Home security systems are becoming more and more prevalent this days. Whether you have a monitoring system through a company where you pay a monthly fee or you have your own system that you monitor yourself, there is a lot to choose from.
Now if you have a security system monitored by a security company, this article is not for you. If you have purchased a home security system by companies like Lorex and Flir this article is also not for you.
This article is intended for those individuals who like to tinker a little bit and happen to have an older but still useful PC around.
Building the DVR unit
In this example I have an AMD Athlon X2 Duo-Core Processor, 3GB RAM with a 500 GB HD. You may be able to get away with lower specs but keep in mind, the more cameras use with your system, the more processor speed, RAM and HD space you will need.
I found two very good pieces of software you can use for your DVR unit. Both are open source. One runs on Windows (i-spyconnect) and the other is for Linux (ZoneMinder). Both can hook into several different types of cameras (USB, CCTV, Ethernet Wired or Wireless). You can view the cameras inside and outside your network. They both have user forums where you can get advice if you run into problems during set up or just need a little support when tweaking things. I-spyconnect has a notification service you can subscribe to if you want (SMS and email) however that is where software stops being free.
It really boils down to whether or not you want to build the DVR unit as Windows machine or a Linux machine. I have built many a Linux box (in recent years my favorite flavor was Ubuntu) but for this article I will be using Windows, therefore i-spyconnect will be the security software I will use.
So now I have an older Windows 7 box built with i-spyconnect installed on it, time to get some cameras working.
Since the computer will be on my home network, I have decided to purchase some inexpensive wireless IP cameras (wanscam). I found them for about $40 USD online. They will be installed inside as I have good viewpoints from inside my house. If you need them outside you will have to probably spend a bit more for the cameras and have to possibly deal with cabling and power issues. This might drive up the cost a little bit. Right now I am into about $200 plus my time to install the cameras and configure the software. If you find yourself spending $300 – $400 for equipment (remember the computer and software are free) you might want to look into a prepackaged system you can get from companies like Lorex Technology. At that price, you can get the system and 4 cameras (some even come with wireless cameras). All you have to do is invest some of your time setting it all up. However, I like to tinker so I will continue with my home grown system….
Weather you purchase indoor or outdoor cameras, things you will need to consider:
- Does the camera come with PTZ options (Pan Tilt Zoom)?
- Does it have motion sensors?
- Does it have infrared for Night Vision?
- Do you want a fixed camera or a motion camera?
Also, before you start drilling holes in or outside your house, it is also a good idea to rough out where you want the cameras to be and then see what they look like through the monitoring software. I would put them anywhere a potential criminal could gain access to your house (front, side, back doors, garage doors, driveways, patios or verandas, etc.)
Once the cameras have been configured for your home network (been given IP’s, a username and password has been set for them) you can add them to i-spyconnect. I found a great tutorial on YouTube that helps you do just that (Tutorial here).
On a final note, one of the features I found in the i-spyconnect software was concerning storage and was in the settings of the software. I made note of where the camera recordings were being stored and set it to overwrite older recordings to save space. I will have to see how many days it can store before it starts overwriting. I only have a 500 GB HD but if you want to estimate how fast your set up will use hard disk space (i.e Number of cameras, quality of recording , HD size) you can go here
I hope this article gives you enough information about installing your own security camera system. As you can see, it requires a little bit of work but if you have the right combination of spare hardware lying around and the need to tinker, it might just be the cool little weekend project you have been looking for!