Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Answer to "I'm new what camera / automation should I get?"

Before even starting to ask a "what's best" question you need to gather some details to make your question answerable in any useful way. There is not going to be any one answer, only one what best fits your specific situation from your point of view. While there might be several OK answers (in your opinion) there is never a general answer that works for every person. So ask yourself these questions first:

  1. What is it you want to do? Something vague like something that looks cool is not useful. "I want my house to turn everything off and set the alarm when I leave", would be. Or even something as simple as I want to see the driveway camera on X when someone arrives or when it sees motion. (two diff things by the way.)
  2. What do you have? Are you starting from scratch or do you already have an investment in a good bit of gear. Maybe you have stuff but are cool with dumping if need be. Factor in time and money here.
  3. What skills and or eagerness to learn do you have? Are you good at programming or hardware building? Are you looking to learn or are you looking for something as easy as possible? The people you will get answers from will be from all over the spectrum, Something one might do everyday will be unthinkable to another but both will throw suggestions at a general question. 
  4. What kind of budget in money, time and style? Note here often you can save a bit of money building something but the extra time required and or the lack of style of the finished product will make the savings over a produced item seem worthless. This is VERY subjective. Even if you are not rich you will be making compromises. You need to decide what you can live with.
Note lots of people will weigh in on the vaguest question to put forward with whatever they did (or in some cases just Googled) as being the ultimate solution for you. Be sure to weigh any responses you get like you would Amazon reviews. As in have they actually done what they are suggesting. If so how long have they been doing it and how does their skill set match yours.

That said there are some basic things to keep in mind especially with cams.

Wire your cams. You have to run power to them anyway (do not get battery powered ones) so you might as well run cat 6 and power them through that.

Only record to the cloud as a backup. Get a NVR like Blue Iris to record local.

Record 24/7. Recording on motion will get most stuff but usually misses that one thing you REALLY needed to get.

Think about what you want the camera for. 720p is fine if you are mainly looking at stuff up close or letting you know someone is there but if you want to have a pic the police can use you will need something with enough pixels to work with at the max distance you might see them at. This applies to viewing angle as well. The wider the angle the thinner you are spreading those pixels. 

Cams that also record to an internal card are good idea too but as a backup. Cameras should only talk to the NVR and be blocked from talking to the outside world.

I have a lot of notes, tips and compare pics of most of the cameras I've tried in my other blog Security Cam 101 give it a look to see what looks like a fit for you.

Automation is VERY subjective. 

People call anything from simple remote control of a bulb to multi room scenes that happen automatically based on conditions automation. Odds are you looking to do is somewhere between remote control and what is possible. If you are reading this odds are what is possible is way more than what you might think. The only real suggestion here is get a hub and look for devices that work with multiple hubs to keep your options open. This blog lists a lot of the stuff I've tried and some of the issues I've dealt with. I also have a matrix of hubs and devices I've tried tracking how well each worked. As a first hub I generally suggest SmartThings or Vera as they are both fairly cheap and simple to set up. I've also heard good things about Wink and Hubitat but have not tried them myself. When you are ready to go whole hog you can upgrade to Homeseer which costs more and is aimed more at the installer market but does almost anything you can think of except talk directly to Zigbee devices.

Gateways / sub hubs like Hue are good too just try and get ones that do not need to link through the cloud.

In a similar vein you can use your automation sensors for an alarm system if you really do not think you need an alarm and just want something simple. But if you think you need an alarm get one that is separate but talks to the hub you decided on above.

1 comment:

  1. Add 4 questions you need to answer before asking questions of others.