 for an advanced Windows-based DVR. Need just a little more help justifying a Windows-based DVR... then consider that they may also function as your next home PC as well. In addition, Windows-based DVRs are easier to repair in the event of a hardware failure, and should last much longer than a non-Windows based DVR. Do your homework and make sure that the vendor is reputable, has been in business for a few years, and is qualified and staffed to render technical support. The old adage applies to surveillance equipment too... you get what you pay for. You might as well not buy a CCTV system at all if you cannot get support and cannot get it to work. A good CCTV system will see when you need it to, and will work continuously without effort or user maintenance.
Specs to look for in a residential system:
  • Color or B&W cameras that feature 420TVL of resolution and at least 0.5 LUX or lower.
  • Color Cameras should feature a Full-Chip 1/3” Sony Ex-View CCD. Considering typical lighting conditions, never go with a CMOS camera or a generic 1/4” camera... unless you happen to have a lot of light around your house.
  • 3~5fps is all you need for residential surveillance. Any more and you will be wasting hard drive space and money unless you have a particularly special need. Don't worry... frame rate has nothing to do with picture clarity and you will still have the illusion of video at this frame rate.
  • At the very least, your DVR should offer 640x480 Recording. ... be careful that the spec you read is pertaining to recording size, and not viewing size.
  • At all cost...Never... Ever... choose a proprietary CCTV system that uses mini-din (like how you mouse connects to your PC) or RJ style (like a phone jack) connector. These are common at Radio Shack, Walmart, Sam's Club, and other wholesale style stores. They are almost always junk, may not last long, will most likely only work during he day (or very inefficiently at night), and lock you into that companies proprietary system in which it would be very hard if not impossible to use cameras or a replacement DVR from another company.

If you look closely in the far top corner you can see my poor dog falling in my frozen pond.

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