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DIY Camera Systems vs Professional Surveillance Cameras

diy-vs-professional

So you have decided to add the security of video surveillance to your home. Now come the big decisions, and there are quite a few. One of the first decisions you will make is whether to design and install your own surveillance cameras using one of the many DIY camera systems or call a professional to take care of this work for you.

If you are not a “Do-it-Yourself-er,” the decision should be quite easy. Perhaps the most technical thing you know is not to put a knife in the toaster (but you’re not even quite sure why). If this describes you, go ahead and stop reading now and call someone who does this work for a living. On the other hand, if you are handy and have a basic understanding of computers, electronics, and wiring, read on. We talk to people every day that go through this analysis, and have learned the basics of making this decision. While not all-inclusive, this list provides a good foundation for what factors to consider while making this decision.

Cost

As a general rule, professional camera installation costs more than the DIY camera systems. Of course, this brings to mind another general rule that states “you get what you pay for.” Hiring a professional means paying for the training, tools, expertise, and industry-related licenses required to do the work correctly. Also, professional installers do not want there to be any trouble upon the work’s completion, as every return trip to fix a problem costs them money. Therefore, professional installers generally install higher-quality products that they know will be trouble-free for years to come.

The DIY’er can save money in a couple places. Professionals charge an hourly rate for their work, due in large part to the time and trouble it takes to install a surveillance system correctly. You can also save money by buying cheaper equipment than what you’d get from a security company. If you don’t mind trading in picture quality and overall product quality for a camera that won’t look as good or last as long as a professionally installed camera, you will naturally save some money. Of course, these up-front savings may get eaten up by issues you will have down the road with any DIY camera equipment, so recognize that going down this route is a gamble.

DIY can be fun! (for some)

Tackling a major project can be very satisfying. Of course, spending several hours running wire in tight and hot spaces such as your attic, mounting cameras, and configuring network devices is not everyone’s idea of a good time. However, a job well done provides a feeling of pride and ownership and also allows you to learn. In addition, if you installed the system yourself, then you have an intimate knowledge of every wire, screw, plug and piece of equipment involved. This will come in very handy when troubleshooting issues in the future.

Electrical Permits

If you’ve ever done major work on your home before, you know that doing the work legally requires more than just a trip to the hardware store. Like any major renovation project, installing cameras requires obtaining permits and meeting specific standards and codes. Every town and city is different, so call your local building inspector and find out what is required in your area. Depending on what type of system you install, you may also need to schedule an inspection. Call your town/city hall before you begin. The laws are there to protect you, your belongings, and your neighbors. You should also check with your homeowner’s insurance company. Make sure to install everything to code so you don’t have any problems in the future if you need to make a damage claim.

Increased Home Value

Professionally installed cameras could increase the resale value of your home. Potential buyers generally see an existing surveillance system as a unique security feature that makes it easier to ensure the possessions and people in a house stay safe and secure. On the other hand, a sloppy DIY project often looks like yet another thing that needs to be fixed. It can also lead to issues when selling the home if the homeowner didn’t pull the proper permits and the work did not follow local codes. Consult with a licensed real estate appraiser before you do any work for their advice if increasing your homes value is part of the goal of your security cameras.

What type of camera should I buy?

If you do decide to install your own video surveillance system, there are several things that you must consider during the design process. When professional installers come out to survey a home or business for cameras, they guide you through the process to design a system that meets your needs. The professionals do this day in and day out, so you can feel assured that you will end up with as effective a system as possible for your budget.

As a DIY’er, you can begin to save your money here by putting the effort and time involved with system design and creation on your own. Do your research, and lots of it. Talk to friends, coworkers and neighbors who have their own systems. Learn from their success and mistakes. The internet can also be a good resource as long as you know where to look, but keep in mind there is a lot of misinformation out there. Here are a few questions you must answer when selecting equipment and camera locations for your own system:

Wired or wireless?

Wireless cameras are the easier of the two to install, because all you need is AC power at the camera location and a WiFi connection. The downside is the picture can be lower quality and use up WiFi bandwidth. The more traffic you put on your WiFi network, the slower everything goes. Also, there is rarely a free AC outlet exactly where you want to mount the camera so usually a license electrician is still needed even with wireless cameras.

How many cameras do I need, and where should they go?

Think about what you want to capture, blind spots, and mounting locations and surfaces. The higher you mount a camera, the more area it will cover. However, moving a camera higher will also create a loss of detail if it has a fixed lens like most DIY camera systems brands do. A camera mounted too high may only see peoples’ heads, and not their faces. This can render a camera useless by something as trivial as someone wearing a hat.

How should I record the video, and how much recording time do I need?

Select a DVR that has plenty of storage for the system you are installing. Make sure you have enough storage to record at a high frame rate and utilize a camera’s full resolution. It can be very frustrating to have a low quality recording when you need to review footage.

It’s Your Call

Designing and installing a camera system – whether on your own or with a professional – is a major undertaking. Nevertheless, the added security and peace of mind the system provides is often worth the time and effort. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about the points covered in this blog or with surveillance system design in general.