Very interesting project I’m working on at the moment: a DIY home security camera system. I’m not extremely paranoid about security but I do think it increases security at home.
I started by doing the most immediate research: asking my friends “hey, what security camera system do you have?”, and searching for people’s comments online.
I found most of people uses some camera system with a DVR with 4, 6 or 8 cameras, the DVR records locally and they have a mobile app with real time view. Sometimes there is cloud storage for a price. Prices ranges from about $300 to $1000 depending on number of cameras and features.
The cameras transmit video signal using a video cable and all of them connects to the DVR, which has an internal hard disk, and some video output that you can connect a display to and using some remote control or some embedded buttons operate the system. This DVR is a tiny computer.
The thing I didn’t like about this systems is the ability to add more cameras, if you buy one with 6 cameras, (channels) then you have 6 cameras and you will need to change the DVR for one with more channels if want to add more cameras in the future.
The thing I did like about it was the idea that the DVR is a tiny computer, maybe with its own firmware or maybe some Linux inside, uuu that was interesting. What if I can use a “real” computer and do some custom stuff? this way I could reuse old electronics at home (as I like to do) like computer and hard disks.
Got few advices from people: make sure it has night vision; make sure it’s 1080p so you can see it clear; make sure you’re not buying from a provider with monthly fee for cloud storage…
After all that I had an idea of what I wanted and set my goals to search for the items:
- Flexible system where I can add multiple cameras in the future
- Night vision
- Weather resistant
- Wide angles
- HD 1080p video quality
- Mobile app for real time view
- Local and Cloud storage
- Everything Low cost
- Easy/no maintenance
- Cover all house entrances and windows
- Cover every cameras with another one
I decided to use IP cameras, connected using a regular network cable to a switch or router that connects to a home computer that saves video locally and uploads to the cloud.
I felt more confident dealing with issues related to something that talks IP and can connect to a computer than some video black box.
The IP cameras are very cool actually, I got this two types from the same vendor HOSAFE
Domes for the front door and the back terrace, and other bullets for the other places. They are the same ting inside, but the bullet is easier to position, the dome one is good for looking mostly down.
They have HD 1080p but other models have lower video options as well which are cheaper. I bought different ones to try out and the 1.3MP works quite as good as the 2MP. They are weather proof, have night vision, POE, and ONVIF.
POE was a good thing for me, POE means the Power over Ethernet, it means there is no additional power cable for the cameras, the Ethernet cable itself carries the power, so I needed a switch that provides POE and got this one for $30 bucks:
This switch is very simple, supports up to 7 cameras. But if I want more in the future will replace this switch for a larger one. The thing is that large switches with tons of POE ports are expensive. Other option is to use a regular switch and use a POE injector like this one:
But it’s similar price to the switch but if someone have a an existing switch with no POE ports can use an injector like this one.
The ONVIF protocol it’s a standard protocol for exchanging information from network video devices like IP cameras. If it’s a standard it’s good, it means I can use different software or other devices that support the protocol.
Cabling is the easy part from the infrastructure and understanding point of view, but it’s the hardest part from the installation point of view since my attic is very intricate to walk through. It was a challenge however it was done dark, at 7pm in 3 hours with a friend’s help. I used this cable:
Ethernet cable. This roll is 200ft, I ordered two rolls. Cat6, Cat5 and Cat5e works quite well as well.
The software is the part I’m still experimenting with. The one that comes with the camera works, perfect and have a lot of features, motion detection, email settings, video recording, blackout zones. In the software is where the brain of the system relies, the mission of the camera is just to capture and digitalize the video and stream it over the Ethernet cable, the software will detect in our local area the cameras and will do all the other features.
I have experimented with a few mobile apps for remote viewing but still finding the one that I like, so I will update this post later with my final choice. For now the one that ships with the camera works great but ANY software that can talk to an IP camera can be used here, and that’s the beauty of this system for me.
The first and most important decision for me was to decide where to put the switch and computer inside the house since all cables coming down from the ceiling will be on that spot, and again: cabling was the hardest physical part.
I was lucky in this part because it’s a new house for me, so I could put my “home tech center” wherever I wanted. I put it in the center of the house as the router will also be in that location maximizing wireless coverage.
In this area I opened a whole in the ceiling and put a 1 1/4 PVC pipe 9 ft. tall to pass all cables trough, then attached a 90degree elbow union and another 4” piece to it. This was done at a side of a wall and then I extended the wall to cover the tube:
This view shows all cables already through. Also I passed the internet cable here and kept an extra robe for helping passing additional cables in the future.
Initially I thought doing it in an existing wall where no wall extension was possible, it could be done using the pipe by breaking the wall a little bit to make a perforation in the horizontal wood joints in the wall to make the pipe goes through, and then fixing the wall. For me it was easier to extend the wall a little bit since this room was in some remodeling process.This is how it looks in the attic:
For the finish of the pipe I used an electric outlet cover with a whole to fit the 1 1/4 tube, then covered with another PVC coupling just for the finishing, and here’s the final result:
After all these cables are set, I installed the cameras in the positions I decided. First I created a map of the house and using the angle from the camera specifications I tried different layouts of the cameras to cover the points. Not to be paranoid but I will not publish here the layout
Installing the HOSAFE cameras is super easy. The camera comes with a small cord with a joint to attach the Ethernet cable and optionally power cable, but I just sealed the power. The Ethernet union is very strong, the packaging comes with some plastic joints to make it weather proof also, but opened a whole in the exterior ceiling and passed the cable through so in the exterior is only the camera with no cables, everything it’s in the attic.
This project is still not finished as I need to another two cameras. Will update this post with outside views of the cameras, the final software I used and my general comments on the system.
Here’s the list of all items I’ve used and final project cost. Of course this doesn't includes the costs associated with the materials for extending the wall itself.
- 1 x PVC Pipe 1 1/4 long, 1 x PVC Elbow 90degree, 1 x PVC Coupling ~ $15
- 3 x HOSAFE IP Camera Dome ~ $140
- 3 x HOSFE IP Camera Bullet ~ $140
- 2 x 200 ft. Ethernet Cable ~ $34
- 1 x 8 port PoE Switch ~ $30
- 1 x Network Cable Crimper, Tester, 100 Connector Plugs ~ $16
- 1 x 100 Ethernet Cable Plug Covers ~ $6
Total is about $380 for 6 cameras. There are lot of extra connectors and plug covers that I can reuse for other network cable installments.