Setting up a DIY CCTV System for your Home

security camera

In the modern era, technology keeps advancing and bringing potentially sci-fi-style capability to one’s home. Nowadays, what was positively Super Spy material a mere decade or two ago is not only a reality, but also a necessity in our crime riddled country.

It is only a natural progression for the installation of a CCTV system to have become standard practice around the world in most buildings and areas in which business is conducted or high traffic volumes supported. That said, millions of South Africans make use of CCTV to protect their families and residential properties and I believe it to be a crucial component of an effective line of defence and crime deterrent for any home.

Given the number of potential benefits, from acting as a crime deterrent to helping to identify and apprehend perpetrators, a relatively inexpensive and simple installation of a CCTV system can and, will very likely, do wonders for your overall home safety and security.

Part 1: Principal benefits of a CCTV installation

There are two main benefits for the average homeowner derived from installing CCTV. Looking at the system purely from a security standpoint, the domestic market benefits from CCTV in two principal and obvious ways:

Opportunistic crime

Statistics keep pointing to the fact that almost all petty or opportunistic crime is eliminated through the installation of CCTV. Commonplace throughout the world, opportunistic crime is perpetrated by those who will do it if they can remain unseen.

These are therefore deemed petty crimes, as they have no hardened intent behind them. That said, they still cost homeowners and insurers millions in replacement payouts every year. Minor thefts, property damage and pilfering are all virtually completely curtailed through the use of CCTV.

Petty crime typically has no broad strategy behind it and very often the perpetrators remain within the environment in which the crimes take place. A CCTV installation is thus generally sufficient to deter these opportunistic and lesser crimes.

More serious crime

CCTV also comes into its own when a homeowner may experience crime with planned intent. Here, housebreaking, robbery and home invasions typically predominate. With the installation of a CCTV system, not only is a certain percentage of these crimes deterred, CCTV also enables the ability to both preempt or halt such crime before or during perpetration.

Part 2: DIY CCTV system overview (4 channel system)

DIY, step one – don’t be intimidated by jargon! There are essentially a very few basic components and a number of features to any DIY CCTV installation. Don’t be put off by scrolling through abbreviations and tech jargon. When purchasing, one essentially needs a number of cameras, lengths of cable to support & tie in all components and also a central intelligence or “brain box”, typically a DVR (digital video recorder). The last essential component of a DIY CCTV system is a screen, typically a 9” LCD screen (LCD stands for ‘liquid crystal display’ and is a standard screen). Most systems come weatherproof and are ideal for homes, offices, factories, business premises and farms. There are many places you can buy CCTV systems online.

Components: Cameras

While the earlier era of camera technology, among many such applications, was analogue, nowadays all is digital. Don’t be too fussed about the term “digital” being attached to every second component – analogue and digital are merely slightly different signal transmission technologies, and most applications realise & accept that digital is superior in some cases whereas analogue holds its own in others.

Cameras are positioned at key points and typically screwed into drilled holes in either masonry or wood surfaces. A 4 channel system implies 4 cameras feeds, as each camera “feed” is considered a channel, using the connecting cables to feed that which it sees through to the DVR that records the feed from each camera and displays it on a screen.

Components: Cables & sundries

There will always be a power cable that enables the entire system. This is connected to the DVR and either plugged into a power outlet or wired into a home’s DB (distribution board) with its own isolator or switch, usually by an electrician. Most DIY systems are plug-and-play though, and one merely plugs it in to an available wall socket. The system is typically supported by a battery back-up (USB) in the event of a power failure.

The other cables one will find in a DIY CCTV system are the feed cables that run to each camera. There will also usually be an assortment of joining fittings (for extending cable), cable clips (for fastening the cable running neatly along wall lines) and specialised plugs and/or fittings for plugging every feed into the DVR. These latter are usually already attached at the end of a preset length of feed cable.

Components: DVR

The DVR records and transmits the images received from the cameras and enables not only real-time display, but also the ability to go back and view past events. It collates and feeds all audio & visual information through to the screen. It is also programmable to record and display according to a homeowner’s preferences.

Components: Screen

The screen is just the same as a computer or even TV screen, usually a 9” (9 inch = approx. 22cm) screen. A CCTV system screen will typically enable “split screen” viewing. All this means is that all 4 cameras can display in 4 quadrants on the screen, so that one can see everything that is going on around them, from all vantage points.

One will position the screen usually in the most populated and/or used area of the house. Ideally, it will be visible at a glance, even if it is positioned across the room from, for example, the kitchen or lounge.

Part 3: Basic DIY tool kit for a CCTV installation

A DIY installation will require:

  • An electric drill (complete with its own “key” to enable opening and tightening of the “chuck”, the grasping mouth of the drill) and both masonry & steel bits. “Steel bits” are employed on both steel & wood. If one wishes to drill through walls or behind cupboards in order to effect a capably hidden & neat installation, a longer, chunkier masonry bit and a routing bit (for wood) may be required.
  • Screwdrivers and side snips
  • Either insulation tape (for gathering & neatening assembled cables) or small to medium length cable ties in either black or white
  • Cable clips & a small hammer, or, a hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • A ladder (5-step should do) and an electrical extension cable (10m+) for extending the drill’s and/or glue gun’s reach

Installing a DIY CCTV system

It’s a good idea to arrange everything in a single room before distributing the various components in order to confirm that all components are undamaged and working correctly. Test the cameras by plugging them into the DVR, positioned securely on a chosen surface. Plug the DVR into the screen and then plug the DVR power cable into a wall socket and switch it all on.

The cameras should swivel capably and also tighten up and remain fixed in any position one chooses. The DVR is functional if it relays what each camera sees to the screen. One can also test the DVR and screen by selecting each camera in turn as with most systems this should result in an enhanced view from a single camera.

Ensure camera lenses are not cracked or scratched, ensure the screen displays correctly and also peruse all the cable lengths for any signs of fraying or damage.

Unplug everything and decide on a permanent position for the DVR and screen. One can now feed each camera’s cable out to its vantage point where the camera is to be affixed. One then fastens the camera into position and feeds the camera’s cable back to the DVR, affixing with either the glue gun or hammer & cable clips as one goes along. Splicing (joining) cable is seldom necessary as the lengths are usually oversupplied.

Once all cameras are affixed and the cables are all run back to the DVR, plug these cables in. Plug the DVR into the screen. Plug the power cable in again and all should display perfectly.

Position of cameras

Some thought should be given as to where each camera is positioned in order to optimise the DIY CCTV system’s capacity. Cameras are best positioned out of reach (higher up) and facing entrance points such as front & back doors, walls containing one or more windows, driveway gates, etc.

In choosing camera locations, attempt to ensure that all access points to the premises are covered and, with 4 cameras, this is generally eminently doable on the average home’s premises.

Monitoring the system

Apart from monitoring the screen when at home, one can monitor the system on a Smartphone or tablet via an Android or Apple App. Typically a system’s DVR will contain an instructional video enabling one to configure the system’s settings to make this possible. This will display on the screen when one sets up the system. Also, ask the sales counter when purchasing what App they stipulate to tie into the system and enable it to be monitored via cellphone or tablet, even when one is roving. This information, however, should be on the instructional video housed within the DVR.

Assuming the device one wishes to employ to monitor one’s home has data and internet connectivity, once the App is downloaded onto the device, it will walk one through the steps to set-up. The instrument will self-identify and the App intelligence makes simple work of clicking through and setting up viewing preferences.

There is also typically a remote control that comes with most modern systems, enabling remote control of the system when one is on the premises.

Part 4: Final points

A DIY CCTV installation of this nature is best accomplished with patience and the decision not to entertain distractions. Technologically adept yet simple to install, it is nonetheless best served with a logical and patient approach.

Install everything employing a one-step-at-a-time approach. Cameras first, then cables, and finally the connectivity of the pre-positioned DVR and screen.

One thought on “Setting up a DIY CCTV System for your Home

  1. Please support me and this website by leaving a comment below on your experience installing a DIY CCTV camera system and whether or not you think it has made a difference to your home security.

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