Last Updated on 20 September 2023
When determining the type of security camera or system you need, it is critical to understand the difference between wired, wireless, also known as powered Wi-Fi, and wire-free systems. While it can seem pretty intuitive at first, the nuances between the three lie in the details. We know there’s a lot to consider when choosing a security system, so our security experts are breaking down wire-free and wired vs. wireless security cameras, detailing the pros and cons of each to help you find the best security solution for your property.
WIRED SECURITY CAMERAS
Wired security is the most traditional and used primarily on larger properties. Evidenced by their name, wired security, these systems require cables for power, internet connection, and video transmission.
How Do Wired Security Cameras Work?
A cable runs from the camera to a recorder, which then connects to your router. There are two choices for how a wired security system is powered, a separate power cord or one POE cable. POE or Power Over the Ethernet enabled systems only require one cable which provides both power and internet connection.
The main strength of wired security is reliability. Wired security systems are not susceptible to interference from wireless signals due to the physical connections between the camera, recorder, and router.
Pro: Supports Larger Systems
One of the primary determining factors when choosing a wired vs. wireless security camera system is the size of your property and the number of cameras needed. Many home or business owners with large properties want comprehensive coverage versus only monitoring select access points. As such, they will often require more than four cameras in which case will need a wired system that can support and link all the cameras. Wired systems can support 4 to 16 cameras. In addition to connecting all the cameras, the security footage needs to be stored on a recorder, either a DVR or NVR recorder.
Con: Installation Time
One of the most significant drawbacks of a wired system is the installation process. Although installing a wired security system doesn’t require professionals, it does require running multiple cables which can be daunting for some. In addition, wired solutions tend to be less flexible when it comes to mounting than both wireless and wire-free solutions as they need access to a power outlet.
Con: Vulnerable to Power Outages
Another disadvantage of wired security systems is their vulnerability to power outages. If your property loses power, so will your security system. Although power outages are often infrequent, it’s an important consideration. For remote properties this can be mitigated with a backup generator.
Pro & Con: Better for Long-Term, Permanent Security Solutions
A wired security camera system is better suited for homeowners or businesses with a more permanent location due to the installation time. As wired systems require running cables, installation and mounting can be a longer process. Location of cameras and the recorder will depend on access to power outlets and you’ll need to run cables between devices. Once installed, wired systems are less flexible as moving cameras will require re-running cables. For people looking for a quick, temporary security solution installation and lack of flexibility are detracting factors. However, for many, the increased reliability and ability to link more cameras will offset the longer installation process.
Wireless security systems are a great alternative to wired systems. Wireless systems aim to address the most significant downside to a wired security camera system: installation. The key difference between a wired and wireless security camera system is that security footage is transmitted wirelessly from the camera to the recorder.
How Do Wireless Security Cameras Work?
Wireless security cameras work by transmitting security footage from the camera to the recorder. You’ll have access to the footage either through a built-in device or cloud storage. Wireless systems connect to your Wi-Fi network (either wirelessly or with a cable), however, do still require wired power.
Pro: Easy Installation
Installation is one of the main benefits of wireless systems as compared to wired systems. As wireless cameras connect to the Wi-Fi network to transmit footage, there is no need to run cables from the recorder to cameras. As such, wireless cameras are more flexible in terms of mounting locations. The only limitation when it comes to mounting a wireless camera is access to a power source. Wireless solutions also include the option of running a cable from the camera to the recorder, which is can be useful if you have an area that lacks wireless coverage.
Pro: Ideal for Renters & Homeowners
Unlike wired security camera systems which are more permanent, a wireless system is easy to setup, take down, and move. As such, wireless systems are ideal for renters or businesses in temporary locations.
One of the significant downsides of wireless security cameras is they are susceptible to interference, which can make them less reliable in some situations. In today’s connected world, wireless signals and broadcasts are all around us, all the time. For wireless security cameras, these competing signals can pose a problem.
The signal of your router and other routers in range on the same bandwidth overlap and can cause interference for devices. Interference can is particularly challenging in apartment complexes, where nearly every apartment has one or more wireless signals, and the vast majority are using the same bandwidth.
Con: Dependent on a Wireless Signal
Your wireless signal strength, or your scope of coverage, is tied to a number of factors including your router, the presence of, the amount of interference, and the route the signal has to take to get to your cameras.
All wireless security cameras will need to be located within Wi-Fi range. If there is a significant amount of building or metal between the camera and your wireless router, you may experience some connection issues. If this is the case, you can add wireless repeaters to extend and improve your wireless coverage to the areas lacking a reliable Wi-Fi signal. In addition, repeaters can help strengthen the wireless signal and connection between more distant wireless cameras. Wireless repeaters are simple to install and easy to use. They connect to your existing wireless connection and rebroadcast it from wherever you mount it.
Con: Vulnerable to Power Outages
As wireless systems still require a hard-wired power connection, they are susceptible to power outages as with wired systems.
Con: Limited Size
Wireless security systems are limited to only four cameras which for most homes is more than sufficient. However, if you have a medium to large property, we recommend you opt for a wired system.
Wire-free security cameras are the most flexible and easy to install. Due to advances in battery technology, wire-free security cameras have evolved significantly and are a great security option.
How Do Wire-Free Security Cameras Work?
Wire-free security cameras work by transmitting security footage wirelessly to a video receiver. The wire-free security cameras use battery-operated systems to charge the device – therefore no wires or cables are required for installation.
Pro: Seamless Installation
Wire-free security camera systems are the easiest to install as they don’t require access to a power source or any cables. As such, they can be easily mounted almost anywhere, making installation quick and easy. However, keep in mind that wire-free cameras do need to be mounted out of reach otherwise they can just as easily be removed by a burglar.
Pro: Perfect for Renters & Homeowners
Due to their easy installation and mounting, wire-free cameras are the ideal choice for renters or homeowners only needing to monitor a select area.
Pro: Works Through Power Outages
One main advantage of wire-free security cameras is that they are not vulnerable to power outages like wireless and wired security cameras as they’re battery operated.
Pro: Cloud Storage
Unlike wired and wireless systems which require connecting to a DVR or NVR recorder, wire-free cameras transmit and store security footage to the cloud.
Pro: No Cables
Wire-free cameras don’t have any cables so there are no cables to run and burglars can’t just cut the cables to disable the security system.
Con: Batteries Need to be Charged or Recharged
The main downside of wire-free security cameras is the need to periodically recharge the batteries. Luckily, this isn’t too often as wire-free cameras usually conserve power in ‘sleep’ or ‘standby’ modes until they are triggered. Most of the time they’re in standby, power saving mode.
Con: Relies on Wi-Fi Signal
As with wireless systems, wire-free cameras depend on the strength of your wireless network. If needed you can easily improve your wireless signal with Wi-Fi repeaters.
WIRED, WIRELESS & WIRE-FREE SECURITY
Before you add any security system, evaluate the current security of your property. The property size and security needs will ultimately determine what system is best. Not sure where to get started? Our home security checklist breaks down the top three elements of home security. Then, use our security systems comparison chart to further understand how the three types differ will help you install a security system that works and gives you peace of mind.
Now that you know the difference between wired vs. wireless vs. wire-free security, learn about the different recorders available, NVR or DVR.