More and more home security cameras are popping up around homes these days. That's because security cameras have become ridiculously affordable over the past few years, and they offer a great, basic entry point into the world of connected home security. Add that these devices are easier than ever to set up, and there are dozens of options on the market specifically tailored to your needs (including video doorbells, indoor cameras and outdoor cameras) and suddenly you might wonder why everyone doesn't have a security cam.
But if you've bought a home security camera, the question remains: How do you get the best performance out of it?
1. Choose the right location for your security camera
People invest in home security cameras for many reasons. It could be because you've had porch pirates steal your packages, or because you want to keep an eye on your children when they are home alone. So the question is, given your particular purpose, where should you put your security camera?
Indoor cameras may be used for different purposes. Again, if you're hoping to monitor general activity, say, of children in the house, placing a wide angle lensed camera in the corner should work. If you're hoping to monitor entryways for security purposes, a narrower lensed device, perhaps with night vision, would be the best option.
If the reason you're setting up a home security camera is to deter package thieves, know that while a live stream could help you catch the act in the process, it won't help you submit the evidence to the police if it's not recorded.
While it may seem like a no-brainer to make sure the footage your home security captures is recorded, many cameras simply don't have cloud storage or a storage chip, or SIM card, included with them. If you're using devices from Ring or Arlo, for instance, you'll need to purchase a $3-a-month subscription along with the camera to access their cloud storage. Some devices, like Wyze's cameras, have slots for SIM cards.
Nothing is more annoying than constant push notifications on your phone because the tree in your front yard is blowing in the wind. On the other hand, it would be incredibly frustrating to shell out for an expensive video doorbell, only for a package to be stolen off your doorstep without any notification at all.
The home security video camera cannot work to the utmost of its abilities just by capturing and/or recording video. While those features certainly help identify a burglar, it doesn't do too much to deter them from going about their intended actions.
Motion detectors are very useful on security cameras, even if it's just to let you know someone's walking up to your door with a package. Some cameras offer people-only alerts, package alerts or a camera to watch or engage with your pet. Ring cameras -- and many others, too -- allow you to adjust motion detection sensitivity and set a schedule to turn off alerts when you know that certain people will be going in or out.
You can also adjust your notification window for many cameras -- so you get notifications if there's motion on your doorstep, but not on the sidewalk beyond it.
4. Set up (the right) notifications
Motion detection is an important security feature on home security cameras, but different types of motion may mean different things. And sometimes you don't want motion to send your phone a-buzzing. Setting schedules, as mentioned above, is a good first measure. But you may also want to receive certain types of notifications at certain times. For instance, you may have your phone more in the evenings, but email notifications might be best during the day. Or different users in the same house might be home for different portions of the day.
Depending on the type of camera you have, you'll be able to adjust these notification settings in the camera's app.
5. Connect to other smart devices in the house
In most cases, whatever notifications you do get from your home security camera will be sent to your smartphone. But you can also connect your home security camera to other smart devices in your home, for instance calling up a live stream on your Amazon Echo or Nest Hub Max when someone rings the video doorbell.
Finally, to get the most out of your home security camera, do some research on your devices' unique capabilities. Though many home security cameras will share features, most have something to set them apart from the competition. Some of the common, or less common, features you'll see include:
Wide angle lenses or unusual aspect ratios (useful for video doorbells)
Integration with other smart home devices
Free cloud storage (though this is increasingly rare)
Weather protection for outdoor devices
Smart alerts (distinguishing between packages, people, pets and other things)
If you haven't already bought a device, it's also worth thinking through which features are most important for you. And if you have, figuring out which features are available on your existing device can help you use it more efficiently.
The bottom line
Home security cameras can be a great addition to your overall home security plan. By following the tips above, you can truly make the most out of your home security camera -- along with usual home security practices.