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Home security cameras keep watch over your home from both inside and outside, acting as an extra pair of eyes and ears to monitor your property. In this guide, we'll look at the benefits of installing indoor and outdoor security cameras, from their potential to deter criminals to other applications such as pet and baby monitors. We'll also explore the necessary and optional features of security cameras, as well as their drawbacks. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the other ways to protect your home if you’re not sure about installing cameras.

What Are the Benefits of Home Security Cameras?

Peace of mind is one of the main benefits of security cameras, whether you choose to install cameras that are wired or wireless. They can increase your home security by letting you check in on your property from wherever you are, see a live feed of your home on a smartphone or computer, and get immediate alerts of any unusual activity.

While the number of burglaries in the U.S. continued to decline recently, the value of the property stolen increased in 2018 to $2,799 (the most recent year for which this information is available). These studies indicate that although burglary rates are dropping, more valuable items are being stolen. This makes home security cameras an important tool in our home protection kit, as they can help with recovery as well as detection.

Security cameras are recognized as an excellent deterrent to criminals. The experts we spoke with don't recommend relying solely on cameras for security, saying a complete home security system is the best defense. However, cameras are still important. “If I had to choose, I would go with an alarm system over a camera system first,” says Jordan Frankel, vice president of security consulting firm Global Security Experts Inc. “But I do think cameras are a great addition, primarily because they're a psychological deterrence. A bad guy sees the camera and may skip your home and move on to an easier target.”

Home security cameras aren’t just useful for policing your property; they’re also helpful for keeping an eye on children and pets when you can’t be there. A security camera with facial recognition by your front door can send you a push notification saying, “John is at the front door,” so you know your child is home safely. Two-way audio on indoor cameras can act as an intercom, allowing you to see and talk to your family when you’re not home.

Ultimately, home security cameras work best to protect your property when they're integrated with a home security system. To save their batteries, wireless security cameras only start to record when they detect motion, which means they may not record everything you'd want them to. With a home security system, cameras, especially mini camera, can be set to start recording as soon as any part of the security system is triggered, such as a contact sensor, a glass-break sensor, or a motion sensor. This makes it more likely the cameras will record everything that’s happening on your property and not just the few seconds of motion that occurred right in front of them.

What Are Less Important Home Security Camera Features?

Continuous video recording, also called 24/7 recording, is a luxury that you most likely don’t need. Unless you want to record every moment of the day on your property, you can skip this feature, which can be expensive on wireless indoor surveillance cameras and uses a lot of Wi-Fi bandwidth and internet data.

Another feature you probably don' need is an extremely wide field of view, which can distort the image. A 130-degree field of view is usually sufficient.

Finally, modern Wi-Fi security IP cameras have a host of smart features to give you more detailed information about what’s going on in your home without you having to pull up the video feed. These software-based features tend to increase the price of the camera and aren't essential, although they're nice to have. They include features such as person detection, which allows the camera to alert you that a person is on your property, rather than just telling you motion was detected. The ability to set activity zones means the camera will only notify you about motion in a certain area of the image (ignoring, for example, a tree that frequently blows in the wind). Other nice-to-have smart features include the ability to work with smart home systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa Google’s Assistant and Apple’s HomeKit, and to integrate with smart door locks to allow for secure in-home deliveries.

What Are the Privacy Concerns of Home Security Cameras?

Cameras can record video all the time or when they detect motion, which means every time you or someone else walks into your garden or past your video doorbell. Before installing cameras in and around your home, make sure every member of your household knows they're there and is comfortable with them. Cameras can be hacked, with your footage monitored or even posted to the internet. However, the measures we discuss in How to Keep Your Security Cameras Safe will reduce this risk considerably.

We strongly recommend that you enable any built-in privacy features that the camera offers, and it can be perfect as baby monitor. For example, cameras can be turned off in the mobile app or geofencing technology can turn them off automatically when someone in your family with a smartphone is home.

What Are Some Uses of Home Security Cameras Besides Preventing Burglary?

Today’s home security cameras, including outdoor surveillance camera, are multifunctional and can be used for much more than just monitoring your property for intruders. Here are just a few other uses for home security cameras:

Baby Monitor: Set up an indoor camera in your baby’s room and view a live feed wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection. You’ll need a camera capable of recording 24/7 and it will need to be plugged in, but as long as it has two-way audio and will send alerts on sound or motion it will work as a reliable monitor.

Pet Cam: Indoor, outdoor or other cameras can be used to keep an eye on your dogs, cats, chicken coop, or bunny hutch. Some cameras can specifically alert you to the noise of a dog barking so you can talk to your pet with a two-way talk feature.

Smart Home Trigger: If you have other smart home devices in your home, your camera, or action monitor, can be linked with them so they can respond automatically. For example, the motion sensor in an outdoor camera can turn smart lights inside if it detects motion in your driveway when you come home.

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