Will Security Cameras Work Through Windows?

Published on September 28, 2018 by Matt Garnham in Blog Posts on Security Cameras

Will Security Cameras Work Through Windows?

My team and I are regularly asked if our security cameras work through windows or other glass. The most common reasons are:

  1. To monitor an area in a covert fashion
  2. Condo or HOA regulations limit security camera installation on the outside of a property

There are really 2 elements to the answer for this question that need to be explored independently. They are:

  • A security camera looking through the window during the day
  • A security camera looking through the window at night

During the Day

During the DayThere is no reason that a security camera will not work looking through a window during the day…if you are careful!

The optical properties of the additional layer of glass may slightly alter the image the camera sees. Assuming a normal piece of non-tinted glass, I don’t think you would see any difference.

If there is any difference, you may have a slightly reduced identification distance, but I doubt it would even be noticeable.

You still need to be careful to ensure ambient life from the room does not get between the camera lens and the window. If you are unable to do this, you will have the same problem as with IR at night as described below.

At Night

At NightAt night, it is a different matter!

The majority of security cameras that are on the market – either that we sell or our competitors do, have on-board infra red illumination.

The way IR security cameras see in the dark is as follows:

  • The camera sends out infra red light
  • This IR light then bounces off the subject
  • The IR light reflects back into the lens
  • The camera sensor detects this IR light
  • The camera converts this to a black and white image

When a window is positioned between the security cam and the subject, you will find the infra red illumination bounces off this window. It then reflects back into the lens of the camera. This results in a distorted image making it almost impossible to see anything at night.

My fantastic, incredible artwork diagram below explains:

Camera through a window or glass at night

Can I Make it Work Through a Window?

Yes, it is possible to make a security camera work through glass. First you need to disable the infra red illumination on your security camera. Next, you must position the security cam as close to the window as possible. Finally, you need to use something to ensure light from within the room can not get in between the camera and the window.

This will give you the best chance possible of getting a good or normal security camera image through the window. At night or in low light situations, you will not get much of an image. This is because you need to have disabled the infra red illumination. One thing you can do to help this is to use additional security flood lighting positioned outside the window.

If you are unable to stop light from within the room getting in between the security cam and the window, you will end up with the same result as the IR at night.

When installing the security camera, ensure it is installed on a solid base – I have seen photos from customers of cameras rigged in all sorts of weird ways. Using fishing wire was my favorite! The camera needs a solid and stable base keeping it secure. This stops it moving. If the camera moves, even just a little, it can cause the image to be distorted.

All that being said, whilst it is possible, I really wouldn’t recommend it!

Should I Have my Security Camera Looking Through a Window?

Unless your usage meets the very specific situation as described above, then NO!

If you really must have a camera to look through a window, then you need to ensure it is as close to the window as possible and with no infra red illumination.

Are There any Unexpected Downsides?

One great, but often overlooked element of security cameras is their deterrent factor. This is often more powerful than people think. If you really do need the protection from security cameras, often having a deterrent actually stops incidents happening.

After having installed a security camera system, the best thing that can happen is no incident ever occurs.

You should consider that installing a security camera looking through a window removes this deterrent factor.

Anything I Need to Look Out For When Installing a Security Camera to Look Through a Window?

Yes – lots!

The main things to look out for when installing your security camera system looking through a window, in no particular order are:

  1. Use a security camera with no infra red or one with the infra red illumination disabled
  2. Position the security cam as close to the window as possible
  3. Install the security camera on a solid mount
  4. Use something, probably a thick and dark material around the security cam to stop ambient light from within the room reflecting back into the lens

Summary

If your condo board or HOA do not allow security cams on the outside of your property, it can limit your options! You could use discrete external cameras, however most regulations that I am aware of limit permanent installation of devices. This means that if your installation is considered temporary, there shouldn’t be a problem.

All the equipment that we stock is designed to be able to be uninstalled and reinstalled in a new location at some later date. Does that make it a suitable candidate for a temporary installation? Personally, I think it does! [this is just my personal opinion]

If you require a security camera for a specific purpose such as looking through a window, and you have no other solution, don’t worry! We are able to modify any camera we sell so the infra red LEDs do not illuminate.

Contact my team for more information.


about the author: Matt Garnham
Security Camera expert for many years. He is the founder and owner of Orange Security. Started life in the security industry in the UK. Relocated to Southern Florida and Orange Security was formed.

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