“Secrets” to Saving Money When Buying Home Security Cameras

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Looking for a deal or to save money on adding a home security camera system?

Home security is often the #1 goal for a smart home retro-fit or upgrade. There are a huge number of IP security cameras available for sale and the differences between the products can be confusing. With hundreds of brands and models, it can be hard to choose.

My “secrets” to saving money when buying security cameras:

There are only a few actual manufacturers of the image sensors and video chips and most of the cameras all use the same chip. So you won’t find a big difference in video quality between a lot of the products.

If you aren’t stuck on brand names, you can save a lot of money. Brands spend money on advertising and promotion and pass along those costs to you as higher prices. “No name” products can be a lot cheaper because they don’t spend on advertising and PR.

The biggest difference is usually in the software (the web interface, the smartphone app, & the cloud services). Since the software only works with a specific brand of camera, you can usually download the app for free before you buy the camera. (Some features won’t work, but you can get a good idea of the overall quality this way very quickly).

The real cost isn’t the purchase price - it is the on-going monthly fees for “cloud storage” of the video footage. Shop around and pay close attention to the details. The smaller/unknown brands often have free or low-cost monthly charges. Costs also depend upon how many cameras you own - some companies charge you a monthly fee per camera, others have a higher monthly fee, but allow an unlimited number of cameras so your cost may depend on how many cameras you plan to have installed.

Buy only what you need, not what you want! For many locations, a lower-resolution video feed (“SD” standard definition or older 720p “HD” high definition) will be much cheaper than the top-of-the-line 1080p (or greater) high definition video. Do you really need to see the inside of your garage in 1080p instead of SD or 720p? Would you rather save $20 to $70 per camera?

A large hidden cost is often the physical installation. You might need to hire an electrician to install a power outlet that is near where you want to install the camera. Outdoor cameras require mounting and possibly drilling holes to run the network and/or power cords. (Wi-Fi can help, but don’t rush into battery-powered cameras unless you really understand the trade-offs and limitations.)

Know the difference between analog and digital security cameras; local or cloud-based recordings. You will see deals that are “too good to be true” at your local big box store (Costco, Best Buy, Target, Walmart) on complete “security systems” but often these are very cheap, low-end products with analog cameras and proprietary recording boxes that will lock you in with horrible software, limited expansion, and no flexibility.

If you just want one or two cameras to keep an eye on house (inside, outside, or both), then any of the retail individual cameras will do just fine. If you want to step up to a full camera system that provides better control, remote viewing, fine-tuned motion detection, and the ability to mix-and-match different brands and types of actual cameras then you’ll probably want to start with choosing the system software first. My two favorites are Blue Iris for PC’s and SecuritySpy for Macs.

IP Security Cameras Wish List / Shopping list - Here’s a convenient summary set of links:

Amcrest ProHD 1080P: http://amzn.to/2uE25tQ

Amcrest ProHD 720P: http://amzn.to/2fG01Lb

Nest Cam Outdoor Security. Camera: http://amzn.to/2wOu9rQ

Canary All-in-One Home Security Device: http://amzn.to/2vGPZgI

Recommended NVR (network video recorders) Software Systems:

Blue Iris Software (for PC computers): http://bit.ly/1Nyldf0

SecuritySpy Software (for Mac computers): http://bit.ly/2uHawEs