Solar Power: Rising Sun in Security Market

With the abundance of solar-powered cameras on the market, protecting your off-grid home or business premises has never been easier or more affordable

Most cameras today are easy to install and allow you to monitor indoor spaces, perimeters, and outdoor areas from anywhere. However, those are all ideal scenarios. What if you need to place your outdoor cameras far from a power source? Wireless cameras emerge as a solution as they are very convenient for outdoor spaces and eliminate the need for visually unattractive cable installations. A smarter answer is cameras with solar power, which, due to advancements in technology and falling prices of solar equipment in recent years, are becoming more common on equipment procurement lists, especially if they serve the most demanding environments.

Cutting the Cord

Despite all the convenience they offer, wireless cameras aren’t perfect. Their batteries need regular charging, and as an unwritten rule, this often happens at inconvenient times for the user, such as during travel. Equipping cameras with suitable solar panels is a way to ensure regular battery charging at all times, regardless of circumstances or user availability. All of this has led to the rise of solar-powered cameras that free users from dealing with complex wiring and dead batteries, while still offering good enough performance comparable to cameras with standard power supply.

Solar-powered surveillance cameras are standalone devices that don’t require electrical wiring before being put into operation. This is closely related to a significant advantage of these devices over standard cameras, which is simplified installation. By choosing a security camera powered by solar energy, you eliminate the need to connect the camera to a power source because it draws energy from solar panels that come with the selected product or are sold separately.

Another important advantage of these devices is the flexibility in choosing the location you want to cover with surveillance cameras. These devices are an excellent option for homes, businesses, and remote off-grid locations such as farms, ranches, and construction sites. Broadly speaking, solar-powered cameras are suitable for any location where there aren’t enough people or staff, or for spaces that are too demanding for standard cameras by design.

An important advantage of these devices is the flexibility in choosing the location you want to cover with surveillance cameras

Application scenarios: farms, festivals, and highways

Agricultural lands and farms, for example, are vast areas with little to no constant human presence, making surveillance challenging. This becomes even more demanding when there is no stable source of electricity or internet connection. In such terrains, solar-powered cameras can assist farmers in monitoring livestock movements and receive alerts about property boundaries being crossed.

Festivals are events where a large number of attendees are present, but they are usually temporary and last only a few days each year. Surveillance is crucial at such events, but installing conventional systems is uneconomical and inefficient for a short-term event. Solar cameras, especially their mobile versions, are ideal solutions for festivals because they offer extremely fast installation and excellent mobility of the devices.

A third important application scenario for solar-powered cameras is highways. With the expansion of road networks, highways now extend to even the most remote rural areas where on-site surveillance and patrols can be a very expensive option. Moreover, infrastructure facilities like roads are often exposed to vandalism and theft. Solar-powered cameras are suitable for deployment in remote sections of highways that require no less protection than routes closer to urban centers.

Video surveillance of forested areas has never been easier

Monitoring forested land is essential for preventing illegal exploitation, protecting wildlife, and providing early warnings about fires. However, densely wooded areas and abundant water sources make it difficult to install power cables for standard cameras. Once again, this recommends solar-powered cameras for carrying out surveillance tasks in this highly demanding environment.

Solar power makes battery management easier

One of the questions that interests many new users of solar-powered cameras is how their power system actually works. The most important thing to know is that solar-powered cameras rely on small solar panels that convert sunlight into electrical energy. This energy is used to charge the built-in rechargeable batteries in the cameras, which typically last for several months. The energy stored in the batteries during the day serves as a power source on which solar-powered security cameras rely for operation during the night or periods without sunlight. This means that users should not have problems with battery drainage overnight – if this does occur, the first item for checkup should be the battery itself, and only then the camera’s solar panel. There is also a version with an integrated inverter that converts direct current (DC) energy from solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity to ensure power supply to NVRs, routers, and other connected devices, as well as charging additional batteries that extend the autonomy of the entire system.

Since solar-powered security cameras use batteries to store energy produced during the day, several cloudy days will not necessarily result in a power outage. Depending on the sunny intervals in the region where you install the cameras, solar panels can significantly extend the battery life of outdoor cameras or even minimize the need for their regular replacement. Regardless of this factor, the user can also influence the battery life by keeping the solar panels at an optimal angle and regularly cleaning them from dirt. The panels themselves usually come with an adjustable design to achieve the ideal charging angle at different locations and geographical latitudes. The ideal adjustment angles range from 26 to 45 degrees, as we move from south to north.

Users can influence the length of battery life by keeping the solar panels at the optimal angle and regularly cleaning them from dirt

Are solar-powered cameras “better” than regular ones?

When considering alternatives to standard surveillance cameras, the inevitable question is whether they are “better” than the solutions they are compared to. With solar-powered cameras, the answer is not straightforward and mostly concerns usage scenarios and environmental circumstances. If you anticipate that wired installation will be problematic, solar cameras are a good option because you don’t have to connect them to power sources. This applies not only to power cables but also to data transmission cables, which are also unnecessary for these models since they can be connected to home or business security systems via Wi-Fi.

Solar-powered surveillance cameras are “better” than standard wireless models if you consider maintaining the power system a demanding task. For models without solar power, battery replacement or charging is a standard measure that is taken every few months. This involves removing and then reinstalling the camera, which can be time-consuming and technically challenging for some users.

In assessing the desirability of these models, it should be kept in mind that solar-powered security cameras can record footage continuously. On the other hand, wireless security cameras typically remain in power-saving mode to conserve battery power and only wake up when motion is detected. The need to switch between modes is a potential source of delay in recording events on-site. If you feel that you cannot afford to miss important moments on-site, solar cameras once again emerge as a solution worth considering in procurement.

Is Geography Truly Decisive?

One of the frequently asked questions is how solar-powered security cameras perform during cloudy and rainy days since they rely on solar energy. However, solar panels connected to cameras can generate energy even during cloudy and rainy days because the excess energy stored in rechargeable batteries during sunny days can help them weather unfavorable conditions. Nevertheless, the laws of meteorology are unforgiving, and in regions farther from the global north or south pole, you will likely generate less energy than in zones closer to the equator. Similarly, the amount of energy produced will typically vary according to the season and the prevailing weather patterns in your region.

The laws of meteorology are unforgiving, and in regions farther from the global north or south pole, you will likely generate less energy than in zones closer to the equator.

Key Factors in Procurement

Currently, there are hundreds of models of security cameras on the market that vary in price, functionality, and quality. However, only a few of them offer solar power, which theoretically makes it easier for the user to choose the best models.

To begin with, the search for the best solar-powered surveillance camera for homes or offices involves applying similar common-sense criteria as for standard cameras. These include camera resolution, field of view, night vision function, motion detection activation, remote monitoring, and the ability to receive alerts on a smartphone.

Video quality should be a crucial factor in the procurement of any camera, regardless of whether it has solar power or not. Most models on the market now have a 1080p resolution, but some go up to 2K resolution or higher. It is recommended to look for a model with at least high-definition (HD) or even higher resolution. Otherwise, a solar camera will not be effective if the footage is grainy and unrecognizable. It should not be forgotten that higher video quality on a solar-powered camera also requires more network bandwidth capacity. If you are unable to provide it, there is a higher chance that the camera will experience more frequent picture delays or distortion.

The choice of adequate storage is also related to the quality of the display, and there are two options available to the user. The first one is cloud storage, which sends footage to a remote server for storage purposes and often involves paying a fee for accessing these capacities. The second one is local storage, which relies on a special add-on or hardware, usually a microSD card.

A wider field of view is always better for a surveillance camera, including solar models, especially since they are most often installed in inaccessible locations. Night vision and motion detection activation are already standard features that enable recording in less-than-ideal conditions. The same applies to smartphone alerts and remote monitoring, which are modern features that help users monitor homes or offices when they are not there.

Other optional features to consider include two-way audio, a virtual boundary detection system around locations, an integrated intruder alarm, and a built-in spotlight. Depending on the model, some solar-powered cameras can also serve as security systems that activate flashlights or emit sounds to deter intruders from breaking in.

The camera is only as strong as the solar panel and battery

In addition to desirable camera features, there is one essential factor exclusively associated with solar-powered models – the power of the solar panel. This parameter describes the amount of electrical energy the camera can generate from sunlight. It’s important to note that higher-power panels charge the included battery faster and supply the camera with more energy.

Similarly, the capacity of the solar-powered security camera’s battery determines how long the camera can operate when sunlight is not available. The best solar-powered cameras have batteries that ensure functionality for at least 12 hours, even in cloudy weather. Some models have batteries that last up to three days. If you live in an area that is well-exposed to sunlight throughout the year, cameras with batteries that last one night are sufficient. However, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries are necessary if you live in a location that receives little sunlight throughout the year. In such cases, it’s crucial to pay special attention to the quality and lifespan of the battery.

The best solar-powered cameras have batteries that ensure functionality for at least 12 hours, even if the weather is not sunny

Proper Panel Placement

To maximize the efficiency of the solar panels on your selected camera, you need to orient them towards the south and ensure that no shadows from nearby objects such as buildings, trees, or roofs fall on the panel.

Logically, the optimal location for solar-powered cameras is where the device can receive the most sunlight and provide the best coverage of the desired area. For a location with limited sun exposure, it’s preferable to mount the camera on a south-facing wall to ensure at least six hours of sunlight daily. When mounting on a wall, it’s important to position the camera high enough to prevent easy access by intruders aiming to remove it. Additionally, a more compact security camera will have less visibility and thus be a tougher target for intruders.

However, even these positions may not always be ideal for cameras of this profile. Many solar cameras offer enough flexibility with the option of cable connections between associated devices, i.e., the camera and the panel. In such cases, you can place the camera or panel around the corner from the other component so that the solar panel can receive the necessary light while the camera covers the desired field of view.

Quality solar-powered security cameras should provide years of stable operation. As with other related technologies, be sure to check the warranty of the purchased product, as some offer limited timeframes, such as one year.

A good idea before making the purchase is to verify whether the camera is weather-resistant to the prevailing weather conditions at the installation location. It’s also important to check the supported operating temperature of the camera for the installation site. Even if the solar camera is stated to operate at temperatures below freezing, many batteries will discharge rapidly at this temperature. Specifically, battery performance at low temperatures will vary depending on the model type. In such situations, it’s not uncommon to have to bring the batteries indoors to charge them during severe cold spells. However, keep in mind that solar panels perform much better at lower temperatures than at high temperatures.

For a location with limited sun exposure, it’s preferable to mount the camera on a south-facing wall to ensure at least six hours of sunlight daily

Integration of Solar Cameras into Smart Homes

Solar-powered cameras are compatible with various smart home environments. Cameras that integrate with smart home systems allow users to monitor surveillance footage from their smart screens and televisions. Therefore, before purchasing a camera for these environments, it’s important to check what this compatibility entails. For example, if you use an assistant like Alexa, your solar-powered camera should be compatible with the Amazon Echo ecosystem. The same applies to environments such as Google Home or Apple HomeKit.

In addition to checking compatibility, attention should also be paid to the security robustness of the solar-powered camera itself. Since these are wireless security devices, these cameras may be more susceptible to hacking due to their connection to Wi-Fi networks and remote access technology.

Solar Power Kits

TVT Digital Technology, a Chinese company, addresses the users’ needs for reducing high wiring costs, especially in demanding terrain. The TVT series of solar-powered products continues to grow with more features and formats, now offering solar power kits that can be independently designed for each application scenario.

These products offer flexible viewing angles, easier installation, and reliable performance in practically all scenarios where 4G and wireless solutions are sought for areas without adequate power and internet connectivity. The solar power kit can power various products such as network security cameras, radar units, and LED displays.

Since inaccessible terrains often entail unfavorable ambient conditions, TVT’s kit comes with a robust IP67-rated housing for protection and high reliability against strong winds, rain, dust, and corrosion. This solution is managed via HCP/HCC, where the unified platform enables power and data flow control from any connected camera, along with sending and receiving real-time event notifications in the field.

TVT also offers solar-powered cameras with full-day color surveillance, whether day or night. The TD-9846SP1 model is TVT’s latest solar IP camera, offering a high-quality 4K display and detailed monitoring in both day and night modes. This camera is used for various scenarios such as license plate recognition, radar, and PIR detection. Time and effort savings on battery maintenance and replacement are achieved through advanced energy storage capabilities, paired with low consumption and long-lasting battery life.

Power is provided by solar and lithium batteries that can be managed with a consumption display, built-in protection against high and low temperatures, and battery idle and PIR wake-up functions.

The camera offers flexible viewing angles such as varifocal, PT, and PTZ for wide coverage from all directions. Integration with 4G/Wi-Fi technology significantly reduces installation time and costs.

Supported LTE-TDD/LTE-FDD/VCDMA/GSM 4G mobile network communication ensures global coverage of different signal systems. There is also a Micro SIM slot for a Micro-SD card (512 GB) and eMMC (64 GB), meeting users’ needs for permanent local storage.

As wireless security devices, solar cameras may be more susceptible to hacking due to their connection to Wi-Fi networks and remote access technology

Hikvision: Cameras and Mobile Solar Towers

Hikvision has focused its solar-powered cameras on an important aspect of implementation: installation speed. For this purpose, the consolidation of all components of this system has been done to eliminate the need for separate purchase and assembly of various parts. Instead of this often lengthy and demanding process, Hikvision’s solar cameras consist of a significantly smaller number of parts, which should ensure accessibility of these systems even among less technically savvy users. Solar-powered kits consist of a solar panel, mounting bracket, battery module, and the camera itself, and are currently available in two storage options: 256 GB and 1 TB

These systems require only one solar panel and can operate continuously for up to seven days with a single battery charge, which brings significant cost savings. Solar power kits are suitable for use in parking lots, where ANPR cameras powered by solar energy can recognize license plates. In addition to outdoor parking lots, other facilities that can benefit from mobile solar towers include construction sites, oil and gas plants, as well as temporary buildings for hosting festivals, concerts, sports events, and similar mass gatherings.

Equally supported are scenarios in which details play a crucial role in conducting investigations and reconstructing events. For such scenarios, Hikvision offers special PTZ solar-powered cameras that provide advanced zoom capabilities, allowing operators to identify key details in the footage.

Hikvision’s solar solutions operate in a range of different weather conditions thanks to internally developed ColorVu technology, which offers clear color video even in very dark environments often associated with remote locations. At the same time, the housings of solar cameras are resistant to low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy rain.

Finally, for scenarios involving temporary surveillance in inaccessible terrain, Hikvision offers mobile solar towers consisting of network cameras, recorders, and speakers, in addition to the tower itself. This solution is an excellent option for temporary security scenarios where mobile trailers can be quickly brought to the location without the need to search for a separate power source.

Hikvision’s solar solutions operate in a spectrum of different weather conditions thanks to ColorVu technology, which provides clear color video even in very dark environments

ZKTeco: Solar Models Must Offer the Same Features as Standard Ones

ZKTeco also has its representatives in the solar-powered camera market. The C4FS series includes a 4G PTZ camera with a monocrystalline solar panel (5 watts) and a rechargeable lithium battery of 8,400 mAh. ZKTeco has equipped this advanced model with a night vision system, fast activation, and person detection based on false alarm filtering. This solar camera is compatible with the ZSmart smart home application, supporting real-time video verification, as well as cloud video and image storage. According to the manufacturer, this camera can be used on farms, in gardens, remote agricultural lands, etc.

Forecast: Predominantly Sunny and Clear

Before investing in solar-powered cameras, it is important to carefully assess various factors, including price, installation location, and specific security requirements. The latter relates to readiness for initial investment, as well as the cost-effectiveness of these models compared to the length of sunny intervals at the location for which the camera is procured. The second stage of analysis involves comparing different models and brands based on battery life, solar panel efficiency, and integration capabilities with existing security systems. Despite initial challenges, the sustainability and efficiency offered by these cameras significantly contribute to raising the level of security at locations without electrical installations, as well as in projects seeking environmentally sustainable solutions. Installation flexibility, reliability, and positive environmental impact position solar-powered cameras as a modern and worthwhile security option whose significance will continue to grow with technological advancements and price reductions.

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