Battery powered cameras or wired cameras?

There are pros and cons to both battery powered and cable powered security cameras.

There are pros and cons to both battery powered and cable powered security cameras.

The camera based security system industry, and the users of these systems tend to be divided on one major issue, namely how the cameras are powered.

So what are the relative pros and cons of battery powered security cameras compared to their plug in cousins, in which situations do one makes sense over the other and what pitfalls are there to look out for?

The majority of IP security cameras on the market today, particularly the higher resolution ones, need to be plugged into mains power. In contrast, some systems that give you the option of using cameras that are powered by batteries.

Let’s take a closer look at the features of both types of cameras

Mains wired security cameras

These usually run on direct current (DC) electricity at low voltage, normally 5, 12 or 48 Volts, and so come with a transformer. The type of transformer you most commonly see is a wall plug, similar to the ones that you may use to charge your smart phone.

Although most cameras will come with a fixed length of cable attached to the transformer (CleverLoop cameras have a three metres cable as standard), cable extensions can be used, as long as you keep one thing in mind. As the cameras use DC power, voltage drop can rapidly become a problem with the issue being worse at the lower voltages.

If you are using extension cables with a suitable guage wire (thinner wire will have higher losses), then you should be able to extend 5V camera cables to 5 – 8m, 12V cameras cables to 30 – 50m, and 48V camera cables to 100m+.

The second option that most mains powered cameras should have is “power over ethernet” or PoE. This can be especially useful for outdoor cameras, where your WiFi signal may not be strong enough to give a dependable data connection. You can run network cable (Cat5 or Cat6) from your router to the camera, and also power the camera down the same cable.

There are usually two options for getting the power into your PoE system, using either a PoE capable routers or witch, or using the wall transformer that came with the camera. For more details, see this support article.

Battery powered security cameras

Although they all take batteries, the types of batteries these cameras use can vary.

Some cameras need normal, easily available battery sizes, such as AA, C or D, whereas other take more specialized batteries, such as CR123’s, that you may not be able to buy at your local store or mall.

Regardless of the type of battery that a camera takes, you should have the option of using rechargeable batteries. Keep in mind that rechargeable versions of normal batteries are often slightly lower voltage than the non-rechargeable equivalent, which may mean the rechargeable batteries don’t last quite as long. If you are looking at battery powered cameras, you should also check to see if the manufacturers approve the use of rechargeable batterie. Some don’t and using them can cause warranty issues.

Pros and cons of battery power

The big benefit of having a battery powered camera is that it is genuinely wireless, or what is sometimes called ‘cable-free’. With a WiFi connection and batteries, you don’t need any cables running to the camera.

Having no wires makes the cameras easier to place (you don’t need to have a power point near by), and relocate.

No wires doesn’t equal no worries though. Batteries will power a camera wherever you want to put it, but, especially with outdoor cameras, your WiFi network may not be strong enough to give a really good data connection. Also, the weaker the WiFi signal, the more power the camera needs to use to maintain a connection.

Another downside of battery powered cameras is that although cameras only use small amounts of electricity, they use it continuously, regardless of whether they are sending footage to a monitor, a recording device or as with CleverLoop a smart Base Station processor. 

To maximise battery life, battery powered cameras tend to use a motion detection system. The camera only turns on and takes footage when a built-in sensor detects movement.

The problem with this motion sensing work-around is that it removes all the benefits you get from using a system like CleverLoop where the Base Station uses powerful algorithms to analyse the camera footage, and sort out minor movements from the important ones.

Also, it’s not possible to do continuous footage recording with video security systems that rely on battery powered cameras. With battery powered cameras that use motion sensors to turn the camera recording on and off, they may do approximately 5 minutes or so of recording per day. So let’s say that a battery lasts between 2 to 5 months in a camera, which seems to be what most users find depending on make and model of camera, this means you’d only get the equivalent of 5 to 13 hours of continuous recording. Certainly not enough if you are in a residential or business setting where you want alert footage and continuously stored CCTV footage.

The battery pitfall

The big hassle with battery powered cameras is that batteries need replacing. While it’s not a problem when you are at home, and have replacement or recharged batteries ready to go, having no batteries the right size can be pretty annoying. Having the batteries in your cameras run out while you are away from home for any time is the real issue though. Dead batteries equals no security system, and if you are away on holiday, it’s hard to do anything about it.

Cables are best

For a dependable and reliable security system, we think cables are your best bet. Plus, you probably aren’t short of that you already need to remember to charge, from mobile phones and tablets, to laptops and electric toothbrushes. Do you want to have to remember to change or charge the batteries on your security cameras as well?

If you are serious about security, for your home or small business, then the minor hassle and extra cost of running cables is more than outweighed by knowing the system will always be working to protect you and your property..

Our suggestion to remove as many variables from your CleverLoop security system as  possible is to run network cables to all your cameras, giving a rock-solid data connection, and power over ethernet to power the cameras from a PoE capable switch.


For more information on ways to get power and data to your CleverLoop cameras, see this support article on our website.


by Cleverloop Team
February 22, 2017