We install a CCTV Security System. Unbiased advice on CCTV systems to secure your Philippine house. We have lived in the Philippines for ten years now and in the house we built in a farming area on Panay Island. Our experiences have been heart-warmingly positive. We have found our neighbors and the people who have worked for us to be exceptionally decent, honest people. So why are we installing a CCTV security system? It’s recognition that while our experiences have been good, there are bad actors out there who might find a foreigner’s house to be a tempting target.
We are aided by Philippine TV news shows which love to show criminals who were caught with the help of CCTV footage. CCTV is only beginning to make itself felt in the Philippines and it has a powerful aura about it. At first I thought maybe our neighbors would be somewhat insulted when we installed CCTV cameras, but on a recent walk in the nearby hamlet of Tigbauan I saw that one resident had installed a CCTV camera, not focusing on their house, but on the street in front of it. Rather than resenting CCTV, Filipinos MIGHT feel like it is making their neighborhood safer.
There are lots of dummy CCTV cameras with red blinking lights available for about $5. Combined with an ominous sign saying that the property is monitored 24/7 by CCTV cameras might have almost as much deterrent value as a real CCTV system, but we could not bring ourselves to put in fake cameras. Besides, learning about CCTV and installing a system is a perfect project for a would-be handyman who loves gadgets.
Bob began the project with his usual overconfidence. He looked systems on display at a CCTV shop in Iloilo City and it seemed simple: buy some cameras, buy a digital video recorder (DVR) and string some coax cable between them. So he went on eBay and ordered five cameras, a DVR and some crimp on connectors to use on the cable he had previously bought for an outside TV antenna. Well, ignorance is a very temporary bliss. After he ordered the equipment he started reading up on CCTV systems. Here is what he found:
There are three main types of CCTV systems.
1. Analog systems. A few years ago almost all home and small business CCTV used analog rather than digital technology. A system consists of analog cameras connected by coax cable to TV monitors and video recorders. That’s the type of system you’d see in your neighborhood 7-11 or gas station and are the same type sold in low cost discount store CCTV systems, even today. The problem with analog technology is that resolution is limited to 960H (960 x 480 pixels or 480P) at best. So, if you have cameras outside your home and you want something capable of images allowing you or the police to distinguish the identity of a criminal, analog resolution is just not high enough, especially at night. So, what may have worked well in a 7-11 store with a camera focused on and close to the well-lit cash register almost certainly is not good enough to identify a culprit in a less focused situation.
2. Hybrid Systems. Network or IP equipment (described below) is not compatible with coaxial cable. They use computer networking cable. For a business to tear out existing coax cable and install new network cable can be a big expense. In response, CCTV makers came up with systems which could provide higher resolution imagery over existing coaxial cable. Two competing systems have evolved; HD-CVI by Dahua and HD-TVI by HIKVision. These are quite close to being plug and play systems, especially, if you buy cameras and DVRs of the same brand. Any analog camera plugged in will also work, such as the cameras I bought. If you have a HD-CVI DVR you should be able to plug in an HD-CVI camera and it will automatically be recognized and will work. The same is true of HD-TVI. So, a business can replace its cameras and DVR but not touch its cabling and jump from a maximum of 480P analog to 1080P (1920×1080). For most purposes 1080P is enough.
3. Digital (IP, network) Systems. These systems are the future of CCTV. Digital cameras are linked using computer networking cables to a Network Digital Video Recorder (NVR). Even the cheapest IP cameras have two or three or four megapixels of resolution and can deliver 4K (2160P) images, four to six times sharper than an analog system. Aside from the cost, the drawback for most people is that setting up these systems can require a knowledge of computer networking because the system interconnections use the technical protocols of the internet. Generally, network CCTV systems are installed and set up by professionals. When I asked the proprietor of the Iloilo CCTV shop on Mabini Street in Iloilo if he installs many IP systems, he said very few customers can afford them.
Coax cable. The spool of coax cable he had bought earlier for an outdoor TV antenna was the right kind of cable (RG-59) to connect the cameras to the DVR, but was of poor quality. It had a copper-coated steel conductor and aluminum outer sheath. Cable for CCTV should be all copper – no steel, no aluminum. Bob went to the big electrical equipment suppliers in Iloilo, but they did not offer any cable suitable for CCTV use. He finally found good quality, all copper cable at TechHome in the new 1688 Mall on Quezon Street near Robinson’s Place.
Cameras. Bob had ordered five nice looking bullet cameras which had the impressive specification of “1200TVL resolution”. As intended, it sounds something like high resolution 1080P (1920 X 1280). It turns out that they are decent analog-only cameras, but that had I been better informed I could have bought much higher resolution HD-CMI or HD-TVI cameras for the same price. TVL means TV lines, a rather amorphous standard used in making analog cameras sound impressive. I was taken in by this 1200 TVL specification because I bought before doing research. My cameras turn out to be 960H (960 x 480 pixels or 480P)
So while we were disappointed with the resolution of the cameras we bought it turns out that it is fairly easy to take apart the cameras and install a new, higher resolution sensor. We bought Sony Exmor 2.2MB sensors which attached to our DVR, gives us 1080P images.
So, we were able to convert our cameras rather than replace them. Only the sensor (attached to the small circuit boards you see above) needed to be changed. The case, the lenses and the infrared night vision module are retained. The knob you see on the left is the focus controller for the zoom lens. The components of these cameras are quite standardized so that is possible to maintain your cameras over time.
Digital Video Recorder. The digital video recorder receives the data from your cameras via coax cables from your cameras, records it on a computer hard drive (which you usually have to purchase separately) and displays the images on a video monitor. Here is where I made another mistake. I bought a $75 DVR which can only display up to 480P images, at best. I hooked my 24” 1080P computer monitor to my DVR. The images were mediocre, of no “forensic” value. In other words, they were too fuzzy to identify a prowler. So I had to order a replacement DVR (a HIKVision) from a seller on Aliexpress.com This DVR will store and display1080P images. I ordered a 4TB hard disk specially made for DVR use, a Western Digital Purple drive. The HIKVision DVR cost $292 including shipping. The hard disk cost $149 from newegg.com in California. The 4TB disk will store about two weeks of video.
Tips. Avoid any system that is described in TV Lines (TVL) or 960H. These are almost certainly old style analog systems.
Look for systems with cameras rated in megapixels. A 1MP or 1.3MP camera will likely give you 720P. A 2MP camera will likely give you full HD 1080P provided you have a 1080P capable DVR. Avoid NVR or IP designated products unless you have the budget and networking skills to install them. Be aware that the CCTV market on eBay.com and Aliexpress.com is a jungle. Let the buyer beware. Much of the Dauha and HIKVision gear is grey market and you probably will not get support from the manufacturer.
Night Vision. Just as important as resolution are the night vision capabilities of the camera. The night vision lighting is usually supplied by infrared LEDs at the front of the camera which switch on automatically at night. In the photo above, the camera on the upper left is a 1080P camera with very inadequate night vision, probably due to too few LED lights. The other cameras have 78 infrared lamps. The darker image is from a $50 camera with only 36 IR LEDs. These which might be similar to those found in the inexpensive 1080P CCTV packages. These might be acceptable in a well lit city neighborhood but not in the dark Philippine countryside. The IR LEDs are amazing effective, far more effective at lighting up our rural property than conventional lighting. When one looks at the cameras after dark, the LEDs give off an eerie red glow.
UPDATE. Our property is quite well lit at night. The infrared lamps built into the cameras do a good job but they also consume quite a bit of electricity, about 20 Watts each. I wondered how the cameras would perform without the infrared lamps, so we took one down, opened it up, disconnected the lead to the lamp, reinstalled the camera and waited for dark. As you can see below, the cameras perform quite well without the infrared.
So we will be disconnecting the infrared lamps from the other cameras for a saving of about 20W X seven cameras = 1.7 kWh per night or P17 per night or P510 per month.
The 480P cameras we bought are decent quality, it’s just that the Sony sensors were selected for low resolution equipment. A very patient seller on aliexpress.com explained in detail how I could replace the sensor circuit board with a much better 2.2 MP Sony sensor which would give us the 1080P resolution we would like.
DVR. For a branded 1080P (Dauha or HIKvison) digital video recorder (DVR), expect to pay about $300 plus the cost of the hard disk, so another $150 to $300 for a WD Purple 4TB Surveillance hard disk. Our HIKVISION DVR accommodates two hard disks of up to 6TB each. We are very happy with our HIKVISION DVR. It’s very easy to set up and program. It offers almost infinite control over your system and makes it easy to review your past recordings.
Power supply for up to nine CCTV cameras. The wires from the green terminals deliver 12V to each camera. Make sure the power supply you buy is adequate for the cameras you will use. Cameras with more “night vision” LEDs use more power.
It’s very possible that for my outlay I could have had a decent system professionally installed. The CCTV shop on Mabini Street in Iloilo City looks like a good choice. The staffs seem informed and professional but we have not done any business with them. Just in case you are wondering, we do not allow businesses to take ads on our site nor do we accept anything to promote any business, except for Van Ingen Associates regarding Philippine Special Resident Retiree Visas (SRRV) and whatever ads Google places on our site.
Bob likes to do things himself, even if it leads to mistakes and additional expense. So this is just to share a little information we have gathered in the hope that it will be helpful. If you are an expert and can correct or add to what we have said, please do so by leaving a comment.
The type of cameras we bought, but with a Sony 2MP sensor already installed are available through Aliexpress
We wish to express special thanks to Aliexpress seller HLong Asia for his endless patience in helping us buy and install the new sensors in our cameras.
How much electricity does a CCTV surveillance system use?
Our system has a DVR with a constantly running 4TB WD Surveillance Drive, six cameras and a power supply. It also has a 23” Samsung 1080P monitor which is usually turned off. During the day, before the infrared lamps actuate, the system uses about 40 Watts during the day During the night the system uses about 110 Watts. Assuming 12 hours of daytime operation and 12 hours of nighttime operation, the system uses 1.8 kWh per day and 54 kWh per month. With electricity at about P10 per kWh at present, the monthly cost of the surveillance system is P540 or $11.00.
The manufacturers of CCTV strongly suggest having a uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to provide power during power outages. This is easier said than done. We bought a 550 Watt APC UPS, the largest available at our local computer store. It provides about a half-hour of backup power for the system at night. During those thirty minutes it’s amazing to see our property very well lit by the IR cameras even with no power. Providing multiple hours of backup power would be very expensive. We do have a generator but are not anxious to get up in the middle of the night to start the generator, especially since we don’t know if the power outage will be ten minutes or all night.