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Old 04-27-2014, 13:00   #1
Doc McGlock
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Home security monitoring

The other day, a strange car pulled into my circular driveway, paused for a short while then left. My wife didn't get the license plate and it sort of has me concerned.

Long story short, I've decided that it is time for security cameras with motion sensors and I am seeking advice for how to go about doing so. I would like be able to view from my smart phone as well as a localized command center in my home. I've read where the "kits" all suck. So, should I pay extra for a "professional install?" or are there options that I could ponder for a DIY?

Please, I ask that people with real knowledge respond as this is a very serious matter to me. I need a very simple system to have as much advance warning as possible. My initial budget is around $2500 but I don't want junk that will need replacing in a year. Thanks in advance.
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Old 04-27-2014, 14:45   #2
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As someone who installs cameras and card access professionally, I'm not super family with DIY home security camera kits. I have seen quite a few kits that frankly suck. You will generally get what you pay for when it comes to cameras.
There are two realms of cameras that you can get into. IP based and analog cameras. IP based is the newer generation stuff and is quickly replacing analog based systems. Analog cameras will tend to be cheaper but you won't get anywhere as good a picture in my opinion. You will be able to tell a car is there, but forget about getting facial clarity or a license plate.
That leaves us with IP. It is much easier to interface your home computer and phone with an IP based camera system. You will get better picture quality. Look for something with 4-5 mp. The only choice you have is whether or not you want to run hardwire or go wireless. With a hard wired system you will have more choices of cameras but everything from the install to the hardware will be more expensive. Wireless only really wins in the ease of install department.
How many cams are you looking to put up, and where?
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Old 04-27-2014, 15:23   #3
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First - for $2500, you can get a very good system; at least in our area. When we do security & cameras both in a single house, it's uncommon for it to be $2500 or over. The following will probably be mostly cut & pastes from other threads & pm's on the subject from the past. To clarify definitions when you're talking to people in the industry, 'security' is the burglar-alarm system, and 'monitoring' is the service that you subscribe to that your security system calls for help (from you, the authorities, a neighbor, etc) in the event of an alarm. Camera systems are just camera systems or cctv systems. There is sometimes overlap of the security and camera systems, where they're either integrated into a single system or (more often) just cross-programmed; so a camera sensing motion trips the security alarm, or the security alarm activates a camera, etc; but most of the time they're completely separate systems, serving different functions. Basically, the job of a security (burglar alarm) system is to sound a siren to wake you up if you're asleep & also let the intruder know he's been detected, and often also to call for help via a monitoring service. A camera system's job is to primarily to provide evidence for use after the event; although it sometimes is connected to cross-trip the alarm system when the camera detects motion. (Fwiw, the camera doesn't technically detect motion; the recorder does that. Video is stored on the DVR's hard drive and the DVR can "detect motion" via simply comparing an incoming image to the previous image. If the images are identical, there's obviously nothing moving in the camera's field of view. But that type of motion detection isn't 100% reliable - a change in shadows, branches swaying in the wind, an insect flying close to the camera, etc, are all seen as motion by the system. If you use that type of motion detection, especially on outdoor cameras, you WILL be inundated with 'false alarm' signals.

On cameras - Most times they're simply cameras that connect back to a recorder (DVR) either via wires or wireless transceivers.

There's not a thing that Copper_Candy says that I'd disagree with. IP tend to be higher resolution, and are often easier to install as well (assuming you can program a router or switch). Main thing to be careful with IP cameras is recording. Too often imo, they're set up to watch everything and record nothing; and even if you watch a burglar live on your camera system, if it's not recorded, no matter how good the video is, you have no evidence and nothing but your word against his.

Whatever camera you buy, I wouldn't go with less than 600tvl resolution. At some online sources, you can get a 1000TVL camera with 2.8-12mm varifocal lens for $50-$60 or so; so imo no reason to go with any camera less than 600 minimum nowadays. We never do, and rarely go less than 700.

Typically for a real basic 4-channel (four camera) DVR unit with 500-gigabyte hard drive, you should be able to find it under $300, likely closer to $200. On the DVR, set your resolution and image quality UP, and set your frame-rate down. We set units to record from 3-5 frames per second. This saves a ton of hard drive space compared to full 30fps of full-motion video, and allows you to use the hard drive to store much higher quality images. 5fps doesn't sound like much, but if a guy's on camera for 20 seconds, that's a hundred pictures, and a hundred really-good images are better in court than 600 crappy images.

Wireless cameras are MUCH easier to install in an existing house, but we almost never use them because the cost-per-quality gets skewed badly with wireless. But in your situation, it might be worth considering, for ease of installation. Just don't get uber-cheap wireless cameras. Some of them are still 380-470 lines, and the difference in image quality is huge.

For a quick & easy - and maybe temporary..? - solution, there are some VERY good game-trail cameras nowadays that you could put up literally instantly with no real install hassle. There are IR-flash versions so the game (or suspect) doesn't know they've been photographed, and there are even 3G and 4G versions that can text you stills or video clips. If using the ones that only store images on a local SD card, be sure to mount it somewhere safe from theft & damage; I've seen people have their game-trail cameras stolen
Other than that, the only specifics I can offer are to avoid swann and lorex brands. The good stuff is so cheap now, and those two brands are ones I've personally sworn off forever. Frankly I'm sometimes glad when I see someone's bought a swann or lorex kit at Sam's or similar; I've more than once replaced those kits with these much-better cameras after the user has gotten sick enough of swann & lorex junk.


On security alarm systems, the main things to watch for from an alarm-company is the total cost, especially the monthly monitoring service cost. This monthly cost can run fro $25 to over $60 monthly, depending on length of contract, type of communication (landline, cellular, or internet), and level of service (basic monitoring, remote-access via smartphone, video camera monitoring with text & email service, etc). Most of the big national companies like ADT, Broadview (formerly Brinks), Vivint, etc, will put a system in ridiculously cheap, while requiring you to sign a multi-year contract that renews automatically. They also often retain ownership of the system - even though you paid to have it installed and paid every month for years for the contractually-required monitoring service, you never own the system. Once you're free of the contract, if you ever do cancel the paid monthly service, they will literally send a guy with a pair of wirecutters & a cardboard box and retrieve the system to install elsewhere.

Don't know where you're located, but for reference, we don't require a contract, our landline monitoring cost is $28 monthly (actually going from $24 to $28 the first of May), with a $10 upcharge for cellular or internet monitoring, since that costs us more.
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Old 04-27-2014, 15:28   #4
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A copy & paste from a PM to a member here a while back, regarding security alarm system equipment:

We use Honeywell (Ademco), but there are probably others just as good. Main thing is there's usually a trade-off between up-front cost and monthly cost. Main recommendation would be to be wary of long-term commmitments. ADT is my favorite example of this - they'll install a system crazy cheap up front, but you end up on the hook for a multi-year contract for anywhere from $450 to $800 a year. With other companies, you may pay several hundred more up front, but will pay substantially less every year after that. Also, ADT is proprietary (even when they install normal brands like Honeywell it has proprietary firmware embedded in it), so even after your 3-4 year commitment is up, you can't switch monitoring companies without installing at least a new head-end; sometimes all new field devices as well. Fwiw, we charge $24 a month for basic monitoring, and in May we're increasing that to $28 a month.

First thing I recommend to people is covering the doors - if you do nothing else, put contacts on the doors. Most residential break-ins (more than 90% in Arkansas) are thru a kicked-in door. Next would be either motion sensors or glass-break sensors, depending on situation. IE, do you have pets that make motion sensors unuseable, is all your glass up high enough off the ground so you don't have to worry so much about it, etc. Cell monitoring is good - with Honeywell you have no other option than AT&T for the panel communicator. That doesn't mean you have to use AT&T for your own cell phone, only that the system has to use AT&T for its own comm path. I don't really like internet monitoring, as there are so many links in the chain, any of which can kill your comm path. If your internet service glitches (which they all seem to occasionally do), your system can't communicate with the outside world. Same if your cable-modem or router glitches or locks up. For that matter, even with battery back up on the system, a simple loss of AC power will kill the comm path unless you put a UPS on your router, modem, etc; every link in the comm chain.

With cell or internet monitoring, you have a lot of 'extra' features available that you don't get with landline monitoring. Most of those cost extra monthly subscription fees, but you can get things like remote log-in for arming/disarming the system; say for a pest-control guy, contractor, etc. Check out http://www.mytotalconnect.com/ - it's Honeywell's "Total Connect" service (same service that ADT uses and calls "Pulse", but it's Total Connect). It can let you do a ton of things, up to & including off-site control of Z-Wave devices like thermostats, deadbolts (gotta unlock the door for the pest-control guy), etc.

Also check out http://www.diyalarmforum.com/board/ - it's an alarm system discussion forum. Lots of good info (some bad info), and lots of venting there about different equipment and providers.
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Old 04-27-2014, 15:30   #5
Doc McGlock
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CC,

Thank you for a quick reply. I totally understand why the "Kits" are out. My home sits about 75 feet off of the main road and is kind of isolated from the road. Someone could sneak in and not be very noticeable from the road.

I have 2 dogs that don't really miss a trick and are great for alerts, but they tend to be not so picky as to what they alert us to. I want a simple system that can scan the two entrances to the property (Circular driveway). This will, I guess require 2 separate cameras. This is my main concern. If someone gets past the front of the house, all bets are off as the acre in back, backs up to another subdivision and would be a poor entrance/exit to haul off any goods. Each neighbor on either side has adjoining yards all the way back that is fenced. THe entire back is fenced.

I may also put one in the back, but again, I'm mainly concerned about the front and getting as much lead time should some individual decide to see if I'm home.

I don't want to spend a fortune, but I do want quality. I am very able to do the install myself, so I have some flexibility there to buy a better quality. Any suggestions? Total front area is about 1/3 acre that is mostly circular driveway. Facing the house from the street, there is the drive/carport on the right, Front door towards the left and fence with a padlocked gate on far left.

Again I would think the best angle would be to mount on front/side corner of each side of the front of house. Each angled slightly to catch the entrance to about the middle of the circle on either side and One in back to catch the pan of the back yard.

Any suggestions and or recommendations would be greatly appreciated? and thanks in advance.

Doc
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Old 04-27-2014, 15:55   #6
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Quake,

Thank you for sharing all of your information. I am located in San Antonio Tx. so I don't imagine you make housecalls! :D I'm also not trying to hurt local business folks with a DIY, but so many, many times, I've hired so called "Professionals" to only be taken advantage of or less than satisfied when they are done. Over the years, I've learned all sorts of home improvements and I'm sure I can install with the best of them.

I really am only interested in a camera and DVR for now. If I hear broken glass, it's already too late and you'll be hearing about Bubba/and or me in the news. My initial goal ( which is very mould-able) is that when the dogs start yapping, I can check my monitors and see if there is anything out of place. They've pretty much adapted to the raccoon, possum, squirrels on the roof, but sometimes, movement out on the busy street spooks them into alert mode.

Also, I'm more concerned about when my wife or I are at home. I want her safe and from my estimation, they can have my "things" just not her!

Last edited by Doc McGlock; 04-27-2014 at 16:42..
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Old 04-27-2014, 16:23   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc McGlock View Post
Quake,

...I'm also not trying to hurt local business folks with a DIY, but so many, many times, I've hired so called "Professionals" to only be taken advantage of or less than satisfied when they are done.
Completely understand, and frankly probably not a bad idea.
If the security industry in the SA area is anything like it is in Arkansas, there are a LOT of shady characters (code for "scumbags") in our industry. It's shame because we should be setting the bar for business ethics, but fact is, our industry has a well-earned reputation for behavior that's both shoddy & shady. I just tell myself and my guys that that just makes it that much easier to be above average...

Whatever you install, you will almost certainly not regret paying extra for quality, and seriously consider my recommendation on recording settings - sacrifice some amount of frame-rate iin favor of higher image quality.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc McGlock View Post
I really am only interested in a camera and DVR for now. If I hear broken glass, it's already too late and you'll be hearing about Bubba/and or me in the news. My initial goal ( which is very mold-able) is that when the dogs start yapping, I can check my monitors and see if there is anything out of place..
On the recorder, it's a good idea to secure it, or at least hide it. When people have a gun safe, we'll often drill a small 1" hole in it for cabling, and put the DVR inside the safe; simply to secure & protect the video evidence stored on it. You can put a monitor either in there with it, or put the monitor on top of the safe if things are crowded. For convenience, and ease/quickness of use, you may consider taking an output from the DVR to an input in either your bedroom or living room TV. That way when you want to check the live feed, you can simply change your TV to another input (HDMI, rca, vga, whatever) on the tv, rather than running to a DVR-dedicated monitor.
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Old 04-27-2014, 16:47   #8
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A while back, there was a shady security company that was busted for installing then coming back at a later time to sack the place. Same with car alarm installers!

Thanks, those are all great ideas. Any brand names you'd care to drop or might I order parts directly from your company?

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Old 04-27-2014, 17:11   #9
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May be committing sales blasphemy, but imo, you'd be better off either buying locally or online. PM incoming for additional info.
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Old 04-27-2014, 18:11   #10
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If you go the DYI route, check out Blue Iris software. I've been using it for over a year and have no complaints. Their iPhone and Android app is excellent. It's way cool to be able to connect at any time and see what's going on.

www.blueirissoftware.com
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Old 04-28-2014, 07:09   #11
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It sounds like you have a good handle on what you want and where you want it. My only advice on placement is to make sure the cameras overlap the hot spots that you are really concerned about. One view is good and two is better than one.

Some advice,

1. If you DIY, buy your parts either directly from the manufacturer or a electrical supply warehouse. Installation companies will typically mark up 20-30%. They have to do this to make a profit.
2. Some companies will try to sell you on installing cat6 cable; don't go for it. Go ahead and get a high quality cat5e cable. Odds are that whatever camera you install, you won't be needing cat6 because you won't be using it to its full capacity. Cat5e is also cheaper.
3. If you're running cable exposed to the weather, run outside rated cable. The plastic insulation will crack when exposed to UV or cold temps.
4. Buy cameras from a reputable maker.
I prefer these guys:

http://www.axis.com/products/video/camera/
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Old 04-28-2014, 11:49   #12
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Just interested:

What is your current home security setup?

- Quality of neighborhood?
- Local crime rate
- Proximity to high crime?
- Fenced? Gated?
- Door/windows?
- Security system?

I'm interested in that I generally like the idea of the camera, but would like to consider cost/benefit in conjunction with other factors…
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Old 04-28-2014, 20:38   #13
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This general area is primarily upper middle. It does border several large apt complexes but you don't hear about too many break ins. It's just the car that pulled in and left. Two very insistent advanced warning type of critters that don't miss a trick.

I recently moved into this home and am just getting ready to make it more secure. There are lots of trees and it makes observation from the road difficult. The house is over 100 years old and has been updated, added to and redone many times over the years. I believe the Windows are more modern double pane aluminium. New double front exterior door with glass ovals. This would be my entrance point if I were breaking in.

The back yard is fairly inaccessible as they would have to enter from another neighbourhood and cross about 300 feet after going through the back neighbours entire property. Not very likely approach.

There is an 8 ft wrought iron fence across the front of the property with gates on either side of the circular driveway. The drive is the only way in and if I want so lazy would close the gates every night. They have openers on them but are not working and need some work. That will be part of the game plan.

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Old 05-03-2014, 19:16   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc McGlock View Post
The other day, a strange car pulled into my circular driveway, paused for a short while then left. My wife didn't get the license plate and it sort of has me concerned.

Long story short, I've decided that it is time for security cameras with motion sensors and I am seeking advice for how to go about doing so. I would like be able to view from my smart phone as well as a localized command center in my home. I've read where the "kits" all suck. So, should I pay extra for a "professional install?" or are there options that I could ponder for a DIY?

Please, I ask that people with real knowledge respond as this is a very serious matter to me. I need a very simple system to have as much advance warning as possible. My initial budget is around $2500 but I don't want junk that will need replacing in a year. Thanks in advance.
for $2500, you should be able to get a very good system that includes offsite storage and HD video for multiple cameras.

Think about hiding your DVR, maybe even having a dummy DVR where it appears the wires from the camera go. Go to the company that makes your cameras, print their logo on clear adhesive lamination, and stick it to the dummy. The blinking LED's hooked up to house current are easy enough to do, and a small brick glued to the inside makes it feel heavy.

Even with the offsite storage of video, and the stickers that tell the guys at the door that the video is sent off site, it's still comforting to have a hard copy yourself.
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Old 05-04-2014, 07:43   #15
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One thing not mentioned ( unless I missed it ) is that there are really two types of cams...
1) activity cam - covering a large area , will see what happens and you'll know when but never get an ID or plate ( talking about a car in yr drvway ).
2) ID cam - positioned for small area to cover just that like a doorway. Gives good close up shot to ID person later

Good security ( with alarms ) require a bit of both cams with activity usu outside and the id cam inside..

But if want a quick and dirty way to cover your home, and see on yr smart phone a cheap way was (mentioned) trail cams outside and/or one or two DROPCAMs ( wifi ) in the house. You'll spend some money on Dropcams ($150-200 each, 2 models) but the advantage is they are easily placed and can be moved at will. And yes the service is about $100 year for 7 days storage.
I had one I used for a while outside ( protected from weather ) facing down my drive way and it worked fine. It sends email/messgs out to the smart phone and u can view.

Con would prob be if your planning to put in a full system soon it doesn't pay to do it twice.
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Old 05-04-2014, 11:22   #16
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Consider this: many major insurance companies give discounts for integrated alarm systems, some for camera systems as well. USAA gives a good discount if you have an integrated burglar/fire alarm system. Depending on your discount per year, you may see a good ROI for a system.
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