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Do You Need Security Cameras?

A man looking at home security system on a tablet
Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.com

Do you really know what is happening in and around your home? You could be surprised by what you learn when you have security cameras recording. They catch a lot more than you might think! Let’s talk about that, how many you need, and where you should put them.

Why Do You Need Security Cameras?

Of course, the most common reason for deploying security cameras is to protect your family and your property. Outdoor cameras might get you a license plate if someone sideswipes your car, or they might capture the face of the person trying to steal your car stereo. Often, the mere presence of cameras will be enough to deter criminals. But there many other benefits of security cameras as well.

Video doorbells can let you know when a package has been delivered. This is extra helpful when you need to sign for a package and your COVID home office is upstairs or in the basement. It’s really handy when you see that big brown truck and you know to head for the door before the delivery driver ever approaches! But more importantly, they can also help you catch a porch pirate that is trying to snag Amazon deliveries from your latest round of holiday shopping!

If you are a home security enthusiast, there is a good chance that you’ll be interested in installing security cameras around the perimeter of your home. In addition to protecting your home and property, you will also be protecting your neighbors as well as capturing historical video footage of traffic on the roads nearby. Sooner or later, your neighbors or your local police will thank you.

Interior surveillance cameras help with intruder detection, but they’re also useful in keeping track of pets! Can’t figure out why the butter keeps disappearing? Not sure who chewed the corner off the end table? Maybe you are away on a business trip and just want to check in on your furbabies. They even make treat dispensers with cameras built-in to lure your pet in for you to see their cute little face!

Of course, the most popular security camera might just be the baby monitor. Back in the day, baby monitors were audio-only. But as soon as wireless video became possible, video-enabled baby monitors were a popular early application.

How Many Should You Start With?

Group of external surveillance cameras mounted on a brick wall.
Sergey Tarasov/Shutterstock.com

How many cameras you need depends on your endgame. If you are just looking to keep an eye on the front door or the family pets, then you can start starting slowly with just a single camera. But if you’re a gadget geek or if you think there is any possibility that you may want more cameras, you need to be mindful of the camera brands you buy.

What you don’t want to do is piecemeal together a bunch of cameras from different vendors. You’ll end up with multiple apps on your phone which will degrade your video solution—not to mention racking up multiple monthly fees in some cases. Think about your long term goals and pick a camera vendor that provides cameras that cover your requirements both now and in the future.  You should also consider any additional must-have features, like a wide field of view, automatic night vision, direct Wi-Fi connectivity (versus the need for a hub), local video recording options, and ease of camera installation, among others.

For example, manufacturers such as Wyze, Nest, and Arlo each produce options with a wide variety of camera features to meet your every need. But from there it’s okay to start slowly and then add more cameras as you become more comfortable with how they work. Or you can just go all in!

Outdoor Cameras

A security camera mounted outside overlooking a backyard

You will want to cover the front door first. For home users, a doorbell cam usually works best. But if you are a power user and looking to deploy multiple exterior cams, a doorbell cam isn’t a requirement. Just make sure the front door is covered.

Next, you should place external cameras to cover any area that is extra important, perhaps to provide coverage of a boat, RV, or another high-value target on the property.

Placing a camera on the corner of the house that is likely to capture the highest volume of oncoming traffic is the next logical choice. If your home is positioned in the middle of a street that has bi-directional traffic, then a camera on the opposite corner facing the opposite direction is equally important. That way, you are capturing traffic that is traveling towards you and away from you. You can now capture vehicle descriptions and, in some cases, even license plates.

If you are on a corner lot and there is a second exposed side of the property, this is the next appropriate place for a camera. Also, a camera in the back of the property to keep an eye on the pets and kids can be very beneficial. Back doors are also less conspicuous access points for would-be intruders. It’s good to have coverage there.

Finally, consider adding a camera in the corner of your garage. In addition to the family car(s), garages often contain other valuable toys such as motorcycles, jet skis, four-wheelers, or even expensive tools. In this case, a camera allows you to double-check that you closed the garage door when you are going to be away for a long period of time.

Inside Cameras

Overhead view of thief in hooded sweatshirt stealing from house

If you have a baby, the baby room is a great place to start for obvious reasons. But this is an example of when a pure baby-cam may not be necessary. Some camera vendors make standard wireless cameras with bi-directional audio support that are easily movable. One of these could easily be placed in the baby room for a few years until it is no longer necessary and then later moved to another, more appropriate location in the home without wasting the investment.

The living room is another top choice for interior coverage. At least one camera should be placed in a corner that is opposite the front door. In addition to capturing footage of intruders, you will also benefit from being able to monitor pet movement and any mischief your children may be getting into.

The remaining common areas, such as kitchens, dining rooms, or breakfast nooks, are also good options for camera deployment. Placement should generally be opposite of any exterior doors and should cover as many windows as possible. Again, this is designed to capture intruder footage, but can also be helpful to know when young children are transitioning to and from the back yard.

Camera placement is an exercise in value. You really just need important areas covered. But what is “important” is up to you. Just know that the more cameras you place, the more you will have to manage and maintain. Also, if you are paying for remote video storage, some cloud storage solutions cost more depending on the number of cameras that you add to the subscription. There are certainly low-value coverage areas where you probably don’t need to waste your time or money on camera placement.

Where should you NOT put security cameras?

A small security camera by a pool

The most important concept of security cameras is that privacy must be respected!

For example, on the outside of the home, you should consider avoiding camera coverage of a pool, particularly if your family and guests are mostly skilled swimmers. That said, if you have small children who can’t swim and you feel you must film your pool for the safety of the children, you need to be very careful with how you do it. Placing a high-resolution camera 10 feet away from the pool, capturing all footage in high detail is not necessary. Filming from more of a distance is better and is less of an invasion of privacy.

You should locate the camera on a corner of the house that is farther away from the pool but still facing the pool. When monitoring a pool, you only need to be able to see if someone is drowning. Your friends and family will appreciate the lack of detail in video footage! Of course, there is a balance here. Use your best judgment. It’s also a good idea to post a sign near the pool that indicates the area is under video surveillance. Then be prepared to answer questions from your guests.

On the interior of the home, it is important to avoid placing cameras in places that capture private areas like bedrooms, bathrooms, and the hallways that connect them. Nobody wants to be filmed half-naked as they head to the bathroom at 4:00 in the morning!

Finally, if you ever need to have someone house-sit for you, it is important that you provide them with a list of all the camera locations. It is also recommended that you show them your viewing app, so that they know where the viewable locations are. It would be unfortunate if your friend or family member took a midnight snack run to the kitchen without wearing appropriate attire. You should also offer to disable the internal cameras while you are away to provide peace of mind for your house sitter.

Home security cameras provide a number of helpful capabilities that you might not realize. With everyone spending a lot more time at home, it is more important than ever to keep an eye on all the happenings in and around your house.

Russ Houberg Russ Houberg
Russ is a 20+ year veteran of the Information Technology industry and has been that "techie" for a multitude of people and organizations over the years. He holds several professional certifications including Microsoft Certified SharePoint Master and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. As a published author, he enjoys freelance writing when he has the opportunity.   Read Full Bio »