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Home security demystified: How to build a smart DIY system

By Jennifer Tuohy | May 29, 2015
Homeowners and renters can now build and maintain their own custom-designed home security system easily and inexpensively.

Here's a look at the two most common camera systems to consider adding to your home security set up:

* Wireless — This is the closest thing to a traditional surveillance system, but because it is wireless you can install it yourself. With a minimum of four bullet style cameras hooked up to a digital video recorder, you can have professional quality interior or exterior monitoring for a fraction of the professional price.

Choose weatherproof cameras with infrared night vision and a good range (between 60 and 150 feet). You also need to have a DVR with enough storage to hold all the footage captured by your cameras — 1 TB for four cameras is about right. Look for expandability, so you can add cameras to the system should the need arise.

Make sure your system comes with remote viewing software so you can connect it to your network and view live feeds, watch recorded video and get motion activation alerts to your phone or computer.

* WiFi cameras — This is the new kid on the block when it comes to home security, made popular by companies like Dropcam. Connected to the Internet via WiFi, these cameras can be easily and quickly installed (just plug them in and turn them on) and provide a live feed of your home instantly. You can install just one, or several to provide whole home coverage.

Features to look for in a WiFi camera include:

  • Night vision capability
  • Two-way communication (so you can hear what's happening in your home and talk to its occupants)
  • Pan tilt and zoom capability, to limit the number of cameras you need for full coverage.
  • Motion sensing software that will send you a notification when someone comes in a room.
  • If you have family members or roommates often home when you're not, look for facial recognition capability, to cut down on the number of unnecessary alerts you receive.

WiFi cameras don't need a DVR as they stream their footage to the cloud, allowing you to access live footage on a computer or mobile device. For a small monthly fee (usually around $6) you can access stored video to playback or download recordings. Most WiFi cameras are suitable for indoor use only.

Select your sensors

Sensors help extend your home security system into all corners of your home. With the ability to detect motion and a wide array of potentially threatening environmental conditions, sensors are a crucial component of your system.

Today sensors not only detect problems and sound an alarm, but if they are connected to your home's WiFi, they can alert you wherever you are. This is where DIY security has come into its own. You used to have to spend upwards of $30 a month to have someone continuously monitor your home for danger — now you can do it all yourself, for free.


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