Outdoor Security System: What to Look For
These days, home security begins with cameras. But with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which cameras offer the best features at the right price. In this guide, we’ll go over the must-have features for outdoor security cameras.
When considering the best outdoor security camera for your home, it’s important to consider a few factors that don’t otherwise pertain to indoor security cameras. You’ll want to assess each camera’s power source, their ability to perform outdoors in extreme temperatures, and whether they allow you to capture home deliveries as well as suspicious activity. Let’s break down each feature to see how they compare for you.
Most outdoor cameras are battery operated, which allows them to be mounted anywhere along the perimeter of your home. Unlike indoor cameras, which are usually close to a power outlet, outdoor cameras must rely on the power and duration of their battery to operate.
When shopping for an outdoor security camera then, it’s important to make sure you choose a camera with a battery that is easy to replace, affordable, and long lasting. The last thing you want to worry about when it comes to home security is whether your battery might suddenly die, leaving your home and your valuables at risk.
We typically suggest cameras that use lithium ion batteries as these do best in extreme temperatures. They’re also easy to find in stores and online, and many can last for months on end. In addition, you’ll want to shop for a camera that warns you when the battery needs replacing.
Extreme Temperature and Weather
Depending on where you live, extreme temperatures and inclement weather can be a legitimate concern for outdoor security camera systems. Because these devices are exposed to the elements, you’ll want to shop for one designed specifically for outdoor use. Unfortunately, outdoor cameras are priced a bit higher than indoor options, but that’s because they offer features that make them resistant to moisture, high heat, and extreme cold. If you were to use an indoor camera outside, chances are the battery or the device itself might fail, leaving your home exposed.
Even with outdoor security cameras that can withstand weather extremes, you’ll still want to place each device in an area where they are less exposed to the elements, like under awnings, roofs, and along door frames. Like many water-resistant devices, these cameras can withstand some moisture, but they shouldn’t be tested for their durability. Keep them as protected from the elements as possible.
Ease of Use
Finding a camera and a security system that is both intuitive and easy to use is definitely different for each individual. But there are several outdoor security systems and brands that are known for their user-friendly interfaces and apps. This is where customer reviews are very helpful in determining whether you’ll have difficulty setting up a new outdoor security system.
While shopping, look for cameras that come with a free app, notification systems, and easy ways to share or save the footage your devices capture. Many companies are well-known for great customer service as well, so when in doubt about your ability to operate these cameras, look for a company you trust to help you adjust to the learning curve. Keep in mind that many contractors and handyman services will not help with smart home feature installation as it’s a liability to ensure the devices can be properly used. Some companies will offer installation either with the purchase or for an extra fee. If you’re concerned about setting up an outdoor security camera alone, look for a company that offers this service.
Like cloud storage on your smartphone or computer, cloud storage for security footage typically comes at a premium for outdoor security systems. As you shop, be sure to compare any hidden fees that these security systems require once installed. Some options will offer free limited storage so you don’t have to worry about paying to have the video clips handy. These services typically delete the clips after a certain amount of time has passed, but you’ll have an option to save the clips yourself. Other services will charge a monthly fee to store the footage. These companies will sometimes also offer added services such as notification of law enforcement, meaning that someone is monitoring the clips that are captured on your device.
Aside from the features we’ve outlined above, there are tons of specialty features for these cameras that vary by brand. These features include syncing with neighborhood watch groups to easily share footage with neighbors and law enforcement, and voice features which allow you to talk to visitors or delivery services through your camera if you aren’t home. If those are features you’re interested in, make sure the outdoor camera system you’re looking at offers it.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Security Cameras
Finally, be sure to shop specifically for outdoor cameras. Indoor cameras are typically wired, do not mount the same way, and are not designed to withstand inclement weather or extreme temperatures. While some indoor cameras are less expensive, you won’t save money in the long run should you need to replace a camera that couldn’t cut it outdoors. Most home security systems these days will allow you to easily sync your indoor and outdoor cameras to the same hubs. You can also shop the best home security systems for a holistic approach.
Popular Outdoor Security Cameras
Cost: $99 for a single-camera kit
Video storage: Free with purchase, but a Blink Subscription Plan comes with extra features and benefits and is $3 per camera per month
Mounting: Hardware included, wireless cameras, easy to install without professional help
Features: Free app, wireless camera, HD footage, and infrared night vision. Runs on two AA lithium batteries which are included. Two-way audio on each camera through the app.
Ring Spotlight Cam
Cost: $199 for a single camera
Video storage: $3 per month per device or $10 a month for all devices in the home through Ring Protect subscription plans.
Mounting: Install yourself in 5 to 10 minutes with horizontal or vertical mounting options.
Features: Runs on a rechargeable battery with an option for a solar panel. Captures motion with HD video but also alerts you to people in the shot. Live view options and night vision. Works with Alexa. Offers two-way audio with noise cancellation and has a remote-activated siren alarm.
Google Nest Cam
Cost: $229 for one outdoor camera and hub
Video storage: 30 days free. Nest Aware Subscription offers added perks such as connecting you to emergency services if you receive a concerning alert. Nest Aware offers 24/7 video capturing.
Mounting: Comes with mounting hardware and an optional stand for indoor use. Outdoor weatherproof wiring is also included if you want to forgo batteries.
Features: Google’s Nest cameras are all indoor/ outdoor cameras that are weather resistant. As such, there are battery-powered and wired options you can use outdoors depending on your preference. You can talk through the camera and set alerts for animals, humans, vehicles, and familiar faces.
Arlo Ultra 2 Wireless Security Camera
Video storage: 3-month trial included with purchase followed by minimum $2.99 a month for single camera video storage.
Mounting: Magnetic wall mounts are optional. Standard mounts allow you to rotate the camera.
Features: Shoots in 4K video with HDR. Wireless installation with rechargeable lithium battery. Offers two-way audio and an integrated spotlight and a built-in smart siren. Pairs with smart home hubs. This camera is weather resistant and shoots in the dark with color night vision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Indoor Cameras be Used Outdoors for my Outdoor Security System?
Outdoor cameras are specially designed to withstand inclement weather including precipitation and extreme temperatures. Additionally, most are battery-operated so they can be mounted in various outdoor locations. Indoor cameras are not built to withstand weather and most are wired for home use.
Is Video Storage Free on my Outdoor Security Camera?
Yes and no. Some systems will allow you to store clips for free for a limited amount of time. Others will charge you to store them long term. Many storage pricing options involve a monthly payment, so it’s important to take that into account when pricing systems.
Can I Speak to Visitors Through my Camera?
Many outdoor security cameras and doorbell cameras allow for two-way communication with visitors and delivery personnel, but not all. Be sure to check the specs.
Do Outdoor Cameras Run on Batteries?
Yes, most outdoor cameras run on batteries, meaning you’ll have to monitor their lifespans to ensure there is no disruption in your home monitoring. Be sure to choose a battery you can either easily replace for a reasonable cost, or one that is rechargeable.
Decide which features you’re looking for and how you expect to use your outdoor security cameras. Once you’ve purchased a set, install them outside to capture highly trafficked areas on your property such as the front door, garage door, and backyard. Keep in mind cameras have limitations in terms of the distance at which they can sense motion, so you will want to play around with angles.
Once mounted, become familiar with your camera’s app so you can easily set schedules for your cameras and review captured footage. Most apps will allow you to enable notifications so you never miss a visitor or intruder alert.