You may not need a full alarm system, just a simple setup of one or more wireless cameras to monitor for possible break-ins and keep an eye on pets, children, elderly parents and/or household workers. You can view what the cameras are seeing via a live stream to your smartphone, tablet or, in some cases, a computer and also get alerts if there is movement.
Features to look for: Video resolution of at least 720p (anything less can look grainy)…night vision…the ability to automatically store video on a remote database over the Internet…a field of vision of at least 110 degrees, which allows you to see most of a room if you position the camera against a back wall.
Tips on using a monitoring camera: Keep the camera within 30 feet of your Wi-Fi router or the video quality may diminish. If you need to place it farther away, get a Wi-Fi range extender. Place the camera at eye level or higher on a wall or bookcase to get the broadest view of the room and to reduce false alarm notifications caused by random movement such as a pet passing by.
My Favorite Cameras
Nest Cam is the best-designed home-surveillance camera on the market. It offers 1080p resolution, which produces crisp, HD-quality video, and comes packed with clever features, including the ability to zoom in to a live image. Cost: $199, plus $10/month to save video to Internet cloud storage. Nest.com
Piper NV has 1080p and a 180-degree field of view. At $279, it’s more expensive than the Nest Cam but allows free Internet cloud storage. You can record 35-second video clips—enough time to get a record of what a burglar is doing—and store up to 1,000 of them for free to the cloud. GetPiper.com
Netgear Arlo is a rugged, waterproof camera designed to work in both hot and cold temperature extremes. It offers free Internet cloud storage that saves seven days (168 hours) worth of video. Drawback: It requires four CR123 lithium batteries that must be changed every four to six months. Cost: $180. Arlo.com