Your First Home Security System – Part 4: Camera Installation
In this forth part of our on-going series on installing your first home security system, we’ll cover some of the common things to consider, and pitfalls to avoid, when carrying out your camera installation. Whilst we won’t go in-depth on the process itself (there’s a wealth of information to this effect available both from the manufacturers and on sites such as YouTube), we will hopefully illuminate some important areas and help smooth the process as much as possible for you.
When considering any camera that may be vulnerable to vandalism, it’s worth checking for the camera’s IK code, as this will tell you how fit for purpose it will be. The IK code is an internationally recognised system for determining the resistance of the camera’s case to mechanical impacts, and thus gives you a clear, objective picture of the sort of punishment the camera will be able to handle and still function. Unsurprisingly, those cameras that are designed with vandal resistance in mind, particularly dome cameras, come with a very high IK rating, and are as such very hard to damage even with hard tools or implements.
The code rating is given in a number from 1-10, and typically you will find the vandal-proof cameras boast IK10 as their standard level of durability. If a camera doesn’t come with an IK code readily supplied, it can usually be assumed that it’s not suitable for use in areas where it may be susceptible to vandalism.
Other steps you can take are generally common sense: if possible, place your cameras as high as possible, meaning that it’s out of reach of prying hands; if possible, have all cables run directly through a fitting into a wall, meaning that they’re not exposed; ensure that your NVR is locked securely in its location, so that any thieves can’t simply make off with your hard drives.
When carrying out your camera installation, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you get the best image possible. One major pitfall to try to avoid is heavy backlighting. This is where the subject of your shot has a strong light behind them – a camera pointed towards a shop front, with lots of glass letting daylight in, is one possible example of this. It’s certainly not always avoidable, and if this is the case there are steps you can take to reduce the impact, but it does typically obscure any subject in a shot to some extent and thus render the footage less useful than it otherwise might be.
If you need to have a camera in a location where backlighting is unavoidable, don’t worry too much as modern cameras typically come bundled with good wide dynamic range (WDR) settings to help reduce the impact of backlighting. We’ve found in our own testing that the newer Hikvision 4MP models for example have very good WDR modes when compared with the older 3MP models, and so it’s worth trying these yourself if you feel like this is a factor that will impact your setup.
If the camera is mounted behind glass, such as a window, it can result in reflections that detract from the final image, particularly at night. If this is unavoidable, definitely test the camera in different positions, at multiple times of day, and with different types of weather, to try to determine where it will receive the minimum amount of interference for the longest period of the day.
Problems like this are why, when a camera is able to be installed out of easy reach, we tend to recommend the turret style of camera as opposed to a dome. While the domes are obviously designed to minimise internal reflections, the turrets do provide superior images in certain scenarios, notably in the dark where they are typically able to have a stronger LED array due to a lack of internal reflections. Nine times out of ten though a dome will be more than sufficient for your needs. It’s a matter of weighing up the options yourself and attempting to achieve the best image possible whilst ensuring your system remains secure from unwanted tampering.
Near Other Reflective Surfaces
You’d be surprised how reflective your average wall or ceiling can get under IR light. If a camera is placed too close to a particularly reflective surface, you may find that you get a muddy image at night as a result. Again, this is usually just a case of testing for yourself and trying to find an ideal position, but if all else fails you can try placing a cover of non-reflective material on the wall or ceiling where the camera is attached to reduce the interference it causes.
Hikvision have produced a short guide on IR reflection troubleshooting that we have hosted on our forum and may be able to help with any further issues related to these you may be having with your camera installation.
Make sure to check the operating temperatures of your camera in the manufacturer’s data sheet (all included on the product pages on our website) if you’re intending to install your cameras outside, or in an otherwise uncommon setting. Manufacturers obviously will typically try to cater to most situations, however if you are expecting your unit to experience extreme conditions at all (say, for example, if you were to place one within a storage freezer), you must ensure the camera is suitable for the conditions. Exceeding the recommended temperatures in either direction, hot or cold, is a fast way to end up with a faulty or broken camera!
Fittings and Weathering
It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often we receive calls regarding issues with external cameras being poorly fitted. Whilst the camera may be weather-proof, the network cable’s connection to the camera’s pigtail typically isn’t! This is why we also sell brackets and fittings that are specifically weather-proof: it ensures your connections are insulated and you haven’t simply left a plug out in the rain! These also double-up as additional anti-vandal measures, as it’s far harder to tamper with cables screwed into a secure fixture than left exposed. When browsing our store specifically, we include the suitable fittings under the ‘Frequently Bought Together’ section at the bottom of the product page, that way you (hopefully!) shouldn’t have to go trawling through a dozen specifications trying to find the correct fitting.
Further to this, it’s worth considering how you intend to wire your external cameras before purchasing them. We usually recommend wired cameras as opposed to wireless, as with PoE it’s typically just as easy to connect one as it is the other (even a wireless camera needs a power cable!). However, in a home that’s already fitted and furnished you may feel that you’d prefer to set up a wireless camera and power it via an existing power supply outside rather than running a new set of network cables through your walls. If this is the case, try to ensure as much as possible that your power supply is secure, ideally behind lock and key, so that any would-be criminals can’t simply disable your cameras by flipping a switch.
The UK legislation regarding the domestic and commercial use of CCTV systems is generally guided by common sense and shouldn’t be too big a concern for legitimate users. The biggest and most straightforward pitfall to avoid breaching privacy laws with regards to your neighbours – there are very few, if any, situations in which pointing one of your cameras to record your neighbour through their window can be justified! Private use of CCTV used to be exempt from the Data Protection Act, however a recent European ruling means that you could be included in its requirements if you’re capturing exterior footage. A much fuller set of guidelines are available from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and if you’re unsure about anything we recommend contacting them and asking for their advice before undertaking your camera installation. We’re certainly not legal experts, so don’t take anything we’ve said as law!
Hopefully by now we’ve helped you identify and avoid some of the most common mistakes to make when carrying out your camera installation, and when it comes to putting them up the process is a little more straightforward. The cameras typically come with fairly well put together guides on installing them within the box, however if you do need to troubleshoot any problems for individual problems, the use-IP forum is a great place to start!
Thanks very much for reading! Do you have any feedback, thoughts for future pieces, or questions? Please leave me a comment below! I always enjoy hearing back from readers.