How to Choose a Home Protection Observation System
As an addition to your Home Alarm System, an observation system can be beneficial to protect things that are important to you. Many people today have observation systems set up in homes to protect family members and valuable possessions, and even in businesses to monitor and protect employees and equipment. There are a number of choices and features available for many situations. Use this guide to help you find which type of system fits your needs.

Color vs. Black/White Systems:

Choosing between a "Color" or a "B/W" camera and monitor depends on two factors... Light conditions of the area to be viewed - If the lighting conditions will be in low light areas such as outdoors, dim restaurants or factories, then a B/W system is suggested. B/W cameras can also utilize infrared illuminators in low light conditions. If the viewing areas are well lit, color would be acceptable.
The necessity of having positive identification of colored objects - A person who needs a camera to positively identify someone using the colors of certain objects, for example, clothing or cars, should buy a color system. If this is not a concern, a B/W system would be adequate.

Viewing Options:

There are a number of viewing options to choose from. Pick which options best suit your needs...

Monitor Size:
The bigger the monitor size, the better it will be to view image details. Sizes range from 5" monitors to 12" or more.

Number of Cameras Needed:
If you want to view several areas, you will need more than one camera.
A general rule of thumb is that each camera should cover an area of no more than 30 feet for good identification.

Quad Monitors and Sequential Switchers:
If several cameras are setup, you have two options with which to view what's on each camera.
Quad monitors means you can view four camera views at once using one monitor divided into four squares.
Sequential switchers allow you to see one camera view at once, and have the ability to switch back and forth between the other camera views in the area.

Cable Length:
Cameras usually come with cable that is about 63 feet long, which you attach to a monitor.
If you want the monitor to sit farther from the camera than 63 feet, find an approved extension cable that can add as much as 300-400 feet.

Wired vs. Wireless:
Wired video produces clearer images and is more reliable in chance of interferences. Wireless systems are useful in temporary situations or places where it is impossible to pass wire through and high definition images may not be as important.

System Features

Once you know the basic details of the system you need, it's time to learn about the extra system features that are available:

PIR Motion Sensor:
A PIR (Passive Infrared Sensor) is a small sensor located at the top of the camera that detects the movement of objects by sensing heat sources.
When this feature is activated, the sensor will detect movement in front of the camera, the monitor will chime, and the camera will be set to full screen. If a recording device is set up, the PIR will activate it to start recording the activity.

Dome Camera vs. Bullet Camera:

Dome cameras are commonly used when there is a need to mount cameras to a ceiling. You cannot see where the internal camera is facing, and as such, it provides an illusion of increased surveillance.
Bullet cameras, also called tube cameras or lipstick cameras, are smaller and less noticeable but they are visually directional in their viewing, and are also weather resistant.

Time Lapse VCR's

Video surveillance is only as beneficial as the person watching it or the recording of the video for review later. If you wish to enforce, demonstrate, or prove an activity, it needs to be recorded. Professional time lapse VCR's can record video over extended periods of time without the need to change tapes. Unlike a consumer VCR, these professional models can be setup to record in different modes that can capture up to 1280 hours of continuous video before a tape change is required.

Audio Surveillance

Some observation systems have "Two Way Audio". This means that you can communicate with cameras in the system. Its function is very similar to an intercom system in that you push to talk and release to listen. Care and discretion must be considered when using audio surveillance equipment especially if there is perceived privacy. You should inquire about federal, state and/or local regulations applicable to lawful installation of video and/or audio recording or surveillance. Party consent may be required.

Note: The system pictured above is available from First Alert.

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