With dozens of brands competing for your attention, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing a security camera for your home. Settling on a camera (or multiple cameras) can be a big decision, so we spoke to Lindsay Gutierrez, Director of Product Management and Residential Operations for AAA Smart Home Security, to help shoppers figure out where to start.
Simply answer these six questions and you should be well on your way to deciding which security camera is right for you.
1. Are you installing the camera indoors or outdoors?
The most foundational question about your new security camera is where you will place it: inside or outside. Outdoor cameras are designed to be weatherproof: resistant to wind, rain, heat, dirt, and more. “When you have 31 straight days where it’s over 110 degrees, like here in Phoenix, you want to make sure the cameras aren’t melting,” says Gutierrez.
All outdoor cameras should be classified with an IP (Ingress Protection) rating. The first digit of the rating measures protection against dust and dirt, the second protection against liquid and moisture. A rating of IP65 or better is sufficient for most household environments.
Outdoor cameras can also be used inside, but you’ll save money on indoor cameras that aren’t rugged enough for outdoor use. And while outdoor cameras must often be mounted to a wall, indoor cameras are commonly freestanding units that can sit on a table or shelf.
2. How are you going to power the camera?
Like all electronics, cameras need electricity to operate. Historically, most are wired, which means you’ll need to locate them near a power outlet or deal with a lengthy extension cord. For outdoor cameras, this can get tricky, as few homes have outdoor electrical outlets near the eaves of the roof. Users often must run a cable to an outlet inside the house—which requires drilling through the wall—or have an electrician add an outlet nearby.
Both those options can be pricey, which makes battery-powered cameras more enticing. These are energized by large, rechargeable batteries that must be periodically removed and topped up. This eliminates a cord, but if your camera is mounted out of reach—or if you’re just forgetful—it can present additional challenges. For those who cannot climb a ladder, or who do not live in housing where it is safe to climb a ladder, Gutierrez recommends a plug-it-in-and-forget-it camera as the simpler choice.