Wired vs. Wireless Security Cameras

security camera

dogayusufdokdok / Getty Images

Once used only in high-end homes and commercial establishments, security cameras are being installed in more homes than ever. Homeowners find themselves considering purchasing cameras not just for security but for a host of reasons that make life a little bit easier. With this advanced technology, you can check up on your pet when you're at work, see if the delivery person has dropped off a package, confirm that your child is back from school, and many other uses.

Deciding between wired and wireless security cameras is the first major decision. While wired security camera systems predate wireless cameras, they are by no means outdated. Though tricky to install, wired camera systems are still a good purchase due to their solid reliability and off-line capability. Wireless security cameras are simple to set up and generally are inexpensive but do come with a few drawbacks such as the possibility of network failure and tampering.

Wired Security Cameras

Wired security cameras record onto a digital video recorder (DVR) that typically has a large-capacity disk drive. Wireless security systems will film even when the unit is off-line. With most units, though, the DVR does need to be online for you to remotely access recorded content. The DVR connects to your home internet with an ethernet cable.

One drawback of a wired security camera system is the cables that extend from the DVR to each camera. Do-it-yourselfers and technicians can creatively avoid much of the wall and ceiling damage by bringing the cables behind the drywall with electrician's fish tape. But sometimes small sections of the wall or ceiling drywall must be removed.

Wired security cameras help you avoid one wire that is used with many wireless camera set-ups: the power cord. Wired security cameras do not need to be individually wired to nearby outlets. Instead, they draw their power from one central camera power adapter. This adapter uses a power splitter to feed electricity to each of the cameras.

A limited number of cameras can be added to the system due to the four to eight DVR inputs in the back.

Pros

  • Cannot be wirelessly hacked

  • Continues to record even if the Internet goes down

  • Better for privacy concerns

  • Preserves bandwidth with extended hard-drive storage

  • Individual connections to outlets not required, and no battery to drain

Cons

  • Difficult set-up

  • Often invasive installation

  • Post-installation home repairs often necessary

  • Cameras and system cannot be easily moved

  • DVR input jacks limit the number of cameras that can be added

wired security camera
traveler1116 / Getty Images

Wireless Security Cameras

Wireless security cameras plug into a household electrical outlet for power and transmit video signals wirelessly via your home's Wi-Fi. The footage is stored either onboard each camera on a memory card or in the cloud with a subscription service. Additionally, you have the option of viewing the video signal in realtime.

The chief benefit of a wireless security camera is that you can place the camera anywhere within the house that is close enough to plug into an electrical outlet and that is within the Wi-Fi signal range. Walls and ceiling remain undisturbed.

Some wireless cameras are truly wireless, drawing power from an internal battery. In many cases, this battery can be removed for recharging or the camera itself can be plugged into a power source via a USB cord.

Wireless security cameras usually do not require an expensive buy-in for an entire system. Typically, you can begin with one camera, then add others as you wish.

Wireless security cameras can fall prey to drive-by hackers and others who can access your system within Wi-Fi range. Wireless security cameras are dependent on the Internet. If the Internet in your home or area should go down, your wireless security cameras will not function.

Pros

  • Easy to set up

  • No need to open up walls or ceiling

  • Transportable within the home or even outside of the home

  • Easy to add additional cameras

Cons

  • Dependent on the Wi-Fi connection

  • Must be individually plugged in to nearby outlets

  • Signal can be intercepted

  • Possible Wi-Fi interference from other Wi-Fi-equipped devices

  • Walls may hamper Wi-Fi signal

wireless security camera
Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

Wired vs. Wireless Security Cameras: Which Is Best for Your Home?

Home security cameras, both wired and wireless, are more sophisticated than ever. The image resolution is high, with most displaying 1080p images and some even displaying super-crisp 4K pictures. Errant movement from streets or pets that falsely triggers repetitive alerts can be blocked out by defining and excluding motion zones. Two-way audio allows you to speak with people at the other end of the camera. You can even open up the mic to shoo your pet off the sofa. The footage is backed up locally or with cloud storage. All of this is accessed with an app on your mobile device or by logging into a website.

You might wish to purchase a wired vs. a wireless security camera if any of the following conditions apply. These factors only give you a basic idea of why you might want either type of camera. Factors are not absolute, and some factors may even overlap for you.

Wired Security Cameras

  • You own your own home
  • You are handy with tools
  • You are concerned about system reliability
  • Your home Wi-Fi signal is inadequate or you fear it dropping
  • You expect to be in your home for many years
  • You're willing to invest a moderate amount of money on the system

Wireless Security Cameras

  • You move frequently
  • You are a renter
  • You don't like complicated electronics set-ups
  • You don't like working on houses
  • You want to set up your cameras very quickly
  • You don't want to pay a lot of money upfront