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How to Protect Outdoor Security Cameras from Weather and Lightning

Too busy to read? Here’s a summary:

  • You can safeguard outdoor surveillance equipment from the weather with proper outdoor installation and by incorporating preventive tools like sun shields and antifog sprays.
  • An IP (Ingress Protection) rating indicates a camera's resistance to elements like dust and water. The first number in an IP rating represents dust protection, while the second number represents water resistance.
  • Protecting outdoor cameras from lightning involves measures like proper grounding and surge protection.

Our planet experiences 44 lightning bolts every second, or 1.4 billion bolts annually. Given that a single bolt can unleash a staggering one billion joules of energy, the need to protect outdoor cameras from lighting is pretty obvious.

However, outdoor cameras are vulnerable to more than electrical phenomena. Even the common weather—rain, snow, wind—can disrupt, damage, or destroy your outdoor surveillance infrastructure.

Keep on reading to find out how you can protect your outdoor security cameras from all that nature has to throw at them—from bolts of lighting to hail.

Protect Outdoor Security Cameras from the Weather

Here are some best practices for protecting outdoor security cameras from the weather:

Placement

Place cameras under eaves, overhangs, or in other sheltered areas when possible. Smart placement provides added layers of protection against rain, hail, snow, dust storms, and more.

Positioning

Position cameras to tilt slightly downward. A downward tilt can prevent water from settling on a camera’s lens and blurring or warping its footage.

Outdoor security camera pointed downward and beneath an overhang

Weatherproof Housings

Ensure the camera has weatherproof housing with an appropriate IP (Ingress Protection) rating. The first number in an IP rating (e.g., "6" in IP62) refers to protection from dustlike particles, while the second number refers to protection from water.

The highest IP rating a camera can receive is IP68. An IP67 rating indicates that the camera is protected against powerful water jets and immersion, as well as dustlike particles.

Water and Moisture: For outdoor security installations in Connecticut, the tri-state area, and New England, make sure the second number in your outdoor camera’s IP rating is six or higher.

Dust and Sand: In sandy environments, as well as areas vulnerable to smoke from other parts of the world, protect your investment by selecting cameras with an IP rating whose first number is 6.

Built-in Heaters

Some cameras come with built-in heaters or fans to regulate temperature.

Built-in heaters, in particular, can be useful for outdoor installations in New England and the tri-state area.

This is because heaters can prevent frost from blocking lenses, prevent freezes from degrading image sensors, and prevent the cold from disrupting or damaging mechanical parts and electronic components.

Camera Fans

Fans are recommended for outdoor security cameras in hot or humid areas, as well as those exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods.

Sun Shields and Hoods

Sun shields protect cameras and camera lenses from direct sunlight to prevent overheating, glare, and overexposure.

Hoods are generally smaller than sun shields. They’re designed to maintain visibility by protecting lenses from precipitation.

Antifog Solutions

Use antifog solutions or sprays on the camera lens to prevent fogging from obscuring the camera's view.

Wind Protection

In areas prone to strong winds, make sure the camera is securely mounted and consider using windbreaks or shields.

Corrosion Protection

In coastal areas, including towns and cities along the Northeast coast, salt can cause corrosion. For camera longevity in such areas, consider selecting cameras made of corrosion-resistant materials or applying anti-corrosion coatings.

Bird Spikes and Deterrent Tapes

Like your customers, birds feel safer around security cameras—so safe, in fact, that they often select them as foundations for their family nests.

The bird community’s intense demand for camera real estate can be understood as evidence of the peace of mind these cameras provide (especially for those inclined to anthropomorphism). Unfortunately, bird nests can interfere with camera footage and functionality.

Use bird spikes or deterrent tape to dissuade them from setting up their house.

Infrared Light Location

Just as birds flock to outdoor security cameras, insects are drawn to the infrared light most cameras beam for night vision.

In areas with lots of insects, a camera's infrared lights should be separated from the lens. Otherwise, insects will not be able to resist your lens and will obscure your camera’s field of view.

Protect Outdoor Security Cameras from Lightning

Protecting security cameras from lightning strikes and surges is crucial for outdoor installations. Here are some measures your installer can take to protect your cameras from lighting:

Grounding

Proper grounding is the most effective way to protect outdoor security cameras from lightning.

Ensure that your camera system, as well as any associated equipment, is grounded according to local electrical codes.

Proper grounding often involves driving a grounding rod into the ground and connecting it to devices using heavy gauge wire.

Surge Protectors

Installing surge protectors on both the power and video/data lines of a camera can help dissipate voltage surges before they reach the camera and recording equipment.

To protect IP camera data cables, use Ethernet surge protectors.

Install Lightning Arresters or Lightning Rods

If your property is prone to lightning strikes, consider installing lightning rods or arresters. These devices are designed to attract lightning and safely guide it to the ground, protecting structures and equipment in the vicinity.

Avoid Installing Cameras at the Highest Points

Outdoor cameras should be out of reach of vandals, but they shouldn’t be placed at the highest points of an area or building. This is because lightning tends to strike the highest point.

If you must place a camera at the top of a building or pole, be sure to include tools designed for lightning protection.

Wire Routing

Try to avoid running camera wires over long distances. But if you must, run them close to the ground or alongside other grounded structures.

Keeping cables short also reduces their vulnerability to induced surges from nearby lightning strikes.

Isolated Power Supply

Consider using an isolated power supply for outdoor cameras. This can help prevent surges caused by lightning from traveling to other devices.

Backup Power

Use uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for your cameras and recording equipment.

While this won't protect against lightning directly, it can keep your system operational during power fluctuations.

Use Fiber Optic Cables

For surge-resistant outdoor data transmission, use fiber optic cables instead of copper-based cables.

Fiber optic cables use light signals rather than electric signals to transmit data. As a result, the core of a fiber optic cable is likely to be made of glass or plastic, electricity insulators rather than conductors.

Fiber optic cabling is primarily used for long-distance and high-bandwidth applications, as well as backbone cabling infrastructure for telecom providers.  

While you can significantly reduce the risk of lightning damage to outdoor cameras, remember that no measure can guarantee 100% protection against nature's most powerful electrical surges.

Threats to Outdoor Fiber Optic Cables

Despite their electrically nonconductive core, there are many scenarios in which fiber optic cables can be damaged or destroyed by lightning.

Indirect Effects: A nearby lightning strike can cause a rapid change in the magnetic and electric field, which can induce transient voltages and currents in nearby conductive materials.

EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse): Lightning strikes produce a strong EMP, which, while not affecting the fiber directly, can induce electric currents in any metallic components of the cable, such as armors and metallic strength members. The result? Cable damage from intense localized heat.

Physical Damage: A direct lightning strike can cause physical damage due to the explosive force of the lightning channel's rapid heating and expansion of the air. This heating and expansion can cause the cable to break even if the lightning's electrical energy doesn't directly affect the fiber.

Ground Potential Rise (GPR): When lightning strikes the ground, it can cause a momentary voltage rise in the local ground potential.

Suppose one end of a fiber optic cable with metallic components is grounded at a point with a different ground potential than another end. In that case, the voltage difference can cause a current to flow through the cable's metallic parts and cause damage.

Thermal Effects: The intense heat from a lightning strike can melt or damage the outer jacket of a fiber optic cable, especially if it's a direct hit. This can expose the inner fibers, making them susceptible to general environmental factors and potential breakage.

Associated Equipment: While the fiber itself is non-conductive, the equipment connected to the fiber optic cable (like transceivers, repeaters, or switches) can be damaged by lightning-induced surges in power lines or other connected paths. If these devices are close to the fiber optic cable, there's a possibility of heat or fire damage to the cable as well.

Mammoth Protection for Outdoor Security Cameras

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Mammoth Security is Connecticut's leading authority in advanced commercial-grade security systems. That means we understand the challenges of outdoor surveillance and the solutions.  

Whether you're looking for video surveillance, access control, fire alarms, burglary alarms, or structured cabling for reliable data transmission, our team applies their knowledge and conscientious workmanship to secure businesses just like yours throughout our state.

You can trust our team to be your guide. Just click to contact us and fill out the form that appears for a 100% free site survey and security assessment with a friendly and knowledgeable member of our team.

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FAQ

For outdoor security, correctly positioning cameras is essential to prevent elements like rain or snow from obstructing camera lenses. Ideally, cameras should be placed under sheltered areas and tilted slightly downward to prevent water accumulation on lenses.

To protect outdoor security cameras from birds, use deterrents like bird spikes and deterrent tape. For insects, especially those attracted to infrared light beams from night vision cameras, it's crucial to separate the camera's infrared lights from the lens to prevent insects from obstructing the camera’s field of view.

Weatherproof housing is essential for outdoor security cameras as it shields them from environmental factors like rain and dust. An appropriate IP rating, such as IP67, indicates that the camera is protected against both dust and water.

In outdoor surveillance systems, sun shields and hoods protect the camera lens from direct sunlight, which can cause glare or overexposure. Additionally, sun shields and hoods offer some protection against elements like rain and snow, ensuring clearer footage.

To prevent fogging, which can obscure the view of outdoor security cameras, one can use anti-fog solutions or sprays on the camera lens. This ensures that the camera provides a clear view regardless of humidity or temperature changes.

For outdoor security systems in areas prone to strong winds, it's vital to mount the cameras securely and consider using windbreaks or shields. This ensures the camera remains stable and functional even in windy conditions.

Regular maintenance is crucial for outdoor security camera systems to ensure they remain functional and provide clear surveillance footage. Cleaning the lens, checking for water intrusion, and inspecting for signs of wear or damage can prevent potential issues and prolong the camera's lifespan.

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