How We Built Our DIY Home Security Camera System

Home security systems are incredibly beneficial for anyone looking to protect their belongings within their homes.

When my husband and I were set to go on holiday a few years back, we decided that we wanted to create a home security system to keep tabs on our house while we were away from it.

How We Built Our DIY Home Security Camera System

Once we started looking for a new home security camera system, though, we found that they were all rather expensive!

Luckily, we’re both quite good at DIY and enjoy the challenge of making things ourselves, so we set out to create a DIY home security system instead of buying a readymade one.

Another reason why we wanted to make our own camera system at home was so that a third party didn’t have access to our videos.

Many store the recordings in a cloud system, which can be hacked and we didn’t feel comfortable with.

Furthermore, cloud storage often also comes with a subscription fee, which we didn’t want to pay!

So, we set out on our quest to make our own home security system the DIY way.

We spent months researching the best technology and systems to use, and then learnt through doing the rest of the work.

There were some hitches, but that all helped us to get where we are today – with a CCTV system that we can view safely all over the world.

Today we are writing everything that we found helpful down into one article, so that you can also make your own DIY home security setup to protect your own home.

We’ve included products that we have found most useful, how to put them all together, as well as tips and tricks to make the process easier!

So, let’s get started shall we?

First – What Are Your Goals?

Before you start making your DIY home security camera system, it’s important to know what your goals are.

This will help you to get all of the right equipment to satisfy your needs, rather than wasting money on things that you don’t want.

Following our own advice, we sat down and wrote out a list of goals that we wanted to achieve from our home security system.

We then kept this list and ticked each goal off once we had completed it.

If you’re in need of inspiration, or want to create the exact system that we made for yourselves, here is our list of goals that we made before beginning the DIY process:

  • Multiple streams on one screen – We wanted to be able to see the view of all of our cameras at once, so we needed something that was going to allow us to view more than one image at a time.
  • Motion detection – We have a home automation system, so we needed a motion detection system that allowed us to use deterrence methods from anywhere in the world.
  • Triggered recordings – Recording footage continuously can take up a lot of storage very quickly, so we needed something that allowed us to record clips only once motion had been detected. We also needed 2 weeks worth continuous storage for when we were on holiday and wanted to keep tabs on our home at all times.
  • Notifications – We wanted notifications sent to our phones whenever motion was detected, with a picture attached from the second the alarm went off. We also wanted push notifications sent to us so we always knew what was happening, as it was happening.
  • Local storage – We didn’t want any of our information to be stored in a cloud storage where it could be hacked into. So, we needed equipment that worked with local storage rather than hackable systems.
  • High quality picture – Our cameras will be running day and night, so we needed a high enough resolution to keep the quality high no matter the light conditions.
  • Adaptability – Our needs are going to change over time, so our security system has to be able to keep up with that and be changeable depending on what we want it to do.
  • Inexpensive price point – The entire point of us not getting a pre-made kit was to save some money, so our security system needed to be decently low in upfront cost. We also needed there to be no monthly fees!

Now that we had our goals laid out, it was much easier to go through all of the possible equipment to find what was best going to work with us.

The end result?

We can now see our four cameras – positioned to see our front door, driveway, back yard, and living room – all in one screen on laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

This allows us to monitor four separate areas of our home at the same time, giving us the ability to look over our entire house at all times.

We can also view the cameras through apps, allowing us to see the footage while we’re out without our laptops.

Once motion has been detected by the cameras, the information is sent to our home automation system.

This then uses one of our deterrence methods, such as turning lights on or sounding an alarm, to inform the intruder of our presence.

All the while, video footage of the incident is being sent to me.

So, it sounds like our DIY home security camera setup is pretty impressive and useful – right?

Without further ado, let’s look into how we made our own system so that you can follow along and keep your home as safe as possible, too.

Setting Up Our DIY Home Security System Network

Setting Up Our DIY Home Security System Network

The next thing that we did, once laying out all of our goals, was to map out our network.

As you can see from our list of goals, we wanted an impressive system with lots of moving parts, so it was important to map these out before actually making the physical thing to ensure that nothing was missed.

Now we had a network map for when we were first planning out our surveillance system.

It’s worth noting that this map is exactly what our system looks like to this day, so the map was a very effective planning tool that we would recommend to anyone.

Once you have finished our article, we’re sure that you will have all of the necessary information to make your own physical network map to use as a guide when making the real thing.

Network Components

The first thing you’re going to need to consider is the network components of your system. These all do a specific job, such as surveillance, deterrence, connectivity, etc.

Compartmentalize these things into small groups of components. For example, all security cameras should be in one compartment under one name.

A common mistake that many people make is to only connect the internet connection to a ISP modem to connect their system together.

While this might work for a few security cameras, it was certainly not enough for what we were trying to create.

As security and privacy were the most important factors to consider for us, we needed to make sure that our system had a strong firewall within it.

This would protect our footage from hackers and intruders.

We also wanted our security cameras to remain within our system at all times, not allowing them to dial home or release information from within our system to outside of it.

We were concerned that a device could access our phones or laptops, so we created VLAN networks to prevent this altogether.

When you choose a WiFi router, you’re getting a firewall within it that offers you simple protection from hackers.

However, you are not often able to customize this or add your own conditions to the firewall to make it as safe as you want it.

You also cannot create VLANs with most of these routers. nSo, what’s the alternative?

You could opt for a prosumer router which gives you access to more of its settings, but this also comes with an incredibly high price point.

As we mentioned earlier, the whole point of this DIY project was to not break the bank.

In order to stick to this, we chose cheaper enterprise standard networking gear – the Ubiquiti Unifi range.

Another reason why we went for an enterprise business was due to the fact that our home is rather large and we need multiple access points for the WiFi to run smoothly throughout it.

However, if you have a smaller home, you might choose differently from us.

Bear in mind, however, that a large network might fare better with enterprise gear as it allows you to manage lots of different devices from one location.

We found that there were many benefits of opting for enterprise class networking gear from the Ubiquiti Unifi range, such as:

  • A centralized management dashboard to control everything from one place.
  • High quality gear suitable for enterprise
  • Excellent reliability
  • Option to create your own VLANs
  • Ability to mesh WiFi and Ethernet networks together seamlessly
  • Impressively reasonable price point

Still confused as to why you would opt for something like this rather than a standard WiFi router?

The latter is a device that comes all in one little shell, including the router, firewall and the WiFi access points.

While it might be convenient to have it all in one place, you’re sacrificing the ability to use advanced features like making VLANs.

While it’s not impossible to use advanced features with a standard WiFi router, you will most likely end up paying much more for the privilege of doing so.

Alternatively, with an enterprise grade option, you won’t need to pay to use these features.

Another reason why we didn’t want to go for a standard WiFi router was because they’re all or nothing.

What we mean by this is that if one aspect of the router fails, the entire network will crash and burn.

You’ll have to start all over again with your network, which can be both time consuming and expensive.

All The Equipment You Will Need

All The Equipment You Will Need

Buckle in, because this is going to be a long ride.

You’re going to need a lot of equipment to create your DIY home security system – at least you will if you want it to be anything like ours!

We’ve broken all of the equipment that you need down into categories so that you can check them off as you collect them.

Networking Gear

The networking gear is one of the most important features of your home security system, as it is the glue that holds all of the components together.

We used a symmetric 500 mbps up/down fiber broadband connection as our internet supplier.

This means that our first component connected to this is the ISP modem. If we could take this out, we probably would.

However, due to the necessary internet connection, we had to keep it in our system. After this piece, however, the design of the network is all purposeful.

After the ISP modem is the Unifi Security Gateway, which is the main hardware firewall for the system.

Not only that but it also works as a DHCP router and is responsible for all of our VLANs that we made. Its processor is 500 MHz and the RAM is 512 MB.

Its maximum handle is 1 million PPS with a line rate of 3 Gbps.

Finally, it can withstand over 500 Mbps broadband, which was vital for us with such a big security network in mind.

We attached the ISP modem to the USG with the WAN1 port. It also has two LAN ports labeled LAN 1 and LAN 2.

These both have their own subnet unique to one another. We only used one of these ports – LAN 1 – so when we refer to LAN, this is the port that we mean.

Our Unifi system includes a central management server which allows us to use all of our devices through one system.

This saves countless hours running devices through all of their own servers, and we cannot recommend it enough.

You could also opt for a Cloud Key, which is a device that can keep controller software and network statistics in local storage around the clock.

These allow you to log as much information as you need to without having a computer running all of the time, saving on energy bills.

We have the Cloud Key run alongside our USG.

Using Your LAN Port

As we mentioned, we only use LAN 1 on our USG. If you want to create VLANs from WiFi devices, then you can do this with the Unifi Wireless Access Points (WAP).

However, you’ll need a managed switch to create VLANs for ethernet-based devices.

We needed to create two ethernet-based VLANs – one for our home automation laptop that controlled our HomeSeer 3 account, and the other for our IP security cameras.

We used the 8-Port fully managed 802.3af PoE Gigabit switch (US-8-60W) to do this, which we recommend.

It has a silent operation which is a nice touch when making your VLANs.

With a switching capacity of 8 Gbps overall, you can use it to power up to 15W of PoE ports at a time. We used one of our PoE ports to keep the Cloud Keep running.

Access Ports

Arguably one of the most important pieces of your DIY home security system, access ports keep your system connected.

We used the Unifi WiFi Access Points, which are loved by many users due to their reliable nature.

We used the cheapest option in the range and have nothing bad to say about them.

These are the AP-AC-LITE access points and use a 802.11ac dual radio access point.

They reach 300 Mbps within the 2.4GHz banding, and a further 867 Mbps in the 5GHz banding.

Connect this access point to the 802.3af PoE port or the 24V PoE on Ubiuiti’s older equipment.

Creating The VLANs

Using all of the equipment that we mentioned above, we were able to create six VLANs for different uses.

We used one for our personal belongings such as phones and laptops, media devices such as WiFi devices, one for indoor cameras and another for IP security cameras, once for the HA system, and the last for a backup server.

You can create as little or as many VLANs as you require, although you might need more than one access point if you are creating more than we did.

Not only have we seen a difference with our camera quality since doing this, but our browsing speed on our personal devices has improved as well – win win!

Your Camera Security System

Now that we’ve created a strong network for your home security camera system, we need to actually add the cameras and other components to make it keep your home safe.

Let’s take a look at what you will need.

IP Cameras For Outdoors

We use four cameras outside of our house – three Hikvision IP cameras and one Reolink IP camera:

  1. Hikvision Turret (back yard)
  2. Hikvision Dome (front yard)
  3. Hikvision Mini Dome (front door)
  4. Reolink Bullet (garage)

These all record once they have detected motion, and send the recordings to a Network Attached Storage system from QNAP.

The cameras are connected to the PoE port on the TP-Link switch, which is then connected to the Unifi Managed Switch.

We use one VLAN to keep all of these outdoor cameras connected together, and we use our USG firewall to create boundaries for what they can and cannot do.

For example, they are not able to dial back to their manufacturers, and they are not able to access the internet.

The only connection requests that they are able to respond to are RTSP and ONVIF.

Again, privacy was incredibly important to us when making our own home security system, which is why the Unifi USG was such a great purchase.

IP Cameras For Indoors

Outdoor cameras are excellent for spotting the first signs of intruders, but what about if they get inside your house?

Indoor cameras are an excellent way to ensure that you don’t miss a single piece of information from a potential break in.

We use three indoor cameras within our DIY home security system.

The Reolink C1 Pro and the Reolink C2 Pro, used to view the front and back entrances respectively, are connected to the system by ethernet cables.

The Reolink E1 Pro is used as a baby monitor in our nursery and it is connected via WiFi, only because it does not support the use of ethernet cables.

Again, these cameras are connected through the USG, giving them strict orders to follow while they work. This keeps our privacy intact without limiting their function.

Additional Switches

Switches are excellent for connecting components together and keeping them working smoothly by turning them on and off when needed.

For such a big system like ours, we needed multiple switches – which is what we have listed here.

Netgear 8-Port Switch

A trusty switch with plenty of ethernet ports is going to be your best friend when it comes to a DIY home security system.

This switch is unmanaged, meaning that you do not need to configure its settings before getting it to work.

All you need to do is plug it in and enjoy its benefits! It can automatically sense the port support to be one of these – 10, 100, or 1,000 Mbps.

It is also very sturdy and reliable, and works amazingly in real life scenarios.

There’s also the LED display, LED status per port, and linking speed to be impressed with!

We’ve used this port since we first made our home security system and it has not let us down once.

We recommend this one to any of our friends who ask for a reliable switch for their home security system.

TP-Link Gigabit PoE Switch

Use this switch to power the cameras connected through the PoE ports.

Connect this port to the Unifi Managed Switch as well to use it to the best of its ability within your DIY home security camera system.

Storage Options

Storage Options

We have already mentioned that we did not want a camera connected to any cloud storage systems that could be hacked.

This meant that we needed to find a way to make a Network Attached Storage (NAS) NVR.

There are three ways to make your system’s storage, which are:

  1. Use an NVR kit with your IP cameras.
  2. Use your NAS as the NVR.
  3. Use NVR storage software on your laptop and use a PC as storage.

We opted for the second option, using a NAS as the NVR.

This was so that we could use our home automation system along with our security cameras without needing to use a PC software.

While the latter can be a great option for many, we didn’t want to deal with the energy prices of running a computer 24/7.

Moreover, a NAS server has much more to offer than just storage.

They can actually be used as miniature servers, with their own operating system that can be used through a web browser.

NAS are often used for centralized storage systems, as a VPN server, as a DLNA server, and even more.

QNAP allows NAS devices to run more efficiently and cleverly, creating the illusion of them being little computers rather than just small hard drives.

And, as they have their own miniature servers and specialized software to run with, they are incredibly efficient at what they do.

We use our NAS as our NVR storage, VPN server, and back up locations for our personal belongings.

There are many QNAP NAS devices out there, but we chose the QNAP TS-253A as we found it to be the most impressive with the lowest price point.

The manufacturer was able to keep the price as low as possible without compromising on quality, and we think it’s a great find.

If you want to add a home automation system into your security network, then this NAS option is one of the best.

The QNAP has a larger hard drive as well as a few more features that we could benefit from within our system.

It also allows you to send push notifications to the mobile app from the device itself.

The QNAP NAS also comes with NVR software already installed, and it is called Surveillance Station.

This ensures that the NAS has been created for exactly what you want it for.

This allows you to store high resolution images from your cameras without running out of storage within minutes.

One of our goals from before we started making our home security system was for our footage not to be able to reach the internet.

To prevent this, we had to make a VPN from our home network so that all of the devices could dial in there and stay within our safe network.

To make your own VPN, you are going to need an internet-facing component within your home. This will act as the VPN’s server.

The Unifi USG supports the use of PPTP and L2PT protocols, so you could use these to make your VPN.

However, after our research, we had decided that we wanted to use OpenVPN.

This was due to the fact that L2PT and PPTP protocols have already been hacked in the past, while OpenVPN remains the most secure option.

The good news is that our QNAP that we mentioned earlier also comes with a built-in VPN server app, and this one supports all of the optional protocols for VPNs.

This meant we could use OpenVPN through this without any issues to make our secure home network VPN.

So, now our QNAP has an OpenVPN port which is forward facing and forwards information to the USG.

This is the only source of forward facing within our home network.

Since the USG is made with Dynamic DNS technology, you can always reach it from the internet using a specific name.

This is instead of public IPs and ISPs that are easily hackable.

Now we can use a VPN client on our smartphones and other devices to connect to the home network through our OpenVPN.

From here we can see all of the camera footage from the network within seconds, viewing all of the streams live and on demand.

We used the QNAP TS-253A NAS for our home system, and this comes with four streaming channels. However, some come with only two channels.

If you want four channels like us but another QNAP device, you will have to pay for the additional licenses.

How Much Capacity Will You Need?

We wanted the possibility to have two weeks of continuous recording stored at once, so we knew that we would need a lot of storage.

At first, we used all of our outdoor cameras running continuously, at 6Mbps bit rate at 10fps.

We had 1.5TB storage and this lasted between 8 and 10 days for our three cameras.

However, now that we do not record continuously and only by triggered motion detection, we have lessened this to 2Mbps at 6fps.

This might seem like a big change, but we actually didn’t find a difference between this and the higher setting.

We also used our QNAP associated app to cap our usage at 1.5TB, although there are 3TB available to use.

This means that older footage is deleted as new videos take its place. This is what works for us, although you might have a better way of doing it for your network.

Summary

We hope that this article has helped you, and you feel more confident making your own DIY home security system!

We’ve given you all of the tools that you need to create your network, so hopefully you don’t have to spend months researching like we did.

Again, we have included all of the components that have worked best for us, although these might not be optimal for you.

Make sure that you write a list of goals to ensure that you’re getting everything out of your security system that you need.

David Jones