For most people, the idea of cutting holes into their house is downright scary. This fear is easily overcome when we look at the advantages of installing your own home security video system alongside the massive cost savings of doing it yourself. With this Home CCTV Installation Guide, you can rest assured you will be asking the right questions, buying the right equipment and you will know how to install your CCTV security video equipment properly.
If you are reading this, you have no doubt already decided you want a video surveillance system in your home. Whether your reasons are due to vandalism, theft, issues with a teenager, or just because of the general peace of mind provided by having a few sets of trustworthy eyes on your home 24 hours a day, you have probably already seen a wide variance in the cost of Closed Circuit Security Camera Systems and are wondering about the best way to go about installing security cameras in your home. Sometimes this cost is due to the higher quality of the equipment, other times the difference in cost is simply due to the profit margins required to keep manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer’s reps, contractors and security integration companies in business. Traditionally, your camera system gets marked up 5 times before it reaches you, the end-user. By installing the system yourself you automatically avoid one of those markups. When you buy a security system from CCTV Dynamics, you get the added benefit of buying real professional equipment, direct from the OEM manufacturer, avoiding yet another markup in the traditional sales process. CCTV Dynamics only carries professional equipment that has been proven in the field by professional installers in real-world security situations. Because security contractors are profit driven, they often sacrifice on quality for a few extra points on the bottom line, we see this as a big conflict of interest. When you decide which recorder is right for you, which cameras you want and where you want them, you can rest assured that the only metric against the cost, is going to be the effectiveness of the equipment, and your peace of mind. Let’s get on to the nitty gritty of installing your own security video system in your home.
We will break down the installation process into three sections.
- Measure Twice, Cut Once: Preparing to install your home security surveillance system
- Getting It Right The First Time: Choosing the right CCTV installation equipment for the job.
- Getting Dirty: Wiring your home for security cameras.
Measure Twice, Cut Once: Preparing to Install Your Home Surveillance System
Most of the work involved in installing your own home surveillance system is in the front end of the project. This work happens before you ever cut a hole, before you ever mount a camera, and should happen before you even buy the equipment.
The absolute first step is to identify the issues at hand. This means writing down the reasons why you want to install your home security camera system. Identify what you want to see when you are away from home on business or if you want to be able to watch your front door from your bedroom, or if this is really a ‘just in case’ situation. Walk around your home a few times and think like a criminal. Take note of the lighting around your house. CCTV cameras require a good amount of light to capture crisp, clear usable images. IF there is not enough light, this will require a different camera, more on this later. Also try to avoid aiming cameras at trees or shrubs, as the constant motion of leaves blowing in the wind will drastically reduce your recording time on your camera system. Not only will this process open your eyes, it will most likely give you insight into what exactly you want to see and record on your Digital Video Recorder.
Now that you have a solid idea of what you want to see, you should take a count of the number of cameras it is going to require. Write down how many indoor cameras you need, how many outdoor cameras you need, take notes on the quality of lighting around your property, these notes will come in handy when we get to section 2, and will allow you to design a camera system that succeeds at the intended purpose.
The next step is to poke around in your attic and basement or crawlspace. Throw on some overalls, grab a flashlight and get to it, but be careful, we are not responsible if you get bit by a spider or fall through the ceiling or if your wife locks you in the attic. All the wiring in your home security system will have to run through the attic or basement of your home. While you are up there, pay close attention to the structure in the areas where you think you want to install your cameras, also take a close look at the area above the room where your DVR recorder will be installed. Ask yourself the following questions:
- If I step on that, will I fall through the ceiling into my kitchen? (this one is especially important!)
- How much room is there to run a wire and connector for each security camera?
- Are there any power lines nearby that may cause interference with my camera’s video quality?
- Is there a chase, or opening where I can run a bundle of wires inside an interior wall to my DVR?
There should now be a plan starting to form in your head. Each camera will need one wire that will go from the camera to the recorder. So look to see where in your attic that wire will run. Make sure to avoid going close to power lines or fluorescent lights, as this could cause lines, interference or ground looping in your video signal. In general, wire can be laid down in the attic on top of the insulation, though you may want to tack up your wire to the trusses for a neater looking installation. If you do this, remember, this will increase the amount of wire you will need to run to each camera by a large amount. Also remember not to use standard staples, use an insulated staple or clip so you don’t damage the wire accidentally.
Getting It Right The First Time: Choosing The Right Security Installation Equipment For Your Home.
There are many options involved in designing and installing your home security camera system. While you do not need to be an expert, it is a smart move to know about the options before choosing which system you are going to purchase. Doing this work now will save you hours of frustration when it comes time to install the home security system.
The wire used for security cameras comes in one of two flavors. Option one is Siamese Cable. This cable has a full size RG59 shielded coax and two power wires under one sheath. It has no premade connectors on it, comes in a reel of either 500 feet or 1000 feet and you cut it to fit your particular installation. A good high quality Siamese cable with 95% copper and a solid copper conductor will give you the best CCTV video quality for wire runs of under 500 feet. Don’t use RG6, that is meant for Cable TV, which runs on an entirely different frequency. The same goes for “quad shield” coax, its wonderful stuff if you are running cable TV or internet to your spare bedroom, but it has no place carrying the fragile signals that CCTV cameras produce. Option two is the popular plug and play security camera wire. Plug and Play, or PnP cable offers the convenience of not having to make any connections since it comes with its own connectors and is, just like it sounds, a plug and play affair with your camera and DVR system. Its thinner, more flexible and comes in 25 foot, 50 foot, 75 foot, 100 foot and 150 foot increments. Sounds wonderful right? Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy? Not quite. Plug and Play CCTV Cables are very fragile, so they require a gentle hand during installation, they are also more susceptible to interference as the wire is not shielded as well as RG59 coax. The connectors on PnP cables are preinstalled, so your hole for your wire will need to be bigger than the wire itself. So, it is up to you to decide if you want an easier installation, or better video quality. If you have many power wires in your attic, we would highly recommend using true Siamese Cable. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to make connections a little bit later on.
There are two ways to supply power to your cameras. The way professional installers handle the power issue is to mount a multi-channel power box on a wall somewhere near the DVR. This provides several benefits. One of those benefits is that all your Siamese cable can be run to one place therefore simplifying your installation. Our power supply boxes also provide a fused central location to help protect your cameras for surges or shorts in your wiring or for troubleshooting your installation should an issue ever arise. It also means you only need one power outlet to power all of your cameras. The other option is to power your cameras individually with single channel transformers or wall worts. This requires one outlet for each security camera. It is a little bit cheaper and does provide more power if you are using very powerful infrared cameras that require a lot of juice for the nightvision to work. Generally if a camera requires more than 600mA or 0.6 Amps on the spec sheet, we recommend running an individual transformer. In some cases the best solution is to run a combination of a power box and individual transformers. Some cameras or heated housings require 24 volts AC instead of the typical 12Volts DC. If this is the case, we recommend a 12 volt power box for most cameras, and a single channel 24 volt transformer for the higher voltage camera. Also, this is a good time to make sure you have enough power outlets where you want to install your DVR system. You will need one plug each for the DVR, the camera power box, each transformer and your monitor. It is wise to also have another outlet for your internet router and modem. This is also an ideal place to install your battery backup so if you lose power, your cameras continue to function properly.
Traditionally, home CCTV cameras are placed in a high location like a ceiling or an eve in order to avoid vandalism. Occasionally you may find the need to place a camera lower on a building like a wall. Keep this in mind as you will need to choose a camera with a rotational base, a 3 axis gimbal and should seriously consider a vandalproof camera like some of our armor domes. For outdoor cameras, we highly recommend placing cameras on the bottom side of the eve, this provides a clear path to run wire into the attic, without leaving it exposed. For indoor cameras, we generally recommend mounting dome cameras directly to the drywall ceiling or drop-ceiling tiles.
If you have areas of low light, you should consider using an infrared nightvision camera, or a camera with sense-up. Infrared cameras will switch to black and white when the lighting gets low enough and the built-in infrared LED lights will glow red at night, providing the camera with light that the human eye cannot see, but the camera can. Infrared will sometimes give an eerie glowing picture quality, though it is a huge advantage when lighting is poor at night and you need a good image on your surveillance system. Sense-Up is a newer technology that allows higher end cameras to see at night in color. They do not work in total darkness, but in low lighting they really provide incredible pictures. These cameras usually have an OSD or on screen display that will allow the installer to set camera specific settings for back light compensation and light control, sharpness, brightness and many other parameters.
Some people are not comfortable having indoor cameras in their homes. Today’s higher end home CCTV systems are incredibly difficult to hack into, so privacy is really not a something to be worried about. That being said, everybody has their own preferences. If you do decide to install interior cameras, check out some covert camera options or some indoor mini dome cameras to keep things looking good. The last thing I would want is a big ugly bullet or box camera in my living room. Be careful choosing a covert camera. We have found a huge variance in picture quality among the many available cameras. We have also seen many cameras whose spec sheets are not quite truthful. Our covert cameras use TRUE Sony SuperHAD CCD chips, and we like them because they have been proven reliable and are the best pinhole cameras we’ve seen in semi-low lighting situations. We do not condone using hidden cameras in your home without informing everyone in your home of their presence and we also highly recommend respecting the privacy of family members, friends and visitors. We will not sell you a covert camera if we feel you will be using it in a less than ethical fashion.
This article may also be helpful:
- Deciding where to place your DVR system in your home
Getting Dirty: Wiring Your Home Security Cameras The Right Way.
Start this section by visiting your attic again. Now that you have read about choosing the right cable and know which cameras you are going to buy, or have already bought, you can start to look a little bit closer at your wire running strategy. Take a look and decide exactly where you want to lay or secure your cabling. Take a look around and now that you have cable in hand, measure to make sure it will all fit down the chase to your DVR.
Start the actual installation by drilling holes directly behind where you are going to mount your cameras to your home. Make sure to make the hole big enough to fit your connectors through them, but not so large that it allows for small woodland creatures to crawl into your attic. Most high quality cameras come with a mount or housing that conceals the cable, so you will be installing the camera mount directly over the cable hole. You will want to pull each camera wire without making any splices, especially if you are using pre-made pnp cables. Splices, butts and extra crimps are an invitation for uneeded interference, avoid them at all cost if you want your video quality to be top notch.
Lay your cable inside the house by the chosen DVR location. Once there, you can feed the wire up the interior wall. If the wall has a header board, you may have to drill a hole in the header board and feed the wire down to the DVR instead. Run each wire, one at a time, through the path you created earlier and lay the end close to the hole you drilled for camera mounting, make sure to leave a couple of extra feet of slack in case you move the camera or screw up a couple of connections. Follow this process for each camera, until they are all wired into the DVR location and out to the camera location. Do not tack up any wires until you know your cables are good a little later on in this install. Remember to be extra careful when pulling on pre-made plug and play cables. You may find it useful to keep an extra wire clothes hanger around in case you need to fish any wire out of tight spots in the wall.
Mount up your cameras based on the mounting instructions provided. Run the end of the camera wire through the hole you drilled earlier and aim the camera itself in the general direction of what you want to see. Do this for all of your cameras. Next you will be visiting the attic again, this time you will be taking BNC connectors (see here to decide which ones are best for you) if you are using RG59 Siamese cable and some flying lead power connectors to connect your CCTV cable to your security cameras’ power and video connectors. The flying lead should be labeled with + and -, if it is not, consult whoever you bought them from, as cameras will blow up if you hook them up incorrectly. If you are using RG59 siamese cabling, you will need some wire-nuts or beanie connectors (sometimes called dolphin connectors or B connectors) to splice your power wire together. Remember, + goes to the red wire and – goes to the black wire if you are making your own connections. At this time, you may find these other articles to be helpful in the details:
- Making BNC Connections on RG59 Coaxial Wire
- Which BNC connectors are right for me?
- How to hookup the power wires for your cameras
- How to wire up a CCTV Power Supply Box
You will want to make the BNC connections on your coax wiring or simply plug the BNC connector on your Plug n Play cable directly to your camera wire. At this point you can go back into the air-conditioned or heated part of your house and work in comfort.
Your cameras are mounted, your wiring is run and you have a giant spiderweb of cables in your living room or office or closet of wherever you decided to install your DVR. You will want to mount your power box next. Choose a hidden spot where your power cord will reach your outlet and any adjoining walls will not impede your ability to work inside the box. Use a screwdriver or a punch to knock out one of the holes in the power supply, and run the power side of your wire into the box, make sure you have cut the wire so that it is long enough to reach the screw terminals inside your power box. DO NOT PLUG YOUR POWER BOX INTO THE OUTLET AT THIS POINT! Simply connect each positive (red) wire to the positive (+) terminal inside the box and the negative (black) wire to each negative (-) terminal inside the box. Each camera should have its own positive and negative connector inside the power supply box to protect each camera from power surges individually. You will need to trim about a ¼ inch of insulation from each of the wires to make a good connection. Make sure each screw terminal is tightened down securely.
You are now almost ready to fire up your CCTV system. Connect each male BNC connector on each of your wires to the appropriate female BNC connector on the back of your DVR. Connect your monitor to the system and go ahead and connect a keyboard and mouse if that is applicable. You can now go ahead and plug each of the components to the power outlets. Your DVR may spring to life on its own, depending on which DVR you purchased, if it does not, that doesn’t mean there is a problem, simply press the power button on the DVR. Once your DVR is powered up and running you can flip the switch on your monitor and also on the camera power supply box. If you’ve wired the system up correctly, you should have video on all channels. If you don’t, read this article:
- Troubleshooting CCTV video problems
You will now need to enlist a helper to watch the screen as you aim and focus your cameras. Walkie talkies or cell phones are especially useful in this process. Remember to aim your cameras so that any trees, shrubs, cars, flags, ceiling fans, flashing or blinking lights on your microwave, etc are not visible. If this is not possible, don’t sweat it, but it will make it much easier later on down the road when you want to find video based on motion detection events. If you have fixed lens cameras, your focus is pre-set, but if you have varifocal lens cameras, you should read this article on focusing your home cameras:
- Focusing your CCTV cameras
You can now go through and tack up any loose wires in your attic if you choose to do so. You may also want to read our articles on motion detection so you can get the most out of your home DVR system or our articles on how to network your DVR system for remote viewing over the internet.
- Setting up motion detection on your new DVR system
- Networking your security camera system so you can watch it from anywhere in the world.
If you followed our planning suggestions, the installation of your home security camera system will have been a breeze. From this point forward you can probably sleep better at night and go on a trip with a little bit more peace of mind. You will probably also feel better knowing that you saved several thousand dollars by installing your own security camera system while increasing the value of your home and most likely you wound up with a cleaner installation and far better video quality than if you had hired someone else to do it and paid their markup on equipment and labor. Many times, simply having the cameras on your home is enough of a deterrent to stop bad things from happening, but in the case that they do still happen, your self-installed home security camera system from CCTVDynamics will provide you with crisp, clear video evidence of what happened and who did it.
Remember, the safety of your family is one of the most important things in life. A camera system in your home is one of the best deterrents of crime available and when it comes to safety we all know that quality matters. If you need any of the components we have talked about above, CCTVDynamics carries only high-quality, professional CCTV Security Video Equipment. Our complete packages come with every little piece you need to complete your home security system installation over a wide budget range and our individual components are of the highest quality with excellent warranties and a reputation for exacting standards in real-world security applications. Check out our catalog and let us know if we can help with your surveillance video project.