Low Cost Security Cameras

David Trammel's picture

One of the nice features of the Long Descent, and the coming slow collapse of our society, is that there is going to be a lot of useful tech still available. A Green Wizard will just need to learn how to adapt and reuse this resource to their advantage. A not so nice feature of that same collapse is that your personal and home security is going to be more and more left to YOU. As the money for essential services gets scarce, and cities look for ways to stretch thin budgets, the things you have come to expect, like rapid police response, just won't be there anymore.

Having a home security system will be useful but if you look at the many options on the market now, you find a common factor, they are bloody expensive. Here is a way to cut costs by repurposing webcams from old or damaged laptops.

"DIY Home Security - ON A BUDGET!"

Pretty straight forward if you have a little electronic or computer skills.

One thing of note not in the video. Some older webcams use 3 volts, not the 5 volts typical of USB cables. Here's a comment from the original video which helps explain what to do:

"If you can't get the webcams to work there may be an additional step that you need to take. Most webcams run at 3.3V but USB provides 5V. Some will be fine with this but others (like mine which was pulled from a Dell Inspiron) will shut themselves off as soon as you try to pull video from them. A quick and dirty way of stepping the voltage down is to stick two diodes in between between the 5V line of the USB cable and the power wire on the camera instead of soldering them directly together. The cathode end of the diodes (the stripe that's on the diode casing) should point towards the camera end. i.e:

USB cable 5V Line ---> Diode (stripe this side) ---> Diode (stripe this side) ---> Power wire on the webcam.

I used 1N4001 diodes since I had them for another project and are designed to carry up to 1A of current. If that doesn't make any sense, you can find a diagram by googling for "hackaday 110436". That will bring up a project that explains it further."

The diagram they mention can be found here, along with another good tutorial on reusing old webcams:
"Laptop Webcam Reuse Made Simple"

Any policeman will tell you that it's easy to get the burglar to go next door. They're lazy and don't want the hassle and risk.

If someone really *WANTS* to get into your house, they'll use a sledgehammer on your windows.

Shopkeeper's bells on all exterior doors. Lehmans sells them or, you can repurpose Christmas jingles. The key is the door makes noise when it's opened.

Cowbells on all gates into your property. Attach the bell so it makes noise whenever the gate is opened or closed.

Door security. Lock your doors and windows when not in use. Same with vehicles. It's shocking how many burglars have been known to try one door after the next, going down the street. When they find the unlocked door, they're in.

Upgrade your door locks, rekey so you know exactly how many keys are floating around, and replace all door hardware screws with extra-long screws so it's harder to kick in the door. A very simple, cheap addition to your door security is the old-fashioned chain and bolt. This is in addition to the deadbolt. If your door has a window, mount the chain and bolt where it can't be reached via smashing the window.

Window locks so you can leave your windows open enough for ventilation but they can't be opened without a hammer.

Don't look rich. That is, don't display your coin collection or antique guns so they can be seen via your front windows. Can someone see inside your house? You bet they can. Turn on your lights and walk around your house after dark. If you can see in, so can someone else. The other advantage of closing your drapes is trapping heat in the winter. Sheer curtains let in light and make it harder to see inside.

Thorny hedges on your property's border.

Get a dog. A small, yappy ankle-biter is all you need to alert you when someone's poking around your house. If you get a dog, hang beware of dog signs on all your gates. It's a simple, cheap warning that says don't come here. Unlike alarm systems, dogs work when the power is off.

The dog is more expensive than the other options and is a fulltime member of the family. But the dog enhances your own physical fitness via daily walks AND daily walking of your dog in your neighborhood tells ALL the neighbors you have a dog and you belong.

David Trammel's picture

Those are all good suggestions, many of them we are implementing. The way I view cameras as, is a way to extend my warning/viewing range without compromising my safety barriers.

Having a small optical peep hole in the front door is better than not having one, but it can only show you what is directly in its sight. You can't see what is in the other person's hand out of view. A camera in a tree aimed at the door can.

The backdoor has a set of louvered windows so you can see who is outside but the stairs go off to the right and at the bottom, there is a concrete well that has the stairs to the basement door. A person could hide there, and if the door is opened rush up the stairs to break in. A camera in the well covers the basement door and gives you the view of that area.

I'd also like something at the street which looks left and right. You see pictures from videos of criminals' cars, but rarely the license plate. A camera discretely placed both ways would at least give you that view after the fact.

Ken's picture

Teresa's points about deterrents coincide with my own thoughts on security. If someone is already at the door, your security system is already breached. I like to think LAYERS and PREVENTION when it comes to security:

For me, first priority is: be aware of your surroundings. By this I mean keep abreast of what's happening in your community, neighborhood, out on the back forty, AND stay aware/sober when you are out and about. - I have a farmhand who is nice kid, shovels the horse corrals 4 days a week for me, but he has earbuds in CONSTANTLY. I can't get his attention without throwing a rock at him... If I were a threat, he wouldn't know I was even there until it was too late.

I'm not suggesting we have to live in a constant state of fear, that is counterproductive in SO many ways, but I am saying that being present and aware of our surroundings (at multiple levels) is both a better way to appreciate/enjoy our lives and also to avoid the avoidable trouble.

Community communication is, of course, key. Much better to get a call or text that there's a pickup with sketchy looking guys coming your way than to have them see you first! - I'm luckier than most in this regard, as I live on an island with limited roads and even more limited docks. I also have lived here long enough that I know everybody. If you are new to your area, joining or starting a community watch seems like a very good idea.

Fences/barriers: Teresa makes a great point about thorny hedges. In my bioregion that means blackberries and hawthorn (a traditional hedgerow plant). NOBODY is going through a blackberry thicket or a hawthorn hedge without a bulldozer! They are both invasive species and it's an ongoing, lifelong project to keep them at bay, so why not use their worst qualities to your advantage? And to be fair, I do pick a lot of blackberries and I make my heart medicine from the hawthorn! Because we have horses, we also have electric fences; a good psychological barrier. A locked gate across the driveway will inhibit vehicular access by intruders. Having a bell or buzzer on the gate that you can hear from inside the house is a good idea too - I'm still working on that; I have a gate but no noisemaker (and no dog right now) and, like many my age and older, my hearing isn't as good as it once was... Teresa makes a good point about little dogs being good noisemakers; I might have to reconsider my general resistance to little dogs!

Appearances: It's simply smart to be discreet about your assets, even if that is your lifetime supply of TP hidden in the attic. The best way to avoid trouble is to look like you are more trouble than you are worth. It's difficult to hide a vegetable garden or livestock but unless/until things get really rough, I doubt most thieves would be willing to risk a load of buckshot for a few tomatoes or a rabbit. But if they think you have a stash of silver coins? Or daughters?

For thieves that have a fear of being caught, I think that some fake security cameras with a battery powered 'on' light could be an affordable deterrent. For me, an actual camera system would just be a distraction.

*All of the above is based on my own location in a rural area that is difficult to access (good sized island 20 miles from the mainland). I am sure that an urban homesteader's security needs and preparations have unique qualities that I am not familiar with.