Last Updated on 18 August 2020
You’ve finally purchased a security camera system and now it’s time for installation. If you’re a bit overwhelmed, we’ve got you covered. This simple how to install a security camera guide is going to simplify the process. In the past, the complexity of home security systems often required professional installation and setup. With the growth of DIY home security, homeowners, renters, and small business owners can easily add a security system. Installation requirements vary by system complexity, from stand-alone plug and play wire-free security cameras, to complex multi-camera security systems. Our team of security experts will help you learn how to install security cameras, including where to place the cameras, as well as overall installation tips.
Planning is Key
Before we dive into the technicalities of how to install a security system, we need to first discuss preparation. Planning isn’t just about making the installation easier, but to ensure that your security system fits your property’s security needs. Many people make the mistake of beginning their planning after they have already purchased a security system. Instead, start with a security checklist and an assessment of your current security status. The purpose of this process is to determine your security vulnerabilities and identify key access points. Use this information to determine what size and type of security system will address your needs. Another essential factor to consider during the planning phase is to take some time to think about what type of security camera you need. From indoor and outdoor cameras, to wired and wireless, there are many choices to choose from.
Planning – Wiring Considerations
Most wired security camera systems include the necessary cabling. However, the length of cabling needed can impact what type of security system you install. For standard DVR systems, you’ll need coaxial cables which can result in degraded image quality after about 300ft/90m. NVR systems require Ethernet cables such as cat5e and cat6. Ethernet cables have more flexibility as network switches can be used to extend the cable length without impacting image quality. Make sure you use high-quality cables, as it can affect the distance at which you can install a camera and still have seamless functionality with no signal loss. Keep in mind that DVR systems usually require more installation time than NVR systems due to the larger cable required. Not sure on why and how DVRs and NVRs differ? Use this blog to understand the difference between DVRs and NVRs during the planning stage.
Where to Place Security Cameras
The most optimal security camera placement depends on your property. However, there are some universal tips that everyone should follow. After all, if installed in the wrong area, a security camera can be relatively useless.
Whether you’re placing your security cameras inside or outdoors, the main tip is to focus on specific areas of interest. Think back to your security assessment – the path leading up to your front and back doors (home or business), the different ways people access the building, and any blind spots. In some cases, you may need multiple cameras to capture specific areas. A general rule of thumb is to install the security camera at a downward angle to allow for accurate motion detection. It’s important to note, this won’t always be necessary, especially if you’re using a wide angle dome camera.
At a bare minimum, you will want at least one camera covering your front door, and potentially one monitoring your backdoor, as these are often the primary points of entry. Windows with ground floor access are also key points of vulnerability and could be monitored with cameras, window sensors, or both. Keep in mind that the gate or garage (if applicable) are also primary access points to a house or business and should be monitored as well. Security coverage of all access points should be maintained so that you can be alerted if someone attempts to enter your property.
How to Install Security Cameras Outdoors
Placing security cameras outdoor has a few additional and unique considerations:
- Avoid backlighting and lens flare
- Backlighting occurs when there is a very bright light which bleeds the footage out resulting in a very pale, almost white image.
- Backlighting can be created by any bright light such as the sun, security light, or street light.
- Reflection from the sun or other lights can cause lens flare which results in circles or dots on your security footage.
- Make sure to face the security camera away from direct sunlight to avoid poor security footage.
- Mount the security camera out of reach
- Make sure you position the cameras where they are hard to reach. You don’t want easy access to the camera, as an intruder could easily break or disarm it.
- However, be careful not to mount the camera too high as this can inhibit your ability to identify people caught on camera.
- Check Wi-Fi connection strength*
- The further from your router the camera gets, the more difficult it can be to achieve an adequate signal. As such, check your signal strength at each camera location. If the signal is weak or dropping out, you can install a Wi-Fi extender or try these tips to optimize your Wi-Fi signal.
- *Note: This only applies to Wi-Fi connected cameras.
- Be aware of privacy implications
- Make sure you know the surveillance laws in your county, state, and country. Although most U.S. states don’t have any specific laws around surveillance, make sure security cameras do not point inside a neighbors property—this is an invasion of privacy.
Common Security Installation Question – Should the camera be visible?
Although this is most commonly asked for outdoor security cameras, it can pertain the indoors as well, especially for businesses. A study of convicted burglars asked them to explain what they would do as a homeowner to remove the bullseye from their home, and one of the most ubiquitous tips was to ensure that there’s a visible camera on the property.1 As such, a common practice is to install a ‘mock’ security camera for the visible deterrent and have hidden cameras as well.
Security Camera Installation Pro Tips
- Check access to power outlets (not applicable for wire-free security cameras)
- Before finalizing the camera location, connect the camera to the recorder to ensure everything works correctly.
- When mounting a security camera, measure and check twice before drilling any holes.
- Check camera angle and security footage throughout the installation process
- You will want to confirm if the security camera is actually in the most optimal location and not leaving any blind spots. For example, it may seem like the camera is facing the right direction but you may not see certain obstructions or issues until you look at the actual camera view.
- With Swann, you can use our smartphone apps to see the camera view during the installation process.
- Many companies offer installation services or can recommend professionals.
Summary – Where to Install Security Cameras
- Focus on specific areas.
- Monitor entry and exit points – including a gate or garage if applicable. The front & back doors are the most important.
- Angle camera at a downward angle.
- Use multiple cameras to cover blind spots.
- Place the security cameras out of reach.
- Check for lighting issues that may impact image quality.
The most important thing to remember when installing your security system is to take your time, plan ahead, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you run into problems during the installation, check out the Swann support or community.
 Joseph B. Kuhns, “Understanding Decisions To Burglarize From the Offender’s Perspective,” University of North Carolina at Charlotte.