Home Surveillance System Installation

A few years ago, we had a series of break-ins in my area, and some were close enough to be considered “too close for comfort.” After a number of ADT and competing security company signs began to pop up throughout the neighborhood, my wife said she would feel more comfortable if we got a security system. It was time to investigate home surveillance system installation.

The main reason to get a security system is to deter would-be criminals from hitting your house. Nothing says “go elsewhere” more than a big ADT sign in the garden. Well, maybe “Protected by Smith & Wesson” might be more effective, but I digress.

I am a thrifty guy (some would say cheap) and I hated the idea of paying a monthly fee for central station monitoring. I also hated the idea of someone else running wires all over my house and drilling holes for sensors on doors and windows. I also let my dogs have the run of the house, day and night, and I hated the idea of crating them to prevent false alarms from movement sensors.

Like many, I considered just buying the ADT garden signs! A couple of signs and two dogs were all the deterrent I felt I needed. But my wife wasn't convinced. So I investigated the option of installing a video surveillance system instead of central station monitoring. I felt video surveillance was a better deterrent because I'd have signs AND cameras in plain sight, plus I could give pictures to the police to help catch the bad guys.

My cable company offered a video solution, but it required a monthly fee. A neighbor turned me on to a really cheap Zmodo system on woot.com that seemed like a win-win. It was an 8-channel DVR that came with 4 cameras — that was fine with me because I could cover the main points of entry with five cameras and still had room to expand in the future. Although it was a low end DVR, it could notify me via email or text when it sensed movement. And it could be accessed remotely. You heard me right: For $139, I could get a text when someone walked on my property and then I could bring up live video of every angle! Central station, my ass. This was perfect!

One minor detail was that the $139 DVR didn't come with a hard drive, which is extremely important if you want to look back at the video after someone attempts to break in your house. In 2012, I got a 1-terabyte hard drive for about a hundred bucks and which would hold about 30 days of continuous video from five cameras. Add a few other extras and for a one-time cost of $333, I purchased a very cheap starter system that has been operating reliably for more than three years!

I found a lot of YouTube videos that showed how to evaluate surveillance systems but none detailed the installation of the cameras. So with my trusty iPhone 4S in hand, I documented the whole process end-to-end!

Oh, by the way, you'll notice in this video that I leverage my vinyl siding to run the wires from the cameras to the DVR. If you don't have vinyl siding, you may need to run your wires through your attic like I did with my neighbor, Jen. See the paragraph below for Alternative Installations.


Products used in this video (prices as of Sept. 2012):

  • ZMODO H9128 Digital Video Recorder (8-channel DVR) — $139 Woot.com (similar on Amazon)
  • Four ZMODO bullet cameras (included with DVR)
  • Western Digital 1 TB AV-GP SATA III AV Hard Drive WD10EURX — $93 (similar on Amazon)
  • Lorex LW2110 wireless camera — $80 Amazon
  • VideoSecu High Sensitive Preamp Mini Audio Pickup Tiny Spy Microphone with Power Bypass for Security Audio Sound Voice Monitoring Recording — $7 Amazon
  • VideoSecu AV Video Audio & Power 100 Feet BNC Cable for CCTV Video Security Surveillance Camera with 2 RCA Male to BNC Female Connectors 3JG — $14 Amazon


This video DOES NOT cover the details of network configuration for remote viewing. Here is a good video for that http://youtu.be/e4Ytmyg2Rs0.

Camera Upgrades

One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your system is to upgrade the cameras. See this video for a good comparison of cameras. High definition systems have come way down in price so you'll be much better off getting good cameras from the get-go rather than upgrading later. Check out this video for an example of a much better system than mine.

Alternative Installations

If you don't have vinyl siding, you may need to run your camera wires through your attic, like I did with my neighbor, Jen. It's a more challenging installation and definitely requires two people, but it has benefits because the wires are totally protected in your attic as opposed to running near the ground like mine. In addition, Jen bought a much better system than mine — it came with eight high-definition cameras and a killer app — and it only cost 35% more than I spent. Check out Jen's video: Supermom Surveillance Installation.


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