Selecting the Right Security Camera or Surveillance System

Updated: 12/30/2021

Although most of the security cameras are commercial and industrial installations, the same equipment can be used for residential applications.

However, there is a big difference between the surveillance equipment you can buy at a discount electronics store or discount clubs and the equipment a professional security systems integrator specifies for commercial applications. The most significant difference is in capability, quality, warranty length, and function.

Please understand that most security companies will not install equipment a resident has purchased for a residential application. You get into all sorts of warranty issues, functions, and camera challenges. 

Also note, any installing company must have a state license to install CCTV systems, these are issued by the Texas DPS department.

Additionally, be careful because many “camera experts” are not licensed to install cameras and have no liability/workmens comp insurance. Working in a residence has unique challenges and the last thing you want is a half-installed system with a hole in your ceiling where a “Trunk Slammer” technician missed a ceiling joist and left the installation. Be sure the selected installation company has insurance and has been in business for at least a couple of years.

Now, before you make a camera system purchase, consider the following questions:

  • What type of surveillance camera should you choose?
  • Should I get a weatherproof security camera even if the camera is not directly exposed to the elements?
  • What size monitor and Digital Video Recorder do I need to purchase?
  • What options are essential in a Digital Video Recorder? Does it have motion-activated real-time recording capabilities? Can I access it from the Internet or my smartphone?
  • Is a wireless video surveillance camera security system a good option for my application?
  • Where can I get a covert wireless security camera like a nanny cam or Teddy cam?
  • What is a CCD chip?
  • What are my surveillance requirements, and how do I design my system around them?
  • What is the focal length of a security camera lens, and what difference does it make?
  • How can I get the best resolution from my security systems? What is TVL?
  • Do I need to add exterior lighting, or do I go with infrared illumination?
  • What is the lux rating of the camera, and what does it mean? What are the low light levels?
  • Do you need to allow for Back Light Compensation?
  • How high is the camera going to be mounted? ( You don’t want to be looking just at the tops of a burglar’s head)

Most “boxed” systems use a specific wiring type with pre-measured lengths of wire included in the “kit”. This is unfortunate if the camera needs to be located further than the wiring permits. Every splice you make results in degradation of the signal quality.

Additionally, most of the cameras included have a set lens focal length. This often results in a camera not providing the best picture from the location you are forced to locate the camera in. Ideally, purchase a camera with a varifocal lens, this means it is field adjustable to allow you to determine the range of view best for you.

So, how do you determine the best lens for the job? Well, professionals use lens calculators to size the lens by measuring the distance from the camera to what or where you want to have on the monitor. The height of the range of view is equal to .75 x width of the view. You need to know the distance to the object, the size of the camera’s CCD microchip (charge-coupled device) and the width of the view you need.

As you can see, sometimes it takes someone who knows what they are doing to assist. This is not to say you can’t gain the knowledge to choose the right equipment and install the system yourself. I hope this helps you down the road to ask the right questions.

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