Security cameras can be placed anywhere in and around a building or your home to secure it from all manner of unwanted intruders. However, corded security cameras become useless when there is a power outage. Having a lot of them in a large area also becomes very costly due to cabling.
There are battery-powered security cameras but the batteries need regular charging or replacement, which is a great hassle if the cameras are placed far apart or in remote places. That is why some people have opted for solar-powered security cameras over the corded and battery-powered types.
In this article, we have put together information on solar-powered security cameras which are relevant in 2021, including a guide on the essential features to look out for.
What is a solar-powered security camera?
It is essentially like any regular security camera except that it is powered by solar energy. Because of this, it does not require installation of electric cables or payment of monthly subscription fees to a security service provider.
A solar powered security camera comes with a miniature solar power system. This usually includes one or more small solar panels, rechargeable batteries and a small capacity solar inverter. Other features which may be included are spotlight, Wi-Fi connection, SIM card, SD card and so on.
How does a solar-powered security camera work?
The small solar panels which come with a solar-powered security camera are often high grade. Photovoltaic cells in the panels capture solar energy to generate direct current (DC).
The solar inverter then converts the DC to alternating current (AC), which can be utilized to power the camera and to charge the batteries. When there is no sunlight or too little of it, the camera draws power from the batteries.
Advantages of solar-powered security cameras
1. Solar security cameras can be used anywhere
Since solar-powered security cameras don’t need cables or the power grid to work, it can be used for off-grid buildings, in the most remote locations or in geographically challenging environments. These are the places where pulling miles of cable for conventional security cameras will be simply impossible or cost too much.
Solar-powered security cameras are now being used by those living in mobile homes such as tiny houses, RVs, boats, vans and trucks. These homes tend to cater to off grid living where every bit of power is precious. Thus, self-powering security cameras are favoured.
2. Easy installation of solar security cameras
These cameras are self-sustained units and don’t need any wiring to the grid. Installation is as easy as screwing them onto wherever they need to be.
3. Solar security cameras are environmentally friendly
Sunlight is a renewable, free energy. Running the cameras does not cause added pollution since it does not require the power grid and its battery is constantly recharged by this free energy.
4. Easy scalability of solar security cameras
Because every unit is a standalone, it is easy to add any number of cameras without needing to add infrastructure.
5. Solar security cameras have a long lifespan
Most solar panel manufacturers give a 25-year standard warranty. Even after 25 years, the solar panel can still produce about 80% of power for the camera.
Are there incentives for solar-powered security cameras?
Many countries encourage the adoption of photovoltaic technology to reduce their carbon footprints. Each country has different kinds of incentives such as tax credits, rebates, FIT programs and so on. Solar-powered security cameras are not exempt from such incentives since they are considered a solar product.
What to consider when buying solar powered security cameras
1. Solar panel capacity of the solar security camera
The solar panel that comes with the security camera should produce enough electricity to power the camera for up to 8 hours of the day. At the same time, it should also be able to charge the battery sufficiently.
To ensure the solar panel efficiency is at its optimal, ensure that nothing will block the photovoltaic (pv) panel from direct sunlight. Position the pv panel to face true south if you’re in the northern hemisphere or true north if you’re in the southern hemisphere.
Weather conditions such as snow and dark clouds can reduce a solar panel’s efficiency, so giving it the best angle will help.
2. Battery size of the solar security camera
The solar security camera should come with rechargeable batteries that are used to power the camera when sunlight is unavailable. The storage capacity of the battery should be at least 10 times that of the solar panel’s maximum output. Otherwise, the battery might become damaged from overcharging.
The average charging time is about 6 to 8 hours. This stored power should last from 1 week to over 3 months without additional charging. Of course, this is possible only for cameras that actively record when the motion detector is triggered or when the user connects to the camera.
The storage capacity of the battery is measured in milliamperes per hour or mAh. The more features the camera needs to power (e.g. two-way audio, Wi-Fi connection and night vision) the bigger the required battery capacity.
3. Storage location of solar security camera footage
Some models store footage in SD cards while others offer cloud service. If you prefer to record motion-activated videos locally with no subscription fees, go for SD cards.
If you prefer to access your data from anywhere on a mobile device that has an Internet connection, go for cloud service. The footage of wireless solar-powered security cameras with movement sensors can be saved on SD cards in your phone.
4. Data transmission of the solar security camera
Recorded images and videos can be transmitted through a 3G or 4G network if Wi-Fi is unavailable or unreliable. Not all security cameras come with this feature. The models that do are probably a little costlier.
5. Image resolution of the solar security camera footage
Resolution refers to the sharpness of the image. The footage would be useless if it is not sharp enough for you to see the faces of individuals.
It is best to go for between 780-pixel to 1,080-pixel resolution although there are cameras with higher resolution. 780-p resolution is common among lower end and cheaper models. 1,080-p resolution is the norm for most solar-powered models
6. Design and weatherproof rating of the solar security camera
There are two categories based on shape and design, including bullet and dome.
a. Bullet security cameras
Tubular in shape, they have a wide field of vision with a fixed view that can be adjusted manually or via a remote control. Bullet-shaped security cameras are normally used at entryways. They often include motion-sensing and night-vision features.
b. Dome security cameras
These generally have a smaller field of vision. They operate on a near-360-degree rotation which makes them a great option for commercial and industrial settings. They are also sometimes used in residential settings, though dome cameras designed for home use are typically less robust than those made for commercial and industrial applications.
Waterproof rating tells you how well the camera can work outdoors. It is indicated as IPXX. IP stands for ingress protection. The first X represents resistance to debris, from larger solid objects such as a leaf, to tiny solid objects such as dust.
The second X represents resistance to water, which can range from zero resistance to being able to be submerged in several feet of water for extended periods of time without effect. A rating of 5 will ensure the camera won’t shut down in heavy rain.
7. Compatibility of solar security camera with existing infrastructure
Your existing Wi-Fi, smart home or 4G service provider should be compatible with the solar-powered security camera. Although most products will work with any type of Wi-Fi, the ability to connect directly through a built-in 3G or 4G network and the capability to integrate with a smart home need to be checked so that the security camera will function as intended.
8. Feature for communication via the solar security camera
Some models allow you to have two-way communication with the person on the other end through a built-in microphone and speakers on the camera. For this feature to work, find out the best working distance and height before purchasing or installing.
9. Motion-detection and night-vision capabilities of the solar security camera
PIR motion detection is an advanced feature that uses computer algorithms to differentiate humans from non-human images. If the object is not human, the motion-detection system does not send an alarm. Night-vision capability is extremely useful if you expect the solar-powered security camera to function throughout the night or in dark places.
Running a number of security cameras 24-7, 365 days a year can pile the utility bill quite high. Using solar power can amount to plenty of savings. That is why solar-powered security cameras are gaining popularity.
Aside from a reduced utility bill, they also come with a long list of other benefits and nifty capabilities which trump corded and battery-powered security cameras. In 2021 the extent of capabilities for the solar-powered version has caught up with the conventionally powered version.