Turn a smart camera into a solar powered security camera

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There are a plethora of battery-powered smart home security cameras on the market that offer convenient placement but come with charging headaches. A solar panel add-on makes life easier when using a camera outdoors.

Why use a solar panel for your smart cameras?

If your smart security cameras use a rechargeable battery, that means you will, at some point, need to recharge them.

Not only is it a hassle, in general, but it also inclines you to place the cameras in places that don’t require a ladder to access them. After all, who wants to swing on a ladder to change smart camera batteries?

Unfortunately, if you put the camera where it’s easy for you to pull down and clean the batteries without a ladder, that means it’s easy for you. any to pull down if they are so inclined.

By combining a solar panel with your home security project, you not only save yourself the hassle of lugging your ladder for every battery change, but also increase the physical security of your camera location by making installation points higher are more feasible. .

How to use a solar panel with your smart camera

Smart security cameras are quite energy efficient and fortunately do not require any kind of serious solar installation to maintain power.

There are a variety of models on the market, both first-party supplied by the camera manufacturer and third-party aftermarket add-ons, all the size of an 8×10 photo or smaller.

Technical considerations

Although using a solar panel for your security cameras is pretty straightforward, there are a few minor considerations you should be aware of before you dive into the project.

First, using a solar panel add-on is only viable for smart security cameras with an internal battery. While, yes, you can set up a solar system that charges an external battery which, in turn, powers your security cameras, that’s a completely separate type of project and beyond the scope of what we’re discussing here. With no internal battery, your solar powered cameras will only work when the sun is out.

Second, you want to check your camera’s documentation and confirm that the battery can be charged inside the camera body itself (as opposed to the requirement to remove the battery and charge it in a cradle) and that the camera can remain operational during storage. Loading process

If your particular camera model cannot do both (charge while fully assembled and work while charging), then the Solar Panel Plug-in Project is not suitable for your needs and will not work with your cameras.

Third, pay attention to the power and output of a particular panel. Some solar panels on the market provide enough power to run the camera when the sun is shining, but not enough to run the camera and charge it. So you will eventually need to charge the battery, but you will need to do so less often as the camera will only run out of battery overnight.

Finally, consider both your geographic location and the individual locations where you want to place solar cameras on your property. If you live deep in Mordor and the sun never shines or the location you want the camera to be under a shed in a heavily shaded, wooded area, you may have a sub-optimal experience with solar panels.

Consider a solar camera kit

A Ring camera mounted with a solar panel.
Ring / Amazon

If you’re just starting your foray into security cameras and want one or more that are solar powered, consider getting a kit that includes the panel.

Then you don’t have to worry about choosing one with the right connector or the right power output for your needs, as the kit is already designed to work right out of the box.

Reolink has a variety of solar camera kits like this 2K 4MP bullet camera and this 2K 4MP Pan-and-Tilt camera.

Reolink even offers a 4G-enabled cellular model if you need to put a solar-powered camera somewhere without Wi-Fi.

You’ll also find solar kits like this Ring camera + solar panel or this Arlo starter kit that includes multiple cameras and an extra solar panel for outdoor use.

Selecting a panel for your existing camera

When in doubt, it never hurts to buy a solar panel firsthand for your particular camera. If you buy the Ring Solar Panel for your Ring Outdoor Camera or the official Arlo Panel for your Arlo cameras, you’ll get exactly what you need for your particular camera without worrying about specs or connectors.

Beyond using firsthand solar panels for your smart security cameras, you have two important details to pay attention to when shopping for third-party options.

First, you need a compatible connector. Whichever type of connector your camera is normally charged with, the solar panel should have an identical connector. Some charge via micro USB. Some charge for a port of their own. Some have a contactless magnetic charger.

Ideally, the solar panel you buy will include a cable that not only matches the type you need, but also includes a cable that preserves the waterproofing of the camera. For example, if you have older Arlo cameras that don’t support contactless magnetic charging, you’ll want a micro USB connection with a rubber seal around the cable. If you have newer Arlo cameras like the Pro 3, Pro 4, Ultra, or Ultra 2, you can use these solar panels with a magnetic contact.

Second, as we mentioned above, you have to worry about the power output. When shopping for third-party panels, look for panels in the 4-6 watt range, like this 5W model. Some of the cheaper ones only output 2-3 watts, which may not be enough to simultaneously run and recharge your cameras.

And, as always, we recommend reading the fine print and reviews. If you’re looking for a particular solar panel add-on that seems to meet your needs, but there are frustrated customer reviews that the particular solar panel generated a charging error for their cameras and wouldn’t work, you’ll want to consider a different product if you have the same brand of camera.

Additional Tips for Solar Panel Success

In addition to selecting the right solar panel for your camera, here are some additional tips to keep in mind.

Pay close attention to the waterproofing process. Follow best practices, such as including a small drip loop in the panel-to-camera line near the camera body so that rainwater flows (and drips) down the cable instead of directly down the cable to the port.

If you don’t trust the rubber stamp, if it’s included, feel free to update it. You can either push the seal into the port and seal over it, or forgo using it altogether and seal over the opening. You can easily do it semi-permanently with some flexible exterior caulking, or a bit more permanent (but still removable with a bit of effort) with a silicone stain. Cutting your expensive camera with rainwater is no way to end the experiment.

And if you’re looking for an easy way to mount solar panels without drilling holes, check out our guide to mounting your smart security cameras without drilling. The same gutter mounts and other clever tricks that work for cameras also work for solar panels.