Recommendations for DIY Home Surveilance Hardware?
January 8, 2014 3:26 PM   Subscribe

About six months ago, we bought and moved into a new house (yay!) in a neighborhood that is up-and-coming (yay!) but still has a crime rate higher than I love (boo!). I'm looking to install video surveillance equipment in the home and I'm looking for advice and recommendations.

There are three primary things I'd like to keep an eye on: activity at the front and back door, activity in the front yard / driveway, and activity in a few rooms inside the house. The cameras inside the house would be primarily used to spy on our dogs when we're not home, but I suppose could come in handy should someone break in.

I imagine that this is going to involve buying some cameras and buying or building some sort of device to record/store video. Amazon has a TON of options and I have no idea how to evaluate them.

Here are the features we're looking for:

We do not need a 'round-the-clock video record of everything that happened. It would be perfectly acceptable (and probably desirable) to have the system only store motion-based events.

I'd love for the cameras to record at 720p or better.

It would be helpful if the cameras work in low-light or the dark but I would be willing to compromise on this some and/or supplement it with motion-based lighting outside.

In a perfect world, there'd be a way to make the live feed of the cameras available remotely (we currently use iCam / iCamSource to spy on one of the dogs, so if the cameras were compatible with that, I'd consider this point met. If that's not possible / practical, having programmatic access to the motion event videos would be sufficient.

As for us, we're comfortable with DIY home construction projects (running wires, etc) and can handle most technical tasks (networking, programming, etc.).

As a baseline, we use Frontpoint for our security system, so if adding cameras to that system is the cheapest or best option, that's what we'll do. They cost $180, $280 and $300 and appear to do everything we want, but I'm curious if there's something better out there.

If buying cameras from amazon is the answer, in addition to what brand/model to buy, I'd be extra curious to hear what the recommended DVR setup is. Are there black-box appliances for this sort of thing? Open-source software for you to build your own? What's state of the art here?
posted by toomuchpete to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I meant to include this but forgot: I fully realize and appreciate that the presence of video cameras is probably not substantially likely to prevent crimes and that it might not be terribly useful in catching or prosecuting the folks after the fact, but the peace of mind (and puppy spying) is still worth it to us when combined with the meager preventative gains is worth it..
posted by toomuchpete at 3:48 PM on January 8, 2014

Take a look at Logitech's camera system:

They are motion sensitive and record to a computer and/or SD card that is in the camera itself. They stream through Logitech's website so you can view them remotely, I think they have an app too.

They will also e-mail you alerts if the camera isn't able to record to the SD card.

Oh, one other cool feature is that if you have a branch that waves in the wind, you can tell the camera that a certain area always has movement and it will ignore movement in that section.
posted by effigy at 4:21 PM on January 8, 2014

A neighbor on has been raving about the Logitech setup he has installed:

We installed the logitech alert cameras and they work as well as they say. Extremely easy to install, great video quality and the best night vision I have seen. Link is here:

We have one in our alley, one looking into the backyard and one on our front door. One of the biggest things that attracted me to these cameras was that it uses your homes electrical wiring. So no need for wireless signal, video wires or camera servers. You simply plug the cameras in where you want them and plug a box into your router. Everything auto configures so you don't need to be an IT guy to install. Literally a 10 minute install. You can set alerts so you can have snaphots emailed to your phone when motion is detected or watch live video from your iphone or android phone. I will be at work and get an email when solicitors come to the door and I have a record of who stopped by. These are far superior than any kits you will buy at home depot or costco. Cameras are about $200 a piece which may seem high but after you try the cameras they are a great value. It brings us a little piece of mind......

He's a very happy customer, so much so that I've even considered installing a couple myself.

Another neighbor posted some alternatives:

Dropcam Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera

Night Owl Security STA-44 4-Channel STA DVR with 4 Night Vision Cameras 500 GB HD and Smartphone Viewing, 30-Feet

Philips M100/37 Wireless Home Monitor
posted by caryatid at 4:58 PM on January 8, 2014

I know the person who wired his house with these cameras to keep an eye on his home from the office. He is definitely knows the subject and really gets into it — even setting up power-over-Ethernet so that the cameras are powered, HD and remotely accessible. You should read his blog and send him an email if you're curious about specifics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:22 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used these cameras. I selected them because they work even in the (important for me) extreme cold, and lighting condition, and could be powered with PoE.
posted by grudgebgon at 5:32 PM on January 8, 2014

Dropcam is the easiest to set up and the best quality video that I've seen on the market. We have one, and being able to keep an eye on things from your computer or smartphone anywhere in the world is fantastic. It can also send you a text when it detects motion. Take a look at some example feeds.
posted by chevyvan at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2014

My ex has a camera on the front of his house trained on the driveway and sidewalk, mainly due to mail theft and car break-ins. I just wanted to mention that the camera was stolen at least twice during the four years I lived there, despite being mounted pretty high up. So apparently this is something people do. You should try to put yours somewhere hidden and/or inaccessible, if possible.
posted by désoeuvrée at 6:55 AM on January 10, 2014

I have the Logitech Alert system at two house locations, and it's been great for me. But I have bad news: it appears that Logitech is discontinuing the product. Here is an announcement.
posted by StrawberryPie at 9:26 PM on August 15, 2014

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