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Stop placing your home surveillance cameras in the wrong places. Here’s where they’re going

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This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for making the most of your home, inside and out.

If you have one home security camera (or looking for a good deal on a new one), you may have wondered about the best places to put them to deter bad actors and give you the best view of your property – and where does not to put them.

Your home and yard layout, budget, and home security priorities are different from your neighbor’s, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule for security camera placement. But this guide will help you consider all aspects of your home’s security setup and identify which ones are absolute musts based on the vulnerabilities in your home.

See more tips on home security how to prevent your home security cameras from being hackedand the best cheap home security systems You can buy.

Where to install a home surveillance camera

1. Outside: Main door

You might assume that intruders always sneak in through side entrances, but statistics from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors show that 34% of burglars use the front door. This is also where package thieves are likely to strike. A camera at your front entrance keeps an eye on everyone who enters and exits your home, from family members and babysitters to maintenance workers, delivery people and more. (Pro tip: Video doorbells are good choices for the front door. You can use them as the primary camera or in conjunction with another outdoor camera facing the yard or garage.)

2. Exterior: Rear and side doors

Doors that are out of sight allow visitors to enter undetected, whether invited or not. NACHI statistics show that 22% of burglaries happen through the back door. To ensure full knowledge of everyone entering and exiting, add cameras to your secondary doors, especially if one of them is used as often or more often than your front door, or if one (like a basement door) seems particularly enticing or accessible to a potential intruder.

3. Outside: Garage and driveway

Garages are a common target for burglars because they are one of the weakest points of entry. A camera aimed at your garage and/or driveway keeps a watchful eye on bikes, tools, grills, sports equipment, cars and anyone who handles them. If your garage is detached, the camera will help you stay connected. If the garage is attached, the extra layer of security monitors another possible entrance to your home. If there is a gate at the end of your driveway, you may want to have a camera there so you can see someone trying to enter.

4. Exterior: Yard

Yard surveillance will help you keep track of anyone viewing your house from the outside. It is also handy for capturing the activities of children, animals and intruders.

5. Furnishing: Common areas

Placing cameras in focal points like the kitchen or living room is a great way to see if the kids are doing what they’re supposed to, if the babysitter is paying attention to what the pets are up to, or to check if the household help is enjoying themselves. cleaners and repairmen. Consider prioritizing any room that has large windows on the ground floor – that way you can see if someone is tampering with them or using one as a break-in point.

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6. Interior: Main staircase or hallway

Place a camera in the main thoroughfares inside your home to make it difficult for someone to move undetected. If someone breaks in through a bathroom, bedroom or other unmonitored area, they will still be caught on camera if they move around the house.

Indoor security cameras are useful, but it’s worth finding cameras with privacy screens to help minimize the risk of hackers accessing sensitive footage.

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Here’s where you’re going never install a security camera

Places that invade your neighbor’s privacy. Cameras are great for your safety, but you need to be aware of the privacy of others in your neighborhood. Specific laws regarding cameras and privacy vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to check local laws (and with your local homeowners association) to make sure you don’t have to regret your installation. Generally, homeowners are allowed to have outdoor security cameras that cover a wide area, and it’s usually OK to capture your neighbor’s public-facing property in the background of your footage. Legally, problems arise if your camera captures areas where your neighbors have an expectation of privacy (for example, if your cameras can see into their bedrooms or bathrooms), or if you use the footage for non-security purposes. Remember that these rules only apply to video surveillance. Audio recording without knowledge and consent is illegal in most cases.

Bedrooms and bathrooms. The urge to keep a watchful eye on children or elderly people in your household is understandable. However, some areas have a legitimate expectation of privacy. Plus, if you use a surveillance service, you run the risk of a hacker tapping a camera that has access to your private spaces. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives. Baby monitors are smart choices for very young children’s rooms. Motion detectors and glass break sensors can be added to doors and windows as part of a connected home security system. Personal medical alert systems are strong choices for seniors.

Optimize your camera placement for function and visibility

Once you have decided which locations to monitor, you must also plan how you will place and install the security cameras to cover the intended areas.

Guidelines for outdoor security camera placement

  • Install cameras 8 to 10 feet off the ground. This height is low enough to capture fine details, but high enough to be out of reach of thieves and vandals.
  • Do not point cameras directly at the sun. Bright lights cause glare and high contrast in your footage, making it hard to tell what’s going on. Consider the movement of the sun and point your cameras for indirect light.
  • Decide whether you want the camera visible or hidden. Visible security cameras are effective burglar deterrents, but they are also targets for theft and vandalism. Some homeowners choose to install a fake decoy camera and back it up with a real one that’s a little more hidden, while others add heavy-duty hardware or casing around the camera to make it harder to damage.
  • Protect the camera from the elements. Top outdoor security cameras have ample weather and waterproofing, but they are not all created equal. Choose a camera that is appropriately rated for your climate and place it under an overhang or in another semi-sheltered area if you can.
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Battery-powered outdoor cameras offer more flexibility for placement, while wired cameras need to be close to a power source.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Indoor Safety Location Guidelines

  • Corners are your friends. Hanging an indoor camera in the corner of a room usually gives you the best possible vantage point.
  • Windows can cause reflection problems. Pointing a camera out of the window can degrade its image quality. Many security cameras have infrared light technology, which helps with motion detection and enables the cameras to function in low light. IR light can reflect off windows and other glass objects and obscure your footage, especially in the dark. If your footage looks washed out or white, there is probably a reflection problem going on.
  • If it is necessary to point a camera out the window, placing the lens as close to the glass as possible and/or backlighting the outdoor area (perhaps with motion detector lights) are two glare-minimizing measures you can try. It can also be useful if your camera has wide dynamic range technology.
  • Angle for indirect light. Again, direct light will wash out your footage. With indoor cameras, be aware of lamps, light fixtures and bright windows. Avoid pointing the camera directly at any of these light sources.

Security camera installation tips

Follow these installation rules to potentially save yourself a headache.

  • Test your equipment before committing to the full installation. Operate the camera in a simple test location to make sure it works as expected. If possible, perform a dry run in the intended area of ​​the camera (mount it with tape, a single nail, or other temporary fix) so you can monitor and evaluate the feed. Can you see everything you want to see? Is the Wi-Fi signal strong enough? Is there glare or an obstacle blocking the field of vision?
  • Do not install your camera using hardware or tools that may damage its components. It’s tempting to jerry-rig a camera setting to achieve the perfect position. But do not take precautions that may damage or strain the case, electrical components or lens.
  • Remember that you will occasionally need to clean or maintain the camera. Outdoor cameras are especially prone to collecting dirt or pollen on the lens. Do not install it in a way that makes it impossible to maintain.

Should you invest in professionally installed security cameras?

The choice between installing your own surveillance cameras or having them professionally installed is ultimately up to you. If the information in this article or the manufacturer’s instructions make your head spin, there’s no need to tackle it alone. However, these devices have become increasingly available over time and are often set up for simple self-installation.

Security cameras that you want to monitor yourself (as opposed to professionally monitored security systems) usually have the simplest installation. Many of these cameras communicate via Wi-Fi and only need fixed wires to their power source. Smaller cameras like video doorbells and peephole cameras often use batteries, which is even more user-friendly. Outdoor security cameras can present more of a challenge, especially if the home’s exterior has limited power sources, if you don’t have many tools, or if you’re worried about affecting the appearance of your home. In these cases, you may want to hire a professional with experience with previous camera installations.

Finally, there are some circumstances where you cannot install your own cameras. Many leading providers of monitored home security systems (such as ADT and Vivint) require professional installation to ensure everything works. In these cases, a trained technician will visit your home to completely relieve you of this responsibility. If you are dedicated to do it yourself and you want a professionally monitored security system, you have plenty DIY options.

To learn more, check out our picks for the best outdoor security cameras or explore our comprehensive guide to the best home security systems.