When choosing a security camera for your home or business, you will need to decide upfront how to power the camera. That is because some security cameras come with rechargeable batteries, some supporting the latest PoE technology, and others needing AC or DC feeds.
5 Ways to Power a Security Camera – At a Glance
- POE (Power Over Ethernet): Combines data and power, but requires compatibility checks.
- DC Power: Common for smaller cameras; requires nearby power sources.
- AC Power: Great high-capacity cameras like larger PTZ cameras, typically requires hardwired connections.
- Rechargeable Battery: Wireless option with motion-triggered recording; needs periodic recharging.
- Solar Panel: Powers wireless cameras but requires optimal sunlight placement.
In this article, I’ll talk about the most common methods to power a camera so you can be better equipped when designing and installing your security camera system.
1. POE (Power Over Ethernet)
The most recent and convenient method to hardwire IP cameras is to use Power over Ethernet. (PoE) PoE systems use the ethernet port (which already transfers data) to transfer electrical power as well, thereby eliminating the need to use a separate DC cable and adapter.
However, PoE ports are not the same as standard ethernet ports. You cannot plug in a PoE cable into any ethernet port and expect the device to power up. The input device (in our case: the IP camera) needs to have an ethernet port that supports PoE. Most older cameras will not support PoE so you will need to check the specs.
To find out if your existing camera supports PoE you can look for a label called “PoE in” under the camera’s ethernet port. Some newer cameras offer both PoE and DC options, while older cameras with Ethernet and DC ports may not support it.
If your camera doesn’t support PoE but you still want to go through with it, you will have to use injectors and splitters to combine the power and data signal (at the injector) and split the power and data cables at the camera’s end. (using a splitter) This method eliminates the need to carry a secondary power wire to the camera’s location and in some cases (especially when placed outdoors) this method can be very useful since there might not be powerlines nearby.
If your camera does happen to support PoE, you’re in luck. Unfortunately, that’s only half of the equation, you need to make sure that the NVR supports PoE ports as well, and if not, you will have to use a PSE (Power Supply Equipment) or PoE compatible switch to act as an injector before sending the PoE cables over to the IP cameras.
Also, a final thing to note when setting up PoE is the IP camera’s power requirement. If the cameras require upwards of 30W, they will not support PoE, and in turn, will require a dedicated AC or DC connection.
2. DC Power
If PoE doesn’t seem like a possibility for your hardwired security camera, then you’ll most likely have to resort to DC power. Most smaller static cameras (which can also support PoE) will always have a dedicated DC port that requires 5V or 12 V of DC power.
Cameras that require DC power are easy to set up, all you need is a wall outlet to connect the AC adapter and you’re all set. However, in some situations, finding a wall outlet might be difficult, especially when placing cameras outdoors, so in those situations, you will have to find an alternative.
Several of these alternatives include:
Installing a new wall outlet near the security camera: Although it is good practice to have wall outlets near your security cameras, you will have to do some electrical (and some construction) work to set these up.
Using an extension cord: While the easiest solution, it is not ideal and not exactly great long term. You may have to use long-run extension cords and hiding them properly can be difficult.
Using a Power Supply Unit: Although some amount of wiring and electrical work will be required, setting up a power supply unit is the best method to provide DC power to multiple security cameras. You don’t have to install wall outlets at each section instead install a single PSU that gets power from a single wall outlet (or hardwired) and connect all the DC cables for the cameras through this unit. You’ll need to pick out a high-quality unit and install it properly to avoid electrical faults (short circuits, earth faults). Seek the services of an electrician if in doubt.
3. AC Power
Some high-capacity cameras require AC power instead of DC. These typically tend to be the larger PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras and they usually require either 24V AC power or direct 220V AC power.
Fortunately, setting up these cameras is not that complicated. For cameras requiring 24V AC power, a dedicated adapter is provided right out of the box. These adapters include a small step-down transformer that lowers the AC voltage from the wall outlet (or circuit) before distributing power to the camera.
On the other end, you’ve got cameras that have no adapters or transformers in-between. They directly connect to the wall socket (or circuit) of your home and power up right away.
Regardless of whether your cameras utilize AC power or DC power, one thing is always certain: you will have to dedicate one or more wall sockets for these cameras to function as they all require a hardwired connection. Or you will need to engage an electrician to extend your ring circuits for camera connections.
4. Rechargeable Battery
Wireless security cameras have become more and more popular and with rechargeable batteries, they can do a pretty decent job. However, one thing to note is that, unlike hardwired cameras, these do not record footage 24/7; only when motion is detected in their FOV. (which can be another issue on its own, considering the different motion sensors and their sensitivities.)
The great thing about wireless cameras with rechargeable batteries is the ease of installation. Anybody (given the right tools and know-how) can install these cameras within 10 minutes of taking them out of the box.
The main drawback of these cameras, other than the lack of 24/7 footage, is the hassle involved in regularly having to climb a ladder to remove the battery, charge it and reload it a few hours later.
Most of these cameras don’t require a home server and instead use Cloud storage or a local storage drive such as an SD card. The battery life of these devices varies on the settings and the level of activity. However, on average, you will be able to squeeze in more than 30 days of battery life from many of the well-known wireless cameras.
A few things we want you to consider before going fully wireless are to consider the accuracy of the motion sensor, the quality of the footage, storage options, and optional accessories such as a built-in solar panel.
5. Solar Panel
The way to avoid having to constantly recharge your wireless camera is to hook up a solar panel to keep it topped up.
More high-end wireless security cameras also offer optional solar panels to power your devices without the help of your home’s electrical supply.
Solar panel-based security cameras are also easy to set up since they don’t require any hardwiring. However, you have to be extra careful when picking out a spot for solar panels because depending on the location and time of day, the solar panels might not receive enough sunlight to maintain the devices. So if you install these in a very “shady” area, you might find that the solar panels are not able to keep up with the energy demand.
Power Supply Tips When Choosing A Security Camera
Here are some common tips for you to note down when shopping for a security camera/system
- Check for PoE compatibility in your camera’s spec sheet
- Choose the spots where you can provide easy access to a wall socket, or install wall sockets at the desired locations
- If you’re setting up more than four IP cameras, invest in a power supply unit box.
- Don’t connect long-distance IP cameras to the same power supply unit as short-distance ones.
- When calculating the total power consumption for your security camera system, always multiply the rated power of each camera by 1.3, for added safety.
- Install a UPS system for your camera system or look for hardwired cameras with an in-built backup rechargeable battery.
- If you’re installing solar-powered cameras, clean the solar panels regularly. (at least once a month.)
There are numerous ways to provide power to your security cameras. You can go the DIY-intensive route and install cameras with dedicated wall sockets or power supply units, or maybe go PoE for a little less electrical work. For the plug-and-play DIYer, wireless cameras may be the best option.
So if you are deciding on a full-fledged hardwired security camera system for your home, we recommend going for a PoE-based approach to power them up. It’s cleaner and won’t require too much electrical/construction work to set up.