How to Improve Outdoor Night Vision on a Home Security Camera

Use the Philips 429746 Energy Saver Compact Fluorescent Bulb to Improve Night VisionGetting a clear outdoor view at night with a home security camera isn’t always easy.  That’s especially magnified when using your home security camera through a window.  We’re going to examine ways to improve outdoor night vision on a home security camera.

There are a number of different ways to get this done.  Different approaches work better for outdoor cameras versus models that are located indoors but are seeing the outdoors behind a window.  We’ll look at both scenarios.

Night Time Camera Settings

Many higher end cameras include night vision capabilities using infrared lights.  Using night vision on an outdoor camera will help to see objects within the effective night vision range.  A small outdoor security camera such as the Nest Cam Outdoor can only pack so many infrared lights into that small frame.  The typical range for on-board night vision is 25-35 feet.  Not much but if within the range, it helps immensely.

An indoor camera viewing the outdoor action through a window can’t use night vision because the infrared lights are reflected off the glass.  This is a challenge because you will only see as well as the available lighting allows.  In other words, what you see with your bare eye is what you get.

Another setting to pay attention to is the indicator light.  Most home security cameras allow this light to be deactivated.  It’s useful when setting up the camera to establisg power and connectivity but after it’s all set up, deactivate it.  This is especially important for indoor cameras as it will reflect off the window.

Let There be Light

Sure, go ahead and turn on the porch light when you want to use the camera.  That’s simple enough, until you need to see the action after it happens, as in event history.

There are a few ways to provide outdoor light for a predetermined period of time when it gets dark.

Try a photosensor.  A photosensor detects light.  Typically tied into security lights, a photosensor will turn on the light when it’s dark, turn it off when the sun comes up.

The Philips Energy Saver Compact Fluorescent Dusk-to-Dawn 14-Watt Twister Light Bulb is a great way to do this.  This is the bulb in the photo that accompanies this article.  The bulb actually integrates the photosensor into the base of the bulb.  The one in the photo has been in use for almost three years.  These bulbs last a long time and the cost to use is minimal.

The advantage of this type of bulb is size.  There are photosensor bases that can be purchased and screwed into the socket of an outdoor fixture.  The issue is the added height of the photosensor base plus the bulb can often be too tall to fit within a compact fixture.  The Philips Energy Saver bulb height is about the same as a traditional light bulb.

A high tech way to control outdoor lighting is by using WeMo Light Switch.  A WeMo switch connects to your home router.  You can turn the switch on or off from anywhere that your phone can get connectivity.  Schedules can be established based upon time of day or an event such as sundown.  You can also manually turn anything on or off using the WeMo app on a smartphone.  The app works on Android and iOS phones.

A more detailed article on using WeMo for night vision can be found here.

Let There be Infrared Light

We already discussed the limitations on on-board infrared lights traditionally integrated into a home security camera.  They typically allow you to see 25-35 feet away.

But what if you need to see further than the limited distance already provided when you don’t want to light up the neighborhood?

That’s where larger infrared lighting accessories come in.  Consider the Univivi IR Illuminator 90 Degree Wide Angle 8-Leds IR Infrared Light.  This light is a good external source for use outside the home.  This one comes with an AC cable which for whatever reason isn’t always included.  Hook it up to a WeMo controlled switch or outlet for greater control over the accessory.

 

All of these articles are written by someone (me) that figured out how to do this stuff the hard way.  I have owned and tested dozens of cameras.  Manufacturer support varies.  There are a few good companies that provide timely answers when you have questions.  There are several that sell you the camera and seem to have little interest in post sales support (which leads me to finding out stuff the hard way).