Exterior Home Security

What Are the Different Types of Security Cameras, and Which One Is Right for My Home?

Protect your home and business with a wide range of camera options.
Meghan Wentland Avatar
types of security cameras

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Q: Many of my neighbors have security cameras now, and I love the idea of being able to keep an eye on my house. But there are so many different kinds that it’s overwhelming to choose—I’m not techy enough to know what to get. What’s the best security camera for my home? 

A: You’re right that there are many options—this market has really exploded over the last couple of years, and there are offerings from many security companies and video technology companies anxious for your business. In choosing security cameras for your business or home, there are a number of things to consider, such as how and where you’ll install the camera, how you’ll power it up, what kind of durability and resolution you need, and really, what kind of security you’re looking for.

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You can choose from wired or wireless security cameras.

Wired cameras, which are available in both indoor and outdoor styles, connect to a central recording device using coaxial or HDMI cables. These cameras do not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, as they are powered by the cable connection, which can make them neater to look at but also means they often require professional installation. Because they aren’t relying on battery power or Wi-Fi, wired cameras can provide continuous recording rather than firing up only when a motion sensor triggers the camera. With a continuous feed, you can essentially use your cell phone and camera network to set up closed-circuit television, or CCTV, for home monitoring. CCTV systems are more common in commercial security camera systems, but especially if you have a business in your home, a CCTV dome camera can provide extra security when wired into your system.

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Wireless cameras have a somewhat misleading name: They don’t have a cable that connects to a recording device, but they do need to be plugged into an indoor or outdoor electrical outlet. One benefit of an indoor outlet is that by drilling through the wall or roof to thread the plugs though, you’ll cover the wires and make it impossible to cut them. Wireless cameras connect to a cloud server through Wi-Fi and store the images there. Because these cameras are plugged in, there’s no need to worry about power and, like wired cameras, they can be set to record continuous feed.

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Indoor cameras, both wired and wireless, benefit from continuous feed and can be used to keep an eye on a sleeping baby or pets that are home alone, as the feed can be accessed anytime without requiring a motion sensor to trigger the recording. How else can you check on your sweetly sleeping child from afar or tell that your pet has been secretly snoozing on the couch while you’re at work? Indoor security cameras can also help homeowners keep an eye on areas of the home that might be vulnerable to intrusion or check in on kids who are home alone—with or without their knowledge.

Wire-free cameras are different from wireless cameras. 

While sometimes wire-free and wireless mean the same thing, in the world of security cameras there is a distinct difference. Wireless cameras connect to a server wirelessly to store data but do require an electrical plug so they can continuously record for long periods of time. Wire-free cameras have no cords or wires of any kind: They transmit images through Wi-Fi and are powered by batteries or solar power. As a result, wire-free cameras are easy to install and move, but they usually only record when a motion sensor is triggered to preserve their battery life. Depending on where you’re positioning the camera, this may not make a difference. The most important time to record is when motion is close by, but you’ll risk missing the lead-up to a crime or act of vandalism, and you won’t be able to record what happens at longer distances.

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The main difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is that outdoor cameras are built to withstand the elements.

Most security cameras have similar types of surveillance. They can be set to record when a motion sensor is triggered or they can record continuously; they can feed recordings to a device through a cable or to a cloud server via Wi-Fi; and some have night vision enabled or lights for more accurate images. The primary distinction between indoor and outdoor cameras is weatherproofing. Indoor cameras can be smaller, as they’re covering a smaller area and may need to be concealed, and their mounting systems are usually simpler because the indoor surfaces make it easier to mount a bracket. Outdoor cameras, however, must be mounted to shingles or other exterior surfaces, and they must be tough enough to withstand wind-driven water, high heat, and freezing cold temperatures—along with interested insects and birds—without losing function. Also, exterior cameras must be housed in material that will resist a criminal’s attempts to break it by throwing rocks or hitting the camera with other objects. They often include lights and sometimes sirens to deter would-be burglars.

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Floodlight cameras can help scare away potential intruders. 

Burglars prefer to stay in the shadows and quickly get in and out of your home, garage, or car with as little attention as possible. While your security cameras are designed to catch troublemakers in the act, it’s even better when the camera’s features can help prevent a crime from happening in the first place. In order to capture better video of your yard, many outdoor cameras are fitted with a motion-sensor floodlight to bathe anything that moves in the glare of bright light. Better resolution is the goal of these lights, but an enormous added benefit is that when the light flashes on, most criminals will run away out of the spotlight instead of breaking into your home or car. Some exterior cameras even have a siren attached to draw attention to your yard with a shrieking alarm; combined with the bright light and obvious indicator that a camera is in play, your camera and audible alarm will hopefully drive the burglar away before they have time to commit their intended crime.

Video doorbells have an integrated security camera. 

All the rage right now due to their easy installation and simple interface, video doorbells are a quick and easy way to add a security camera to your home without climbing ladders or dealing with the hassle of installation. Doorbell cameras integrate a wide-eye security camera into the wiring of your doorbell (although there are some that are battery powered and operate independently) and provide a clear view of your front step and yard when triggered by a motion sensor or activated using a mobile app. Many of these devices will allow you to interact with people on your property: You can speak to visitors through the doorbell security camera regardless of whether you’re home or not and hear their responses. The camera will send a notification to your phone app and immediately begin recording, and some of them also have lights to acquire a higher-resolution video.

Much like exterior floodlights, doorbell cameras can offer the additional benefit of scaring off potential criminals just by way of their presence. If someone knows their appearance is being recorded, they’re less likely to approach your home in the first place.

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The right security camera for your home depends on your needs and the desired level of protection. 

A comprehensive security system will include a combination of elements, and several types of surveillance cameras are a significant part of that package. You’ll need to decide what kind of protection you want. Many security-conscious renters and homeowners choose to include a few indoor cameras focused on general areas or entryways and some that cover the garage door, driveway, and front entrance. These can be combined with exterior cameras that cover the backyard or other areas where it’s easy to avoid detection. Security cameras are available in packages that cost less than buying the cameras individually, and you can decide if you prefer to self-monitor the cameras using apps and cloud storage or opt for professional monitoring for a monthly fee (some security companies will offer a significant discount on their equipment if you commit to a monitoring contract).

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If you have a small business in your home, it’s important to note that your homeowners insurance will not generally cover losses to the business that occur, even if the events are covered in your policy. It makes sense to consider separate insurance policies to cover losses due to fire or damage, but it’s a good plan to consider a small business security camera system to keep an eye on what your employees are doing or to catch better footage of a burglar stealing from or damaging the equipment owned by your business.

The presence of monitored security cameras can reduce the cost of your homeowners insurance, as insurance companies appreciate the risk reduction that the best security systems provide to your home. But most importantly, a well-considered security camera and system will protect you, your family, and your property from malicious harm and offer you peace of mind.