A Simple Guide to Home Security


Home security systems are increasingly popular and sales are skyrocketing for home surveillance and theft prevention systems. Along with the advent of popular home automation digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, home security now represents the second most popular product category sought by homeowners. Until recently, installing a home security system required the services of an installation professional, and in many large-scale setups, it still does.

Your first question may be, why bother? According to crime statistics provided by the F.B.I., there were an estimated 1,515,096 burglaries in 2016, accounting for 19.1 percent of the estimated number of property crimes in total.* Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses in 2016, and the average dollar loss per burglary offense was $2,361. More significantly, burglaries of residential properties accounted for 69.5 percent of all burglary offenses.**


Before you run out and buy a fancy surveillance system, here are a few suggestions on how to lessen your chances of being one of those statistics.

  • Doors are the main point of entry. Front doors should be solid-core or metal. Sliding glass doors should have a wooden dowel placed in the bottom track to prevent opening when you are not home.
  • Windows are the second most common entry, especially in warm-weather months. Make sure all windows are secured with secondary security latches.
  • The strike plate on the door is usually the weak point for a kick-in. Install a heavy-duty strike plate with at least 3" screws.
  • Always try to install a heavy-duty deadbolt, and always change door locks when moving to a new home or apartment.

As safe as you make your home, you should always consider a little extra help with a home surveillance system. Home surveillance systems have come down noticeably in price, and are much more affordable and simpler to install than even a year ago (an added bonus is that many homeowner insurance policies will give you some kind of discount when you have a surveillance system installed). But picking a system is not as easy as it may seem, especially since there are far more options available now. Let's start with some simple questions.

Analog versus IP?

Analog systems turn your video surveillance images into an analog signal, and then transmit that video through cabling into either a TV or monitor, which is usually connected to a centralized DVR or (old school) VCR, where it is converted back into a digital signal. This configuration was commonly used by anyone who had surveillance systems in the last 20 years, and explains why video surveillance can look so choppy at times. The good news: analog systems are cheaper, the cameras come in a variety of styles (from bullet domes to larger PTZ models), and it's easier to mix and match different models to scale-up your existing older surveillance systems. But the cons are significant. The resolution on analog cameras is poor, they usually don't have digital zoom, and they are susceptible to interference over long ranges, so installing an analog system for a business can be prohibitive because you may need more than one system. Also, because of the limited resolution, you may need several cameras for prosecution-worthy video.

Swann ADW-410 Digital Wireless Security Camera Kit

IP cameras and systems, on the other hand, do everything through the Internet. The signal starts off as a digital transmission, and is converted directly in the camera, usually via onboard encoders that also double as mini web servers. This allows the signal to be delivered through any web browser, as well as being sent directly to an NVR (network video recorder) or even more typical, a cloud storage service. Also, because the signal does not have to be converted from analog to digital, the signal resolution is much higher (there are 2, 4, and even 8MP cameras available) which means you can use one IP camera to do the work of several analog cameras, with clearer results. The cons should be apparent—because of the technology involved, IP cameras and systems are more expensive. Additionally, you will need high bandwidth to deliver your video, and adding more cameras will eat into that bandwidth.

Swann NVW-470 All-in-One SwannSecure Wireless System with Two Cameras

How Skilled Are You at Wiring?

If you go with a wired system, you usually must run a power line and cables between the cameras and the DVR or NVR, and connect to a monitor. First, you must make sure you have a proper length of cabling or wires, and many times this will involve compromising on where the central DVR or monitor is placed, and may involve drilling through multiple walls in your home or structure to hide unsightly wires. Drilling the holes is the major concern. You must be sure you're not drilling into electrical lines, near pipes, or through support beams. If the security system was not installed while the house was being built, you want to contact a professional who can determine where the wiring should go and who can read a floor plan to ensure your cameras are not wired to your plumbing, for instance.

Wireless cameras are a little simpler. You usually only need to find out where to run the power line, but you still must be careful. A dedicated burglar will follow a camera's wires when spotted to determine where to snip the power cord.

Short Surveillance Glossary

You can be inundated with terms when considering home surveillance systems, and the sales person may throw out a few you haven't heard, either. Here's a very short list of terms with which you should be familiar.

PTZ  Pan, tilt, zoom. The camera may be able to pan, tilt or zoom, giving you the ability to see perps better in real time. This is especially useful if you are monitoring a structure remotely. Before you make that 911 call, you should make sure your target is not just a nosy neighbor or besotted friend.

PoE  Power over Ethernet. This is the ability for cameras to draw their power source from the same network cable through which they transmit data. PoE cameras means that each individual camera doesn't need a separate power source, enabling you to install a PoE switch to connect multiple cameras. This also gives you greater flexibility on where the NVR or DVR is placed.

NVR  Network video recorder. This is the centralized hub where all network-connected cameras will store their footage, usually on a hard drive in the device, and usually used with networked (IP) cameras.

DVR  Digital video recorder. This receives a signal that is hardwired to the cameras. Most DVRs have LAN capabilities so that you can access the footage through a network. Usually used with analog cameras.

Field of View  The complete area of coverage provided by a network camera when viewed at full frame. Camera type, lens, and image resolution all affect your FOV.

Motion Detection  The ability of your camera to detect when something is moving in its field of view. You can set some cameras to a motion-activated or motion-detected mode, so that video is only captured when something is truly moving in the frame. This cuts down on bandwidth, storage, and wear-and-tear for your system.

Channels  You'll see 2-channel, 8-channel and up to 32-channel DVRs. “Channel” usually refers to the number of cameras or other surveillance you can attach to your system.


  • A power light can draw unwanted attention to your camera, particularly a night vision device recording at night. A simple piece of black tape over the light solves this problem.
  • If you place the camera anywhere below 6 feet, make sure to disguise the location well. If you can reach it, so can a burglar.
  • If you do place the camera somewhere obvious, consider buying a case to house it. This vandal-proofing makes it harder to interrupt surveillance.
  • Always check the video stream to see if anything is blocking the camera’s view. Foliage, fallen timber, even outdoor furniture can impede the usefulness of your camera.
  • Two-way audio can be an effective way to scare off a would-be intruder. Audio recording may have separate regulations from video recording in your area, so make sure you know what they are before installing a camera that has the capability.

It may sound like a challenge, but installing a home security system is not as difficult as it seems. With these basic tips, you should be able to hook up a simple and effective system, like this one, and enjoy some peace of mind tonight.

ezviz Everyday 3MP 4-Channel 3MP DVR with 1TB HDD and Four 3MP Outdoor Bullet Cameras Kit

Do you have some home security issues that you think should be discussed? Let us know if you have installed your own, and what your experiences have been, in the Comments section, below.




It would be very wise to expand on the subject of PoE not being as simplistic as it seems, for those who have not made the mistake yet. Although the PoE standard is published as being a strict protocol (with all the various versions ) I found out different the hard way. I purchased a PoE compliant IP camera from one manufacturer and a PoE compliant  NVR from another thinking they would be compatible (as stated by the PoE version in their literature) but here is how it went. The camera and NVR never worked together with a PoE connection. Communication with both manufacturers resulted in each carefully blaming each other. So much for standards. In short I would strongly recommend to always buy the camera and the NVR from the same company.