Buying home security cameras is about as close to living life like a secret spy as most of us will get. But buying the right cameras to keep your house safe is just half of the job. You also need to figure out the best places to put your security cameras.
Do you want to mount the cameras indoors? Outdoors? Should you have them near the front door or the back door or both? This review of the best spots to place a security camera will help you map out your security plan.
The best places to put your home security cameras
A front door camera isn’t just a fancy way to see who’s knocking without having to get up. The experts at InterNACHI — that’s the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors — say a third of all intruders enter a home through the front door.
Outdoor cameras should be mounted at least 9 feet off the ground to avoid a burglar vandalizing them, and pointed downward toward the front door with a view of the approach to the door itself. You may also want to add some mesh around the camera to ward off tampering.
If your camera is rated for indoor-use only, don’t risk inclement weather or high temperatures ruining your home security system. It’s better to set indoor cameras up inside a window that faces the front yard with sight of the door. Indoor cameras can also be mounted in the foyer to capture an intruder if they make it through the front door. Again, this type of camera should be hung high up on a wall to lessen the chance of tampering.
Got a doorbell cam? This one’s easy: Set it up as you would any other doorbell, but be aware they’re in easy reach of intruders, which makes them easier to block.
The back door is another entrance that’s hard for thieves to resist. An estimated 22% of burglars access a house this way, according to InterNACHI.
Once again, it’s best to mount your home security camera outside and as high as possible to keep the thieves from disturbing it. The camera should be pointed downward toward the door.
If your camera is only rated for the indoors, you guessed it, set it up on the inner side of a window, pointed at the back door. Don’t forget to keep any curtains opened up enough that they don’t block the view.
Indoor cameras can also be mounted on a wall in the foyer, pointed at the door so they can capture thieves upon entrance of the home (and potentially scare them off).
First floor windows
Windows close to the ground are second only to the front door when it comes to home invasion entry points. Off-street windows are especially attractive to burglars with fences, trees, and more to obscure the view of neighbors and passersby, while low-lying basement windows make for especially easy access.
Outdoor home security cams should be mounted up high (just like the door cam) and pointed downward at the windows. Cameras with wide viewing angles can help cover several windows, so you don’t have to buy one for every expanse of glass in the house, but you’ll want to take care to ensure you don’t have trees or other plants obstructing the view.
As much as 9% of thieves gain access to a home via the garage, and even unattached garages pose a burglary risk with expensive outdoor equipment and all that extra home storage.
Cameras can be mounted on an outer wall of the second floor of your home, pointed at the door of the garage. If yours is an attached garage that offers access directly to your house, you may also want to add indoor cameras in the garage, placed so they will capture anyone entering through the door. Driveway alarms can also trigger an early warning - these can be especially useful if you're going to be away from home for extended periods.
As much as 4% of thieves enter the home through the basement, and it’s not just the windows that can make your home vulnerable. If a door leads from the outside into your basement, this part of the house is much like a garage.
Outdoor cameras can again be mounted on an outer wall of the home, pointed at the basement entrance, but indoor cameras can be useful here as well. Do you have a set of stairs that lead from the basement up toward the home entrance? You may want to mount a camera on that wall as well. It may convince the thieves to turn back!
Looking for an indoor camera?
After extensive testing, we've rounded up the ten best indoor cams on the market.
Five common mistakes people make when placing cameras
1. Using the wrong kind of camera
Just about every security camera on the market comes with a manufacturer rating that will tell you if it can be used outdoors or should be limited to indoor use. Read them carefully. An indoor camera will not be able to withstand rain, snow, or even heat that an outdoor camera is made to handle.
2. Not installing the camera high enough
Many folks try to avoid climbing on ladders if they have to, but it might be worth calling a buddy who’s fond of heights to lend a hand when you’ve got to install your cameras. The 9-foot suggested height for home security cameras will not only make it harder for thieves to tamper with your camera, but it can help ensure they’re visible. That can be enough to scare the would-be intruder off before the break-in ever happens.
3. Installing the camera too high
If 9 feet is good, wouldn’t 12 feet be better? Well, not exactly. The farther away the camera is from the person it’s recording, the harder it may be to actually identify the intruder. Even with today’s high definition cameras, you want to have images that are as up close as possible to aid the police in finding whoever broke into your home.
4. Obstructing the camera’s view
Whether it’s a set of curtains that’s in the way of an indoor camera pointed outward or you’ve just set up an outdoor camera so a giant tree branch gets in the way, you won’t be able to do much with camera footage that’s blurry and obstructed. Look around before you install your camera, and try to gauge what it can capture from that angle. It also helps to read up on your camera’s field of view. Some have wider angle lenses than others, while some can tilt and pan, capturing more ground than a camera that stays in one position all the time. If you are installing your camera during winter when your trees are without their foliage, think twice. Make sure you are considering how much room trees, plants and flowers will take up in the view range of your camera when it’s Spring or Summer and everything is in bloom.
5. Ignoring lighting conditions
Daylight can help a camera capture clear images of an intruder, but pointing the camera directly at bright lights or the sun can cause stripes in your image. You’ll also want to look for a camera with wide dynamic range if you’re pointing the camera out of the house toward the yard—this will help bridge the gap between a bright and sunny yard and an intruder standing on the shade of your porch.
Wherever your camera is placed, you’ll need to check that it actually has night vision capabilities if you want night-time monitoring.
What to look for in security cameras
Ready to run out and buy some home security cameras to install around your house? Just one second. You might want to keep a few features in mind:
Now that you know where to place each kind, it’s time to decide if you need outdoor cameras, indoor camera, or a mix of each.
Some cameras will record 24/7, while others only capture video that’s motion activated. Take time to decide what is better for you, and check out how you can access the recordings. Some companies require you pay extra fees for footage that’s more than a day old.
Field of view
The field of view is the area that your home security camera can see, and you’ll want to keep the width of any area you hope to capture in mind when you’re judging these numbers. The field of view is also critical for pet cameras as well.
Most home invasions occur during the day when no one’s home, but if you’re concerned about night time visitors, you’ll want to make sure your camera has a night vision mode to capture what happens after the sun goes down.
Wide dynamic range
This option is vital for cameras that are set up in spots where they’ll capture images with a lot of light and dark at the same time, such as that camera in the foyer that’s pointing out the front door. It can help balance between the two extremes for clearer images.
Buying home security cameras can help make your home more secure, but they’re only as good as where they’re installed. Make sure your cameras are set up in the right spots to keep you safe.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.