More and more homeowners are interested in getting security cameras for their home. Over 35% of our customers who have an ADT monitored security system installed get at least one security camera as part of their alarm system. With home automation and smart home Apps becoming ever so popular... customers are really trying to figure out what cameras will meet their needs. Wireless cameras are fast becoming the solution for DIY (do it yourself) customers. But are they reliable? Are wireless cameras or hard wired cameras better? There are so many different brands, how do you pick what is best?
Wireless WiFi Security Cameras are Easy to Install and Very Affordable
Due to the affordability and easy of personal installation, wireless cameras are starting to become customers' number one choice. Many security companies are also choosing to install wireless security cameras for the same reasons. I want to share a bit of my personal experience both as a customer and from our company's perspective.
I got an ADT Pulse monitored security system installed complete with a security system, thermostat control, lighting control and four cameras. I had my Technician install cameras at the front door, driveway, back yard and one inside. For a while the cameras seemed to work perfectly.
With the ADT Pulse cameras, I had set up alert texts anytime their was motion, in the driveway, back yard and the front door. The front door camera motion alerts have worked well for several years and it has been great to see who is coming to our home when we are not there. Also, it's been fabulous to keep an eye on package deliveries. I quickly removed the motion alert from the driveway camera because it was picking up cars driving by on the street. I also removed the backyard motion alerts because trees and shadows were creating lot of text alerts especially on windy days. All of this was manageable... however, after a few months of being installed some of my cameras started falling offline...? What?
An offline camera is useless if it has the potential of not recording an important event because it happens to be offline at the time. You are not able to login and see live video either. Very frustrating! Why do these wireless cameras have this reliability issue?
Why do WiFi Cameras Go Offline and Disconnect?
Well, I started do research as to why my cameras would work perfectly and then go offline. After talking with my Technician, I started to realize that other customers were experiencing the same thing and cameras going offline was one of our main reasons for service calls. So why do some of my cameras work perfectly and others go on and offline at seemly random times?
First, you must consider WiFi Range. How far away is the WiFi Camera from the Hub and what is in between them?
My front door camera is closest to the ADT Pulse Hub and there is just two walls between them. The driveway camera and back yard camera and are both about equal distance, 50 feet, from my hub and the farthest away of the four cameras. Both of them would go offline, but the driveway camera has had significantly more problems dropping offline. I believe the main reason is because what's in between the cameras and the hub. The driveway WiFi camera that drops offline the most, has a brick fire place, plaster wall and three wood walls between it and the ADT Pulse Hub. It is just too much between the hub and the camera to have 100% reliability.
WiFi wireless cameras can be a good option for small homes, but if you have a large home it is probably best to install a hardwired camera system. WiFi range is also based upon where your wireless router or camera hub is in comparison to the cameras. Depending upon the camera type you may be able to use WiFi extenders to broaden the range of where you are able to install your cameras and maintain a stable connection.
Another major problem that some customers have is when neighbors have their WiFi on the same channel. Customers have had WiFi cameras working flawlessly until a new neighbor moves in and uses the same WiFi channel. This confuses the camera and it tries to connect to multiple WiFi routers. It's like one FM radio station both trying to use the same channel and the music continues to change between the two. In high density areas like condos, this can create a real problem when there are not enough WiFi channels to choose from. We had customers that could not use WiFi cameras because of this. In this environment you'll need to install a hard wired camera system.
Other issues are the Internet going down, changing wireless router passwords, interference form other wireless devices, Internet service with low bandwidth, etc. Bottom line, sometimes a WiFi camera system will work perfectly in some homes and for others you may have problems with wireless cameras going offline. All wireless WiFi cameras can experience the above issues. lets look at some information on trouble shooting popular WiFi cameras like Nest and Lorex.
From Nest: Learn about wireless interference and how to troubleshoot it
If you’re having trouble connecting Nest products or other wireless devices, or suffer from slow network communications or intermittent disconnections, here are detailed explanations about the causes and symptoms of wireless interference, along with troubleshooting tips.
Wireless interference typically comes from three sources: walls and floors blocking wireless signals, other Wi-Fi networks using the same channel as your own Wi-Fi network, and appliances and electronics emitting radio frequency interference. While your home Wi-Fi network and Weave may only be affected by one or two of these, almost every wireless network can be affected by all three types of interference.
Symptoms of wireless interference
Most homes experience all three kinds of wireless interference, but symptoms can vary. Read below to see if your Nest product is experiencing any of the symptoms of wireless interference.
Nest Cam symptoms:
- Missing video history.
- Skipping, pixelated, or other problems watching your video.
- Camera is Offline in the Nest app or disconnects from Wi-Fi.
From Lorex: Digital Wireless Camera Troubleshooting Guide
1. No picture/Signal
You may not see a picture from your wireless camera for one of the following reasons:
A. Power/Video Cables not Connected
- Ensure the camera power and receiver power adapters are plugged into power. If the camera or receiver is plugged into a surge protector, ensure the surge protector is on.
- Ensure receiver video cables are properly connected to the DVR or TV.
- See the diagram below for an illustration of a typical wireless camera connected to a Lorex DVR.
B. Incorrect Channel or Input Selected on DVR or TV
- Change the channel or input selected on your DVR or TV. See the instruction manual for your DVR or TV for details.
C. Signal out of Range or Obstructed
Move the camera and receiver within 10 feet of each other to determine that signal strength is causing the issue. If you can view the camera, then you will need to relocate the camera/receiver or remove any obstructions that may be impacting signal strength. Check the following:
- Distance: How far apart are the camera and receiver? A typical wireless camera has a range between 250 to 500 feet in an open field (with line of sight between antennas). The range is between 100 to 165 feet or less in an indoor environment, depending if there are walls or obstructions between the camera and receiver. Move the camera and receiver closer together.
NOTE: Wireless receivers are not rated for outdoor use. For the outdoor setup shown above, it is recommended to attach the wireless receiver to the inside of a window.
- Obstructions: You should maintain line-of-sight between the camera and the receiver if possible or limit the amount of obstructions (e.g. walls or tree branches) between the camera and the receiver.
- Heavy building materials: Are there brick, concrete, or metal walls between the camera and receiver? These materials significantly affect signal strength as shown in the table below.
- When Signal Passes Through >>> Signal Strength Lost
- Plaster & Wood 10 - 30%
- Brick 30 - 50%
- Concrete Cinder Blocks 50 - 70%
- Metal & Metal Cladding 70 - 100%
Avoid installing the camera and receiver where the signal will need to travel through brick, concrete or metal. Signals that must pass through wet or moist materials (like tree leaves or other plants) may also be significantly reduced.
Conclusion: Are WiFi Cameras Reliable?
It depends on the environment, the construction materials between the camera and the hub, the weather, the cameras, where the WiFi wireless router is located, number of WiFi channels available without a lot of traffic, potential interference of other wireless devices, etc. It may work perfectly for you, and you may experience some issues. But if WiFi cameras end up not working at a level of stability you desire, you can always get a professionally installed hard wired camera system. CCTV systems properly installed with quality equipment are very stable and reliable for many years to come.
I personally still enjoy my WiFi cameras. the easy of use with the ADT Pulse App is fantastic. Now I just have a true understanding of their reliability. Fortunately for myself, the camera at the front door which is what I am most concerned about is very stable. If I had a large home there would be no question that I would get a hard wired camera system installed. I have seen to many service issues caused by trying to install WiFi cameras in the wrong environment.
To find out more about your camera options call us at 1-800-310-9490.