Build Your Own Home Surveillance System for Your Personal Fortress

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We're sure you've seen all the true crime shows that are popping up on every network, movie screen and pod cast. These are meant to tell a true story of a real crime to better try to understand the mind of the killer or as a call to action to the public to help solve a mystery. What is really does is strike fear in the hearts of anyone who hears it. Danger could be around every corner, and how is a person supposed to keep their family safe? Consider learning how to build your own home surveillance system.

Why Build Your Own Home Surveillance System?

There are more reasons to build your own home surveillance system than what may first come to mind. It's not just about keeping the bad guy out.


Having a surveillance system deters burglars, keeping your belongings safe. One study showed when criminals are casing houses looking for the perfect one to rob, 60% of them would immediately discount the house with the surveillance/security system. You know your house and your neighborhood, so when you build your own, you can make your system stick out or be subtle—you're not restricted to what a certain company offers.

A surveillance system will keep out those who wish to do more than rob your house. In those true crime podcasts, you can hear serial killers talk about the kinds of houses they didn't want to choose—those with dogs and/or cameras. What does a criminal want less than having an image of their face captured to be shared with law enforcement? Nothing, that's what.

You can also warn your neighbors and law enforcement if someone ventures onto your property, sees the cameras and thinks twice. It's great news for you but, someone nearby could be next on their list. If you're in a Facebook neighborhood group, you can immediately upload their image so everyone else can be on the lookout for the prowler.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide

Today's technology allows you to build your own home surveillance system that can include ways for you to monitor your property for fire and unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. People with smoke alarms are around 70% less likely to die in a fire. Homeowners who are away and have a smart smoke detector are far more likely to save their pets and house by getting a notice and quickly calling emergency services and a neighbor.

Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer for a reason—you don't know it's there until it's too late unless you have a monitor and alarm. It's odorless, colorless and tasteless—the alarm will be your only sign you're in danger. Appliances and forced heat powered by a furnace all generate this gas, so every home needs an alarm.

Save Energy or Light Things Up

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Depending how you build your own home surveillance system, you can even monitor your energy consumption. Did you forget to turn all the lights off? Is the TV on for the dog who's actually at day care? You can check your system and with the right smart home components, turn those things off when you're away.

If you're getting home later than you expected and you don't want to come home to a dark house, turn those lights on from a few towns, miles or blocks away. The same goes for heat or air conditioning—there are very few parts of your house you can't control remotely.

How to Build Your Own Home Surveillance System

The possibilities are almost endless for the configuration of systems you can implement. It depends on a few things:

  • Your budget
  • The scope of the system you want
  • Number of components to monitor
  • Level of remote access you want
  • Number of entry points in your house
  • Level of activity you want to monitor

Start with a list. What are the absolute musts for you? Cameras at the front and back doors are a good start. We'll explore all the components you can choose from so you can compile a list of what you need to have and what would be nice to have.


Cameras are the building blocks of any good surveillance system. You know you need them, but you must decide which ones you're springing for.

Outdoor Cameras

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You have an enormous array of choices, bells and whistles to choose from. They design these cameras to take on any kind of weather by being durable, and they have enclosures that are weather resistant. Outdoor cameras can offer:

  • Hidden, smaller and wireless surveillance options
  • Larger, dome shaped cameras to blatantly ward off potential intruders
  • Wide exterior views
  • Dynamic options to accommodate your particular outdoor lightingRemote control pan and tilt options
  • Night vision—yeah, night vision
  • Motion detection so you're alerted when there's movement
  • The ability to talk to anyone in your camera's view

The best part about outdoor camera systems now is the ability to have the feed sent directly to your device. You want to know if your daughter's boyfriend is throwing pebbles up to her window? Just check your smartphone. You want to scare intruders? You can talk to them from wherever you are—in whatever voice suits your fancy.

Indoor Cameras

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Maybe you haven't given much thought to indoor cameras being part of what you include when you build your own home surveillance system, but you might want to. If you have a large or detached garage, a camera inside may deter an intruder. An outlying building is far more likely to be broken into than the main house.

It would be good to keep eyes on the person who you just saw on your outdoor camera entering your garage until the cops arrive. Sensitive areas like a baby's nursery or child's room are good places to house a camera for a couple reasons—it can bring you peace of mind to know your child's room is always being watched over, particularly at night while you sleep. You can also monitor nannies or babysitters while you're away.

Choosing Your Camera

Cameras run the gamut in price. There are ways for you to set up cameras cheaply with a little ingenuity or, if you can afford it, you can opt for ready-to-go, high-tech right out of the box.

Small Budget

Did you know you can repurpose old smart phones or tablets to be a camera? This is a great way to spend very little to nothing on a surveillance system. Decide on a location for your device—indoors is preferable as no device is weather resistant. Remember, you must have a power source close by and make sure the WIFI signal is strong.

If you don't have a windowsill or shelf in place, fashion a custom mount for it. There are apps that will transmit a live video feed you can access. Check out these apps:

  • Manything
  • Salient Eye
  • Dormi
  • Presence

These apps will provide you with live feed access from wherever you are. You may have to pay to have options like recording and saving videos to the cloud.

Medium Budget

You can get wireless cameras that will alert you when there's motion, allow you to see a live feed and even talk to the person you're seeing on your camera for under $50. The quality of the video won't be great. The images might be grainy, black and white or glitchy, but you'll have them.

Big Budget

The sky's the limit for you. You can buy entire systems of indoor and outdoor camera that will work in tandem to give you an uninterrupted view of whatever area of your property you'd like to see. Companies like Arlo have systems that include sirens, flood lights and night vision and all the systems will work together. You can purchase as many cameras as your heart desires.

Other Surveillance Ideas

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Why not take advantage of all the smart devices at your disposal and monitor just about everything in your house? Look at your options as an add on while you decide how to build your own home surveillance system.

Smart Security

Consider implementing certain smart systems into your overall plan, they lend an extra level of control and information about what's going on in and around your house.

  • Smart locks—lock and unlock doors from anywhere while you monitory each entry into your house
  • Smart lights—control what lights come on and give the appearance of an occupied house even when it's empty
  • Motion sensors—whether or not connected to a camera, you can know when something is moving around your house
  • Smart doorbells—alerts you to someone at your door, shows you video feed and lets you talk to them
  • Smart garage doors—will let you know when the door is open and allows you to close it remotely
  • Smart thermostat—set a high/low threshold and get alerts when the temperature falls outside those limits
  • Water sensors—strategically placed sensors will let you know of extra water near water heaters, dishwashers and under sinks

A smart home surveillance system should include monitoring not just who's trying to get in but what's happening inside the dynamics of your house.

Be Smart About a Smart Home

With so much information about your home available at your fingertips, it's important you don't allow that information to fall into the wrong hands.


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The first step is to be smart about your WIFI. Everything will be hooked up to your WIFI, so don't name your network “My House” or “Tom's House”—make it generic and unidentifiable. Your password needs to be strong and changed often. If your daughter breaks up with that pebble-throwing boyfriend, he still has your password; and, if he's smart enough and upset enough, could experiment with your smart home.

Don't use a password for your smart home that you've used anywhere else and make it random and at least 12 characters long. Throw a mix of uppercase, lowercase and numbers in to make it even more difficult to crack.


Everything in your smart home is accessed and controlled through your smart phone, so keep it secure. It doesn't do any good to have a super secure home if you don't lock the key to all of it—your phone. If you're giving access to other family members so they can lock and unlock the door or view camera feeds, be sure their phones are secure and they understand the importance.

Don't Use Public WIFI

These networks are notorious for being hacked because hackers just watch all the data being moved through the network. We know it's tempting to check on your house from Starbucks, but a hacker may intercept that data, find out where your house is, and find a way in because security protocols aren't tight in public.

Be wary of public WIFI networks you don't know. There are methods hackers use to set up fake public WIFI networks just to intercept your information. If you don't recognize the network and it's unlocked, it could be a trap. Always use a VPN when using a public WIFI network.

Know Your Smart Home Devices

As you're picking the devices you'll use as you build your own home surveillance system, use trusted brands. Read the fine print and ask questions about their security and safety standards. Well-respected companies follow standard secured transmission protocols, but cheaper brands may not.

Your Home Is Your Castle

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A home is the biggest purchase and investment most of us will buy in our lifetime, and the family contained within it is priceless—protect it. People will try to take what's yours for themselves but are less likely to try if they know someone is watching. With the right system in place, you'll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what's happening in and around your house at all times.

You can never be too careful, and when you build your own home surveillance system, not only are you being careful, but you're also being proactive and prepared. You'll sleep well at night whether you're at home or away.


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