CCTV Cameras: Your DIY Guide
CCTV Cameras: Your DIY Guide

Want to know what's going on in your house when you're not there? Need an extra set of eyes in your store or office? If the answer is yes, you may want to install a CCTV system. CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) refers to a system of surveillance cameras that send signals to a specific location-a monitor, or your PC.

CCTV systems are commonly used to monitor banks, shopping malls, and government facilities-and these days, as CCTV technology becomes more affordable and easier to use, more and more people are installing CCTV cameras in their homes and businesses.

How Do CCTV Cameras Work?

There are many different types of CCTV systems available-analog and digital, wired and wireless-and their modes of operation vary; however, the basic components are more or less the same: a camera, a lens, a monitor, and (for wired systems) cables that carry the signal from one place to another.

Many systems also use video recorders to record the video footage. The camera picks up the signal from the area being monitored via the lens (which determines how far and how much the camera can see, and which is often bought separately) and can be either wired or wireless.

In a wired system, the camera sends the signals through a coaxial cable to the monitor; in wireless systems, no cable is needed, and the camera simply broadcasts the signal straight to the monitor itself. The monitor can be either a simple television set (without tuning capacity) or your PC or laptop. Most wired analog systems use television monitors, while digital and wireless systems tend to use computers as monitors (so you can view the images from anywhere, often via the internet).

For recording purposes, the monitor is accompanied by a video recorder-a VCR for analog systems, or a DVR (digital video recorder) for digital systems. A DVR can actually replace the monitor as the receiving device, since many DVRs are stand-alone units that do everything a computer would do: receive, record, and store the information for later viewing.

Installing CCTV Systems

It's not hard to install a CCTV system, as long as you follow the instructions. Just remember that installation time and effort may vary depending on the system you choose. Some systems come ready-to-go in the box and take only 5-10 minutes to install; others have to be set up from scratch.

Also, keep in mind that wireless systems are usually portable and don't require much more than an electrical outlet and some software, whereas wired systems require you to drill holes and route cables. Take this into consideration when deciding which CCTV system to buy.

Figure out where to position the camera in the area you want to monitor, based on what you want to see and the camera's specific features (focal length, pan/tilt/zoom capabilities, etc.).

Here's a basic rundown of how to install your CCTV system depending on whether the system is wired or not.

For Wireless Security Camera Systems

  • Put the camera where you want it, plug it in if necessary, and turn it on.
  • Install the software on the monitor/PC if necessary, configure it to pick up the signal, and adjust as needed.

For Wired Security Camera Systems

  • Put the mounting bracket on the wall (or ceiling) and mark spots for the screws.
  • Drill pilot holes and screw the mounting bracket in place.
  • Drill a hole for the camera feed wire.
  • Attach the camera to the mounting bracket and secure it there.
  • Run the camera wire through the hole in the wall and over to the monitor, using wall clips or staples to keep it tight to the wall and floor/ceiling. Try to leave as little wire exposed as possible to avoid tampering.
  • Plug the wire into the monitor, turn it on, and adjust as needed.

Once you've installed your CCTV system, you can feel secure in the knowledge that whatever happens in your home or business, you'll be able to see it.